Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Review - The Gunslinger’s Guide to Avoiding Matrimony

Title:   The Gunslinger’s Guide to Avoiding Matrimony 
Author:  Michelle McLean
Series:  Gunslinger #2
Publisher:  Entangled: Amara
Genre:   Romance
Format:  Kindle ARC
No. of Pages:   300
Date of Publication:   July 26, 2022
My Rating:   4 Stars 


At the ripe old age of twenty-eight, desperate-to-retire gunslinger Adam Brady has exactly two rules. And one of them is never, ever get married. So he’ll be danged when his dreams of permanently avoiding the bounty hunter on his tail in Desolation, the only town where notorious men like him can find respite, comes with one helluva string attached. The town has a new rule: gunslingers welcome—if they get a job…or marry.

Without realizing it, Adam stumbles into a big town wedding and accidentally marries Nora Schumacher, a sassy-mouthed mountain of a woman with legs as long as his wanted poster. So what’s a gunslinger to do but get himself unhitched and find a job. Any job. Except Adam keeps getting fired, one odd circumstance after another. And he’s running out of options.

Desolation was supposed to be his safe haven. Except, he’s not only running from his past but from the irresistible woman he married. And worse, he’s finding that he rather likes the enticing, if damnably independent, wife of his. But some men just aren’t the marrying kind. Only, if he leaves, his own life won’t be worth living. If he stays, he puts the lives of his newfound family and the woman he loves on the line. So much for Desolation being the answer to all his problems. 

Each book in the Gunslinger series is STANDALONE:
* Hitched To The Gunslinger
* The Gunslinger’s Guide to Avoiding Matrimony 

Link to purchase the book 

In this delightful read by Michelle McLean, Adam Brady is beside himself when he discovers that he is suddenly married to Nora Schumacher. He fled to the town of Desolation because a bounty hunter was close to catching up with him. The town is said to be a place where men can find respite and get a chance to regroup and that’s what he plans on doing. However, either the men marry or get a job or they have a limited time that they can stay in town. Well, Adam is now married, but not by choice.

Nora knew exactly what she was doing when it came to her marriage to Adam. In fact, in the mass wedding ceremony that had just taken place, she didn’t even care who she married, just that she managed to get hitched. Facing the chance of losing her family land, if she can just stay married until the age of 30 then she can take the deed to her home and keep it out of her father’s hands. He is a drunk and a gambler and has taken everything that Nora has accumulated but she is determined that he won’t get the land. Now, to get Adam on board. 

Nora and the friendly townsfolk come up with a plan to make Adam see reason. Meanwhile, as Adam and Nora get a chance to spend some time together it soon becomes clear that feelings are entering the picture. But will there be enough time for things to develop before Adam takes leave of Desolation thus causing Nora to lose everything she loves?

What an enjoyable story from start to finish. The shenanigans are really funny in this book. In fact, this reminded me of two movies that I saw decades ago that starred James Garner, Support Your Local Sheriff and Support Your Local Gunfighter. Also, while this book is the second in a series, it works perfectly well as a standalone, but was so much fun to read that I look forward to reading the next book in the series.  

Many thanks to Entangled: Amara and to NetGalley for this ARC for review. This is my honest opinion.

Please enjoy the following excerpt:
Chapter One

If there was one thing Adam Brady was good at, it was making monumentally asinine decisions that landed him in a world of hurt and regret.

And he was almost 100 percent certain he was making another one. Then again, he didn’t have much of a choice. Because thanks to his last asinine decision, namely an ill-advised entanglement with a beautiful woman of dubious character, he was on the run for his life. Again.

Now he was riding through the Colorado wilderness to God knew where. He hadn’t seen a town or ranch or another human soul in two days. On the one hand, that wasn’t a bad thing. It meant he’d shaken that damned Marshal Spurlock off his trail and was probably safe for the time being.

But he couldn’t keep wandering aimlessly forever. He’d run out of food the night before, and while he’d be able to find water, he was getting mighty tired of sleeping in the dirt beside a grumpy horse.

He needed some real shelter. And a meal. And, if the aroma coming from the direction of his armpits was any indication, a bath. A man should be able to distinguish between his own scent and that of his horse. When another two hours of riding had brought nothing into sight but more hills and trails that led nowhere, his hope of finding anything resembling civilization faded. He sighed and dismounted, needing to stretch his legs and work out his numb backside for a few minutes. He’d only taken three steps before his boot caught in a hole, and he tumbled ass over head, landing on his face.

“Ow,” he groaned, pushing himself up to see what he’d tripped in.

