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Book Review: Blazing Bullets in Deadwood Gulch by Jacquie Rogers

Honey Beaulieu is going to get her man–no matter how many tries it takes. Determined to capture the elusive Boyce McNitt, Honey is off to Deadwood Gulch despite the warnings that the dangerous road is plagued by thieves and natives.  But before she can pursue the $500 bounty, she needs to take care of issues at home, including finding a shop for a pregnant seamstress, sixteen-year-old Emma, a home for eight-year-old Myles Cavanaugh, his two younger sisters, and their pregnant mother. Between her do-gooding, denying her blossoming feelings for Deputy US Marshal Sam Lancaster, and a run-in with a herd of escaped pigs determined to destroy Fry Pan Gulch, Honey barely has time to get out of town before she gets trapped by winter. Once on the road, she comes face-to-face with Sean Chaney, the Badger Claw Kid, a bounty worth $400, and is intent on capturing him, as well. With a little otherworldly, albeit not entirely helpful, advice from her ghost guide Roscoe, Honey will have to take down two dangerous fugitives. But, when she runs into a fireball-throwing ghost bent on revenge, her real adventure begins.

This third installment of the Honey Beaulieu – Man Hunter series reunites the reader with the unique cast from Honey’s previous adventures as well as introducing some new characters sure to return. This quirky cast shares in the ultimate theme of the novel, good old-fashioned “help your fellow man.” Only with the help of Agnes, Honey’s mother, the madam of the Tasty Chicken Emporium; her thoroughbred racing mule, Pickles; and Roscoe, the mind-reading ghost, is Honey able to rid the Wyoming Territory of bad guys. This theme permeates every aspect of the plot. Most of the citizens of Fry Pan Gulch perform some act of kindness for another character. From gifting poor children with small treats to hiring criminals to keep them out of trouble, the townspeople’s pay-it-forward attitude embodies the spirit of what most readers associate with a simpler, kinder time in American history. These tiny acts of humanity remind the reader that caring for people, not things, can make the most significant difference in someone’s life.

Warm and kind-hearted while remaining fiercely independent and tough, Honey is a woman ahead of her time. Much like her bonnet-wearing mule, Sassy, she refuses to be led blindly along but forges a path of her own, not allowing herself to worry about finding a husband and assume her womanly role as a homemaker but choosing instead to follow her “papa’s roving blood.” She has seen too much of what happens to weak women in her mother’s brothel, and she knows she could never allow herself the weakness she sees in most women. This poker-playing bounty hunter purses a life of freedom unheard of for 1879 and trades in the homestead for the dusty trail and freedom. She is more than sassy enough to hold the reader’s interest, surprising everyone except herself with what she can accomplish. But Honey isn’t the only strong woman in the novel. Agnes, Honey’s mother, owns and operates one of the most successful whorehouses in the Territory and manages to do it as “ethically” as possible. She cares about her employees and providing a safe environment where they choose to remain rather than to be enslaved by impossible contracts and cruel pimps. Even Emma and Myles’s mother show strong women. Emma is only a child herself, but she still manages to make a life for her and her unborn child by starting a sewing business. Myles’s mother, Ivy Mae, has been abandoned by her husband (stepfather to her children) and is also expecting a child. She is willing to sacrifice herself to feed her children. In this world where husbands are killed, and boyfriends shirk responsibilities, the women manage to survive – and sometimes flourish – in true female fashion!

This review was written for Chanticleer Reviews.