This well-written romance is set in Marshall, Kansas, around the turn of the 20th century. Rejecting the prevailing notions of women’s roles, Annie Malloy discovers she is pregnant out of wedlock and refuses to marry the father, outlaw Bodie Miller. But she is ahead of her time: the townspeople violently reject her “New Modern Woman” ideas and shun Annie and her parents, making their social lives miserable. Annie encounters unexpected sympathy from Sheriff Jesse Harden, who is partially motivated by a secret from his past. He offers marriage. Bodie, returning from a bank-robbing trip, vows revenge on the man stealing “his” woman.
Osborne creates memorable, complex characters. She gives Annie believable motives for such non-conformist behavior. Most of the secondary characters are similarly multi-dimensional. Annie’s parents react to her pregnancy with shock and repressive treatment, yet they still love her and eventually begin to change their way of thinking. Osborne’s inventive plotting kept me guessing as to what would happen next, and which man Annie would end up with. I would gladly read more of Osborne’s work.