When Emily Morgan overhears a young couple in her bookstore discussing an outlaw from the Old West, who was hanged for his crimes, as though they personally know him, she thinks they're crazy. But when they catch her eavesdropping, they think she might be just the person to save his life. Emily doesn't know what she's thinking when she goes along with their harebrained scheme to send her back in time, except that before she was betrayed by a former love, she was a hopeless romantic. The man they described to her sounds incredibly romantic, but when she actually is catapulted into the past by a mystical whirlwind and meets him, he's anything but what she expects... at least at first. As Emily spends time in company with him and his close-knit band of outlaws, she discovers a man, who despite being known as a desperado, has a deep-seated sense of honor that makes her begin to fall for him. That's why when his quest to clear his name of false charges takes him right into the heart of the danger that Emily was trying to help him avoid, she knows she'll do anything to save him.
Darian Woodward was a Civil War hero, a natural-born leader who captured the respect of the men under his command at a very young age. When he discovered the corrupt actions of a general over his command, he and his men mutinied. Ever since, he's been searching for proof to bring the general to justice, while living just on the other side of the law. When Emily literally comes falling out of the sky at his feet, he isn't sure he believes her tale of time travel, but he does appreciate the fact that two of his old friends sent her to warn him. He also can't help falling for the beautiful and unconventional woman who is everything he's been looking for in a partner. But in spite of her dire warnings that he's going to die if he stays on his current course, more than anything, Darian needs to prove his claims to save both his honor and that of his men. When the same general he's trying to implicate arrests him and is planning to hang him, will Emily finally be the one to find the proof needed to clear him of all charges or will he die just as he was destined?
Blue-Eyed Bandit has been on my reading list for quite some time, and based on good reviews and other things I'd heard about it, I've been looking forward to giving it try. I'm happy to report that it didn't disappoint. It's a very fun, enjoyable story about Emily, a young woman who eavesdrops on a conversation between Adrian and Cora, a married couple in her book store. They were looking for information on the fate of a man named Darian who lived in the Old West, and whom they act as though they personally knew. After discovering that Darian was hanged as an outlaw, they tell Emily a tale of traveling through time using a mystical whirlwind. She doesn't really believe them, but the romantic side of herself she thought she'd buried when her former love betrayed her wants to believe. After the couple tells her what a wonderful man Darian was and how he didn't deserve his fate, Emily allows them to train her for the time jump in hopes of saving his life. When the magic whirlwind dumps her right at Darian's feet, her first impression of the man is that he's nothing like what her new friends described. Not to mention, the stubborn man insists upon continuing along the same path despite her dire warnings of what the future will hold. Emily sticks by his side, though, and what she finds is a man who is actually more than he seemed at first glance. She finds herself falling for him, but can she save him?
Emily is a woman who's nursing a broken heart. The man she thought loved her married her and then walked out of her life without a backward glance within a mere week of the wedding, leaving her devastated. She'd given up on love and romance until a blue-eyed bandit renews her faith in men and reignites her passion. On some level, Emily is definitely the adventurous sort to agree to the harebrained scheme of traveling back in time, when she isn't even sure she believes it's possible. Admittedly she doesn't have the best reasons for going along with the plan, but once she's there in the Old West, she throws all her energy into trying to save Darian, who in some ways, is his own worst enemy. The more she falls for him, the more determined she is to keep him alive at all costs. When they first meet, Emily is a little prickly toward Darian, finding him irritating, when I thought he was rather charming. But luckily it doesn't take too long for her to warm up to him, and once she does, she turns her ire toward more worthy subjects. I really like how, with Darian, Emily is able to open her heart once more to the magic of love and find healing in his arms, along with a more daring and passionate side to her personality.
I loved Darian almost from the minute he appeared on the page. He's a born leader who was given command of a regiment of soldiers in the Civil War at the tender age of eighteen, but he proved himself more than worthy of men following him. That's why when he discovered that one of the generals over him was corrupt and decided to mutiny, a small group of his loyal men went with him. Ever since, they've been traveling around Arizona, looking for proof of the general's perfidy in order to clear their own names of the mutiny charges, while inadvertently getting themselves into trouble and earning the name outlaws. I adored Darian for being the absolute perfect gentleman in all circumstances, even when holding up a stagecoach. It made for some genuinely funny moments, while at the same time, being utterly sweet and charming. One of the reasons I was so looking forward to this book is that I'd heard Darian was one of the rare virgin heroes in romance, which I typically love. At first, he's actually something of a prude, but it gradually becomes clear that he harbors a deeply passionate side. He just needed the right woman to unleash it. That's part of why I enjoy virgin heroes so much. When written well, they exhibit an innocent enthusiasm for bedroom activities that can be very romantic and appealing, as well as sexy, which was something Darian certainly possessed. What I loved most, though, is his sense of honor. For him, his entire mission is all about restoring honor to himself and his men. There's just something about a genuinely honorable man that is extremely attractive and utterly sexy to me.
Overall, Blue-Eyed Bandit was a joy to read. It's light-hearted and funny, but at the same time, there's a deeply emotional side to the story. It's very well-plotted, and aside from a few odd words choices that could have been smoothed out, it was well-written, too. Darian and Emily's falling in love and marrying comes about perhaps just a tad too quickly, but in general, I was OK with it, since the emotional connection between them was definitely there, especially as the story progressed. The love scenes were completely perfect with just the right amount of steam. I adored Darian as the hero, and once Emily got over her prickly phase, I really liked her, as well. Darian's men were a great group of guys who I liked a lot, too, and the townspeople of Tucson brought even more life to the story. Having the book set in my home-state of Arizona was the icing on the cake. Before reading Blue-Eyed Bandit, I didn't know it was connected to another of Stobie Piel's stories. While reading the advertising blurbs in the back of the book, I discovered that Adrian and Cora's story is told in Free Falling, which actually comes first in this untitled series, and Darian plays a role in it. I'm not sure what happened to Ms. Piel, as she seems to have dropped off the radar more than a decade ago, but after a great reading experience with this book, I'm very much looking forward to reading Free Falling and checking out more of her work.
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