He frowned, looking down at the hole. The deep, oddly square-shaped hole.

His eyes searched the brush around him until he saw what looked to be an old post that might have been used in part of a fence. Or signpost. And beneath the overgrown brush and grass, he could just make out the faint presence of an old trail. Huh.

“Come on, Barnaby.” He straightened his hat and tried brushing the dust from his pants—a lost cause at this point—before mounting again. “Maybe we’ll find some place with a roof we can sleep under tonight after all.”

The horse blew out a nostril full of air and plodded forward. He wasn’t much of a conversationalist.

Adam changed their course and followed the direction the old trail would have led. There might be nothing at the end of it but, even if it was an abandoned ranch or settlement, he’d take it.

He kept his eyes and ears open, watching for any sign of an elusive house or town. After another mile or so, he reached an apple orchard and pulled up, stuffing his pockets and saddlebags with the fruit. At least he’d get to eat that night. He munched as he rode, keeping to the outskirts of the orchard. He still hadn’t seen a scrap of anything to show that any of the land he traveled through was owned by anyone, but better to be safe.

And then the vegetation grew sparser. He emerged from the orchard to find a well-worn trail that he followed to the top of a small hill. His heart thudded as he pulled to a stop, gazing down at the town that loomed ahead of him.

Well, “loomed” was a bit of a stretch. There wasn’t much to the town. Several homesteads dotted the small valley the main town occupied. The town proper seemed to have a general store, a tavern that looked to be doing good business, a blacksmith’s shop, barber’s shop, and a two-story structure that was under construction and little more than the studded walls at the moment, though it did have a fully finished roof. Odd.

“Where the hell did this place come from?” he muttered.

Barnaby didn’t have an answer. Neither did Adam. If it hadn’t been for tripping in that old signpost hole, he’d never have found the place. There had been nothing, anywhere, to indicate a town was down there.

Yet there it was.

He nudged Barnaby into motion again, taking his time getting to the town. The closer he drew, the more heightened the tension in his body became until he had to force himself to relax his grip on the reins. He kept on high alert as he rode into town. The people he passed stopped and stared at him. They weren’t hostile, more curious. And wary. Given the location of their town, they probably didn’t get many strangers riding through.

That was both good and bad for him. Good, because it meant he should be safe there. Bad, because his presence was going to stand out. And standing out was the last thing he wanted to do.

There appeared to be something of a celebration going on in the town square. He’d steer clear of that, thank you very much. He did not like celebrations. Or organized joviality of any sort. Or people, really, not to put too fine a point on it. He used to. In fact, he used to be a downright delight. Couldn’t get enough of crowds and conversation. But at this exact point in time, people were danger. A man could just never be sure who might be in a crowd. Safer to just avoid other folks altogether.

Unfortunately, he didn’t see a way around what looked like most of the town’s residents clogging the street. The tavern was his best bet for answers about the town, but that was where the largest group was gathered. Maybe he could blend in long enough to get his bearings and slip out before anyone noticed.

He tied Barnaby to a post in front of the general store and tugged his coat into place, slapping at it a few times. The cloud of dust that emerged went straight up his nose and set off a sneezing fit that drew more attention than was healthy for him. He swiped at his nose with a somewhat clean hankie, then made sure the chain on his pocket watch hung straight. Three days in the saddle was taking a toll on his carefully curated wardrobe. He scratched at the half-week’s-worth of beard growth on his cheeks and grimaced. Hopefully tonight, he could find some decent lodging and start setting things to rights. A trip to the barber would be the first thing on his list.

Adam paused, letting another man enter first, before he pushed his way into the bustling establishment. He slid onto a barstool farthest from everyone else, hiding behind the crowd as much as he could.

“What can I get you, Mister?” the barkeep asked.

Adam pulled his hat down low over his eyes and ordered a mineral water. A stiff shot of whiskey sounded better, but keeping his wits about him seemed like a good idea.

The barkeep chuckled when he pushed Adam’s glass toward him. “I think the only other person in town who orders straight mineral water is the sheriff,” he said.

Adam just grunted, but his stomach dropped. There was only one other man he’d ever met who never drank anything but straight mineral water. But there was no way that man would be sheriff of some hole-in-the-wall town. Of any town. Even if he was somehow still alive, which, as far as Adam knew, he was not. “You’re new in town.” It wasn’t a question.

And it confirmed that these people didn’t see strangers all that often. Adam nodded but avoided eye contact, hoping the barkeep would leave him be. No such luck. “You mind telling me how you came to be here? Desolation isn’t the easiest place to find.” Adam’s head jerked up at that.

