Bounty hunter Bret Sterling kills Rufus Petty, thief and murderer, less than ten feet away from a frightened, half-starved woman. Rufus should have surrendered. The woman should have kin to help her. But Rufus went down shooting, and the woman has no one. Bret figures by the time he finds a safe place to leave Hassie Petty, he’ll earn the five hundred dollar reward several times over.
Hassie doesn’t mourn Rufus, but the loss of the ten dollars he promised her for supplies is a different matter. The bounty hunter gives her nothing, takes everything, ties the body on one horse and orders her on another. Afraid if she defies him, he’ll tie her down tighter than Rufus, Hassie mounts up and follows the icy-eyed killer.
Mismatched in every way, the sterling man and petty woman travel the West together, hunting thieves, deserters, and murderers. Wary traveling companions, friends and partners, lovers, Bret and Hassie must decide what they want, what they need, and the price they’re willing to pay for love.
Publisher and Release Date: Ellen O’Connell, September 2014
Time and Setting: America, Old West 1871
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4.5 stars
Review by Jill
Hassie Petty’s husband, a man old enough to be her father has just died. Her husband’s son is a wanted man with bounty hunter on his trail. When the lawman catches up with him and kills him, Hassie is left with no family and nowhere to go. Making a living on the rundown farm herself isn’t an option.
Being a bounty-hunter is dangerous work. But after failing to secure Hassie’s safety in the local town, leaving the widow to fend for herself isn’t what bounty hunter, Bret Sterling wants to do. After killing her last known family, Bret offers to take Hassie with him, planning on leaving her with his friends at their homestead. But there’s a long way to go, and a lot can happen for two mismatched people brought together by fate on a roadtrip through the Old West.
Set in 1871, six years after the end of the Civil War, Bret and Hassie’s romance simmers as they travel together across Missouri, Nebraska and Kansas with her dog, hunting down criminals and fugitives. The slow, seductive build-up is a delicious torture, watching Hassie’s sweet, agreeable nature gradually break down the walls around Bret’s hardened and damaged heart. The epilogue is delightful!
Ellen O’Connell does something consistently that almost no other author can do. She writes memorable couples. Ms O’Connell’s heroines are as likable and as memorable as her heroes, in itself no mean feat. She makes me believe that each of her couples is meant for each other and no one else.
Though Without Words hasn’t usurped my all-time favourite by Ellen O’Connell – Dancing on Coals (and possibly no title ever will) – for me this is up there with Beautiful Bad Man and Sing My Name. You’ll hear ho complaints from this happy camper.
For readers who love a true western, a slowly-building romance, realistic characters, believable dialogue in an authentically-rendered setting, and action and adventure aplenty, Without Words is highly recommended.