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Wyoming Territory, 1886
When a young cowboy saves spinster Catherine Campbell from being gored by a bull during a cattle drive, the encounter sets local tongues to wagging. Catherine’s desire to marry for nothing less than love combined with her father’s vigilance at keeping potential suitors at bay spell a life without the husband and family she always has wanted.
Their age difference matters little to Luke Matthews, while Sheriff Campbell’s warnings only serve as a challenge. But something, or someone, haunts Luke, reminding him that he can never be the kind of man Catherine deserves.
July 1886, Wyoming Territory
"They're a-comin' now!"
A welcome breeze blew strands of hair into Catherine Campbell's face as she turned in the direction of the young boy's shout. She lifted one hand to the brim of her straw hat to help ward off the harsh glare of the sun and watched as the cloud of sandy-brown dust grew near.
The trail boss led a long parade of bellowing Texas cattle into town, their hooves kicking up puffs of Wyoming dirt as they began the short trek down the main avenue.
A child darted out into the street, and all of Catherine's senses snapped to attention. She was about to lift her skirts and vault over the railing along the boardwalk when a man on the other side of the street grabbed the little boy and yanked him back to safety.
Just as Catherine let out her breath in relief, a furious bull, tossing its head in rage, exploded through the crowd. Women screamed. Men shouted. Everyone scrambled to get out of the creature's way. Catherine's frantic glance sought an escape route, but she was jostled from behind. In one hot instant, she faced the huge beast, its black eyes fear-glazed, its nostrils flared, flanks heaving. Powerful hooves marred the wooden planks of the boardwalk.
Catherine opened her mouth to scream, but terror clutched her throat. She stared in horrified silence, her body still as a tombstone as the animal lowered its massive head. The sharp tips at the ends of the bull's long, curved horns gleamed in the sun. Catherine squeezed her eyes shut and mouthed a fervent prayer.
Suddenly an arm encircled her ribs, lifted her in one fluid motion, and slammed her back against a rock-hard body, forcing the air from her lungs. She found herself breathless and astraddle a distinctly masculine thigh as her feet dangled off the side of a large black horse. The pandemonium faded as the animal jumped the railing and galloped away from the boardwalk.
"Easy now...easy..." The voice sounded low and gentle in Catherine's ear. Whether the cowboy wanted to soothe the horse or the woman anchored against him, she felt a peculiar comfort from his words and tone. Her racing heart began to slow, and she mouthed a silent prayer of thanks. As Catherine twisted to offer her earthly savior her gratitude, the horseman's grip on her shifted. Words jammed in her throat as his thumb brushed against the underside of her breast.
"Pardon me, miss, but you shouldn't be wigglin' around."
Catherine wasn't aware whether she slid or fell, but suddenly she was in her father's arms.
"My God, Catherine. Are you all right?" He lowered her to the ground, his weathered face lined with concern. "I tried to get to you, but I couldn't make it though the crowd in time."
"I'm f-fine," she stammered, briskly smoothing down her skirts. Catherine turned back to the mounted cowboy. Deep blue eyes held her gaze for several ticks of the timepiece fastened to her blouse. They studied one another in silence.
Regardless of the layer of trail dust covering him from head to toe, her rescuer had the brand of looks that would turn any woman's head. He sat tall in the saddle, gracefully muscular and golden brown. His black mustache lifted as he smiled at her. Removing his gray Stetson, he revealed a crop of thick dark hair plastered by sweat to his head. A dingy red bandana ringed his neck.
"Thank you," she murmured, lowering her gaze. It wasn't right to stare at a man that way.
"My pleasure, ma'am."
She sighed inwardly. He'd called her 'miss' only a moment earlier. Before he'd gotten a good look at her face.
"Catherine?" Her father's voice rang with irritation.
She glanced at him. "This man-" she started.
"I know. I saw what he did." Her father scowled at the cowboy. The curt nod he gave the younger man had to suffice as a thank you. He turned back to her. "Let's get you home."
"Nothing Less Than Love is nothing short of wonderful! This reviewer knows that Janet Mills is a skilled storyteller, but in this book, her writing talent soars to a new height! She completely captures this time period with vivid descriptions and dialogue that rings with realism and country charm. Her attention to the small details in life rounds out this story and breathes life into the characters.
The romantic angle is off the beaten track, as Catherine is not considered a young woman. Her maturity, combined with a determination to marry only for love, will touch readers with sincerity. In the late 1800¹s women often married for security, and it was a unique woman who was willing to wait. Luke Matthews was a cowboy, and the author helped to dispel the negative images associated with this line of work by having this character explain his role in a cattle drive. Luke was as surprising as Catherine was with his gentlemanly manners and willingness to talk and listen. Janet Mills has given readers nothing less than her best in this book!"- 4-1/2 Hearts from Joyce at Love Romances
"Janet Mills has once again penned an unforgettable tale! Nothing Less Than Love is a poignant story of betrayal, secrets, heartbreak, forgiveness and love. You become so absorbed in the characters and their lives that you don¹t want to see the story end. At thirty-nine, Catherine tries to get over her insecurities of being an older unwed woman. Luke has a secret that he doesn¹t want to share for fear that Catherine and others will think he is insane. As if those issues aren¹t enough to deal with, both Catherine and Luke have to contend with Catherine¹s father, Sheriff Campbell, who thinks no man is good enough for his daughter. In Nothing Less Than Love, Ms. Mills shows us that love can be found in the most unexpected place, with the most unexpected person, no matter the age. This is another book by Janet Mills that this reviewer highly recommends!"- 5 Angels and a Recommended Read from Cindy at Fallen Angel Reviews
I really enjoyed this story. Ms. Mills takes you back to late 1800’s Wyoming with her wonderful story telling skills. A fast moving plot that keeps you hanging on every word and a storyline that draws you in make this story a fascinating read. Ms. Mills characters and scenery are so authentic that you can almost hear the cattle, feel the cool breezes, and taste the fried chicken as you read this wonderful tale. This is certainly a keeper for anyone who loves a charming and romantic story with a historical western flair.
Susan Biliter 4 1/2 stars
Book Publisher: Whiskey Creek Press
No. of Pages: 316
Paper Weight (lb): 13.4
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