“This is Desolation?” The barkeep frowned a little.

“You didn’t know?”

Adam shook his head, his thoughts spinning like a bored dog chasing its tail. “I was just riding and sort of found you. Didn’t realize this place actually existed. Heard stories here and there but none credible enough that I’d have thought to come looking.”

The barkeep nodded.

“Good. We like to keep it that way. Gotten more than our fair share of strangers the last couple years.”

Adam frowned at that, though his attention wasn’t really on the barkeep anymore but on the implications of being in the notorious town of Desolation.

“If you’re planning on sticking around, you might want to stop by the sheriff’s office,” the barkeep said.

“Town Council’s got some rules the newcomers gotta follow.”


“Thanks,” Adam said, lifting his glass before quickly downing it.

“I’ll do that.”

He pushed off his stool and headed back outside to Barnaby. Looks like he needed to go see the sheriff to hear whatever these rules were. Because if this really was Desolation, he absolutely wanted—no, needed—to stay. It might just save his sorry ass. Despite the citizens of Desolation taking some obvious pains to keep their location off the map, word had slowly trickled through the dark corners of the Western states and territories that the little town was a safe place for retired…let’s call them ne’er-do-wells—“criminals” was such an ugly word—who weren’t…ya know…criminals anymore.

Pardon—who were ne’er-do-wells who wanted to start doing well. ’Er-do-wells? Anyhow. Thieves who were done thieving, drifters who were done drifting, gamblers who were (sorta) done gambling, gunslingers who were ready to hang up their guns. If any of those applied to a person, word was Desolation was safe.

The town supposedly had a soft spot for folks with a dark past who wanted to live in peace. And if that didn’t fit Adam to perfection, he didn’t know what did. If there was one spot on earth that he’d have an actual chance of evading the long reach of Marshal Spurlock, Desolation was it. Spurlock wouldn’t put any faith in the tales of Desolation, if he’d ever even heard of it. The few stories Adam had heard had been whispered behind closed doors and even then, only rarely.

No. If Adam was really in Desolation, he was probably safe. And for the first time in months, he took a long, deep breath and let it out again, then looked around his new town with a smile.

Despite the crowd, nothing much seemed to be going on. Folks were just milling about. He caught snippets of conversations here and there about nothing much in particular. Someone who looked to be the town preacher stood with a small group on the raised sidewalk.

Maybe it was a prayer meeting or some fire-and-brimstone Bible thumping. Not usually his type of gathering, but he could probably use a bit more religiosity in his life at the moment, considering his circumstances. Though something about the whole setup didn’t sit right with him. He wiped his suddenly sweaty palms on his pants. Maybe he should— “

All right, quiet down!” a voice boomed.

Adam’s gaze flashed to the man in front of the tavern, all that beautiful peace that had been coursing through his veins instantly disappearing. A feeling not unlike when he’d jumped into that ice-cold lake a few weeks ago and his balls had sucked so high into his body, he’d nearly lost them altogether.

He cursed under his breath as the unfamiliar sensation of butterflies ripped through his stomach. He wasn’t exactly lily-livered in most circumstances and certainly wasn’t proud of it in this case. He’d faced down more than his fair share of men literally gunnin’ for him and obviously had lived to fight another day.

But thanks to his ridiculously terrible intuition, he now had a whole new worry to deal with. Of all the towns in the west he could ride into with his tail between his legs, he had to go and pick the one that was apparently inhabited by none other than Gray “Quick Shot” Woodson himself.

A notorious gunfighter who, by all appearances, had become…the town sheriff? Damn it all, the barkeep had been talking about him. Shock and terror aside, Adam had to stifle a laugh.

One, because of all the people in the world who’d end up becoming a lawman, ol’ Quick Shot was the last Adam would have picked. Two, if that were true…well, suffice it to say that the sheriff wouldn’t be too pleased to see Adam.

And purposely intruding on the territory of a man who would really not want him there and had the skills to remove him—permanently—fell into that whole “monumentally asinine decision” category.

Of all the rotten luck. At this point in his life, he really shouldn’t be surprised that the place he chose to hide out from the person who wanted him dead was run by another one who’d love to see him six feet south.

If he survived his little situation, he really needed to look into making some changes that would minimize the chances of more people rooting for his demise. Woodson glanced around the crowd, and Adam ducked back behind his horse.

Damn. He needed a disguise or something. Leaving would be a better option, but the crowd had spread out enough that it would make a bigger commotion to get his horse through them than just lying low for a few minutes. He pulled off his jacket and embroidered vest and carefully wrapped his silver pocket watch inside them, then stashed the lot in his saddlebags with a sigh. That vest was brand-new. It was sure to get completely wrinkled stored in his bag.

