With 11 bestsellers in a dozen years, Julie Garwood has become a trusted brand name in the marketplace of escapist romantic fiction. In Come the Spring she continues the saga of Montana's Clayborne family, with black-sheep brother Cole now recruited by U.S. Marshal Daniel Ryan to help capture the dreaded Blackwater gang, who have been robbing banks and murdering civilians across a vast territory. The gang finally slips up when a young woman hidden in the kneehole of a desk at the bank escapes the carnage and becomes a sought-after potential witness. The book leans heavily on these stock characters of the Old West, especially the ruggedly handsome gunslingers and the sassy, beautiful women who love them.
Garwood still delivers respectable genre fiction. But it becomes obvious early on that the mystery tale is just a backdrop for the real theme: that the love of a good woman can make the most reluctant guy cry uncle. (Pocket, $24)