I can honestly say that this is one of the best books I have read all summer. Well, one of the best 'short' (as in fewer than 500 pages) books I have read. After reading Gone with the Wind so recently, not much else compares :). I thought that this was the first thing I had read by this author until I looked up what else she had written and I saw that she had a part in "A Bride for All Seasons". So, besides that little fourth of a book, I have not read anything by her.
"Gunpowder Tea" is written by Margaret Brownley and published by Thomas Nelson. It is the third book in the "Brides of the Last Chance Ranch" series, but I was unaware of that and it was excellent as a stand-alone.
Miranda Hunt, aka Annie Beckman, is a detective for Pinkerton Detective agency, taking after her father who was also a private eye, but was killed by a Wells Fargo agent. She is forever trying to prove herself to him, even after his death. When she lands a big job out in Arizona Territory, she knows that it could be the boost she needed to shine in her career. She is assigned to go undercover by replying to the ad for an heiress in the paper, and find out the identity of the Phantom, a robber of trains, banks, purses, you name it. The only problem is, he does not do the dirty work himself, and the people who do it for him don't know who he is either. When the train that Miranda is riding to her new job is robbed, she finds that she may have to begin sleuthing a little earlier than planned.
Jeremy Taggert, aka David Branch, has haunting blue eyes that Miranda can't forget from seeing behind the bandit's mask during the train robbery. Thankfully, he and his fellow robbers were apprehended upon pulling into the station, and were in jail, awaiting the noose. But then Branch shows up as a new hired hand at the Last Chance Ranch, where Miranda has applied to be an heiress. She knows she would recognize those eyes anywhere. Since he was just sentenced to hanging, how did he escape? And why is he so casual about it?
Aside from the historical accuracy (or lack thereof) and unrealistic atmosphere of the plot, this was a pretty good story. The characters' relationship progressing was easy to predict, but the who-done-it wasn't so much. All in all, it made for a nice summer (or fall) read with just enough suspense to keep you going.
Thanks to Thomas Nelson and Net Galley for providing me with a copy of this book to read and review. I enjoyed it immensely.