He looked down at himself and then partially untucked his shirt. That…wasn’t much of a disguise. “Hey, kid,” Adam said, waving over a youth who’d traipsed by.

“Trade me hats.” He pulled his nearly new, expertly made, and lovingly cared-for hat from his head and held it out with more than a little hesitation.

“Really?” the kid said, ripping off his own oversize, floppy hat and holding it out.

“Really,” Adam answered. Though he couldn’t quite make himself let go. The kid frowned. “You sure you wanna trade, Mister?”

“Yeah. Yep. Sure. Here you go,” he said, relinquishing his hat.

“Thanks, Mister!” The kid scampered off as fast as his feet could carry him. Probably afraid Adam would take the hat back.

As well he should. He looked down at the dirty hat in his hands with distaste and gingerly put it on his head. It smelled like…well, like it had sat on the head of a sweaty, dirty little boy who spent his time rolling in God knew what.

On the bright side—well, “bright” was a bit bold—on the slightly optimistic side, the hat, and therefore Adam, would stand out less. And with Quick Shot Woodson roaming the streets of Desolation, that was a good thing. His scraggly beard would help conceal his face.

He could guarantee Woodson had never seen him with such growth before. No one had. His mother would be horrified if she saw him now. He should have listened to her and stayed in Boston and become a banker or lawyer or some other respectable citizen. Instead, he’d gone west, when he was barely old enough to shave, in search of adventure. He’d learned quickly enough that adventure wasn’t everything it was cracked up to be. All it had left him with was a dark past he couldn’t escape and a deep and abiding distrust of damn near everyone.

“Let’s get this over with,” Woodson said.

“I don’t have all day.” Adam flinched at the harsh voice of one of the men who’d instilled that deep and abiding distrust in him. And the last thing Adam wanted to do was let the bastard know he was in town.

Before he could change his mind, he bent to rub his hands in the dirt at his feet…and then smeared it across his cheeks. His nose wrinkled, and he glanced down at his hands, fairly sure there had been something more than dirt on the ground. He shook his hands a bit and then sighed and rubbed them down the front of his shirt. If he was going to attempt the filthy hermit disguise, he might as well fully commit.

“All right, everyone who’s goin’ to, gather around. You all know the rules,” Woodson said.

There were nods and murmurs of assent all around him, and Adam had to keep from raising his hand like an absentminded student who’d missed the teacher’s instructions.

What rules?

He hadn’t made it over to the sheriff’s to find out what they were yet. He almost laughed again as he realized that Woodson would have been the one greeting him at that office, and Adam probably wouldn’t have gotten two words out before he was tasting iron.

No matter. This whole thing had been a horrible idea. He pulled his hat down farther. Time to get the hell out of town. Not that he had any other place to go.

Maybe he could come to some terms with Woodson. Or maybe he should just slip out while he still coul— A grown man’s body hit the ground near Adam’s feet, causing several people to turn toward the sound—toward him—and he cursed the unlucky star he was born under.

Please enjoy my YouTube video review - 


I am a romance author who writes historical romance as Michelle McLean and contemporary romance as Kira Archer. I also occasionally write educational non-fiction (as Michelle McLean).

I grew up in California and have lived everywhere from the deserts of Utah to the tropical beaches of Hawaii to the gorgeous forests of the east coast. The oldest of five children, I am generally an organized mess with crazy eclectic tastes. I have a B.S. in History, a M.A. in English, an insatiable love of books, and more weird quirks than I’d like to admit.

I’m a jeans and t-shirt kind of girl who secretly wishes I could run around town in a big, poofy dress from the 1600s and hopes to someday be able to get away with crazy stuff like that by chalking it up to my eccentric writer personality. I’m addicted to chocolate and goldfish crackers and occasionally write by hand just so I can hear the scratchy sound of my favorite gel pen on a sheet of paper.

My current non-writing obsession is diamond painting – there is an album of my completed pieces on Facebook – and other hobbies include playing piano, cross-stitching (well, it’s been awhile…I’ve been meaning to take that up again), and decorating cakes. Mostly though, if I’m not editing, reading, or chasing my kids around, I can usually be found in a quiet corner (assuming school is in session occupying my little angels) working on my next book.

In addition to my hubs and two awesome kids, I also have two amazing step-kids and four beyond-adorable grandbabies. I currently reside in Pennsylvania with my husband and two kids, an insanely spoiled dog, and two tyrannical cats.

No comments:

Post a Comment