In 1884, Sheriff Ransom Starr is pushed off a balcony while on patrol. He lands, horribly injured, in the dusty street below. Lily and Matt Chastain, two young people on a mission to catch their father’s killer, admit causing the horrible accident. To ease her conscience, Lily decides to care for Ransom herself. Soon they develop a mutual attraction, but with revenge on her mind, Lily has no time for love. Can Ransom convince her otherwise?
Standing Tall has all the classic western elements: evil outlaws, larger-than-life heroes, and beautiful, flawed heroines. Despite the stated West Texas setting, the story could take place in any Old West town, but to her credit, Gillenwater doesn’t neglect life’s unpleasant realities. Unusually for a romance, the hero’s viewpoint drives the novel. But although Ransom’s feelings ring true, he seems too perfect to be real, and I preferred the fiery, vengeful Lily to the soft-hearted, forgiving one. Moreover, their story isn’t halfway as interesting as the blossoming love between two secondary characters, Ransom’s deputy and a rich man’s pregnant mistress. Though somewhat clichéd, this compelling subplot saved the book from becoming your average Christian romance.