Dance with a Gunfighter by Joanne Pence
I'm fairly certain Dance with a Gunfighter by Joanne Pence is the first western I've ever read. I'm not sure what I expected, but reading it reminded me why I hate genre labels... I would've missed this gem simply because it's a western if I hadn't been asked to review it. Pence drops the reader in the middle of an Old West desert landscape complete with throats parched from thirst, pounding heat from the sun, and cold nights. When Gabe and McLowry meet at a town dance, they never expect to see one another again. After all, she's an innocent teenager and he's a gunfighter. Years later when Gabe finds herself alone and seeking revenge for her family, McLowry reappears and becomes her reluctant protector. As they grow closer, Gabe's inability to behave like a "lady" coupled with her innocence of how the world works confounds McLowry. They travel together looking for the people Gabe seeks to kill for revenge for her family all the while McLowry seeks to convince her to give up her vendetta and return home. Their love for one another can't be denied no matter how hard they try... I was caught up in these characters and wanted to strangle and hug them both alternately and on a regular basis. Pence butts up against stereotypes and manages to twist them in interesting ways. Dance with a Gunfighter is more than a love story set in the Old West, it is a story of life, of survival, of family, of courage, of acceptance, of strength.