AN OUTLAW IN WONDERLAND – Lori Austin
Once Upon a Time in the West , Book 2
War was raging in America, but it was just a matter of time before the North won. Dr. Ethan Walsh was tending the wounded at Gettysburg when he was approached with a proposition to spy for the Union. Now, Ethan isn't particularly political; he's dedicated to saving lives, but he was swayed by the argument that the sooner the war ended, the more men (and boys) would live. He agreed to serve in Chimborazo Military Hospital in Richmond, Virginia and report what he heard through his younger brother Mikey (who has special talents). Ethan hides his Northern accent behind the Irish brogue of his father.
Annabeth Phelan has already lost her parents and three of her four brothers. Luke, the youngest, is fighting somewhere for the Confederate forces. It is no longer safe for her to live alone on their Virginia farm, so she takes a job as a matron at Chimborazo. Annabeth's way with the wounded patients catches Ethan's notice. She does more than feed them, read to them and write letters. He soon makes her his personal nurse. The two work very well together. Others take their association the wrong way, but she loves being of real use.
It isn't long before an attraction develops, but secrets and lies, separate loyalties and unwitting betrayals come between them. Annabeth and Ethan are forced to make choices, but sometimes there is no good choice.
AN OUTLAW IN WONDERLAND has passion and complexity, many characters and plotlines, and is an intense reading experience. Ethan and Annabeth are good people caught up in tragic times and circumstances. Do they make the best of them? No, not always. It's a long road they need to travel, and their story—and the book—is told in two parts. The auxiliary characters add richness to the tale, and while the war adds its own color, the post-war West adds further drama, danger, and choices. Annabeth's adventures are especially fascinating. And Ethan? “Extremely moving” probably comes closest to describing his situation.
I highly recommend AN OUTLAW IN WONDERLAND to readers who enjoy really getting into characters and their story and don't mind tension and suspense. One thing might present a puzzle for a good part of the book: where does the title come from? Have fun with that.
AN OUTLAW IN WONDERLAND follows BEAUTY AND THE BOUNTY HUNTER (October 2012).