Joan Johnston





Pocket Books Reissue September 2003
Reviewed by Sissy Jacobson

Historical Western

Half Oglala Sioux Kinyan Holloway has a big decision to make, and she has to make it soon. Her husband of eleven years, John Holloway, has been killed in a freak accident, leaving her and her three children to manage The Triple Fork, the biggest ranch in the Wyoming Territory.

Kinyan doesn't know the first thing about running a ranch, so she has three choices. She and her twin boys can try to learn to run it with the help of her husband's long time foreman, she can sell out, or she can marry again. Most people expect her to marry, but she has sworn never to marry again unless she chooses the husband for herself. She had come to love John in the eleven years they were married, but her father had forced her marry the white man who was a total stranger.

Ritter Gordon, whose ranch The Oxbow borders The Triple Fork, and is the second largest ranch in Laramie County, tells Kinyan she needs help in getting the squatters off her land, and in keeping the government land that is so much a part of her ranch. He states he has told members of The Association, whose help she would need, that he had been courting Kinyan and their wedding is imminent. Furious with the always immaculate, wealthy rancher with the too handsome face and impeccable manners, Kinyan finally understands why John always warned her away from Ritter. In order to buy herself some time to figure out what to do, she tells him she has to think it over. Her sons, Josh and Jeremy, vehemently express their disapproval. Ritter has given her two weeks to make up her mind.

Benjamin Colter, scarred inside and out, has decided to leave Texas with all its horrible memories, and start over in Wyoming Territory. He has hunted down and taken care of two of the three men who killed his wife and young daughter and left him for dead. After years of searching in vain for the third man, he has decided it's time to leave the past behind and start over. Stopping in Cheyenne, Colter hears that The Triple Fork may be going up for sale. Riding out to inquire about the possibility of buying it, he arrives just in time to dig an arrow out of Kinyan's arm, while her mother-in-law, Dorothea, tends to the fatally wounded ranch foreman. In her pain, sorrow, and worry, Kinyan tells Colter that the only way he can be a part of the Triple Fork is to marry her…with stipulations, of course. To Kinyan, the unknown stranger is a better choice than Ritter Gordon. Colter agrees, knowing Kinyan has twin sons, but when her small daughter, Lizbeth, walks in the room, Colter almost backs out. She reminds him so much of his little daughter, he doesn't know how he will handle being around her day after day.

COLTER'S WIFE is the second of forty-four books written by Joan Johnston, and according to Ms. Johnston, it is still her favorite. It is well written, the plot is fast moving without any lags, the characters are larger than life, the dialogue is appropriate, and most of the story is believable. The children are wonderful characters: Josh, older by minutes than Jeremy, is the hot headed, charge full-out, bossy twin, while Jeremy is the thoughtful one, who takes the time to reason things through. When he can't change his brother's mind, he goes along to protect Josh. The story line is predictable, except you wonder if they will live to have a "happy ever after" ending. Someone is always getting shot, thrown from a horse, snake bitten, going missing, and in general leading lives filled with danger. Aside from all of this, the writing in COLTER'S WIFE is so well done, it isn't any wonder that Ms. Johnston has always been one of my favorite authors of western romances, both historical and contemporary.


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