The Last Woman StandingI’m constantly pleasantly surprised by the Prime monthly book offerings from Amazon, which is where I found The Last Woman Standing by Thelma Adams. Most of us know about Wyatt Earp and the gunfight at the O.K. Corral, right? It is, after all, one of the most famous Wild West stories about Tombstone, Arizona. But what about the woman behind the man? What do we know about her? Based on most of the stories we’ve seen on TV or read about the Wild West, you’d think there were no women of significance except for the occasional barmaid or madam. Thelma Adams must have been puzzled about this too, and she’s set out to correct that perception by writing The Last Woman Standing.

Now there were several women in Wyatt’s life at various times but he only married one, Josephine Marcus, and this is her story. It’s probably best described as a fictionalized biography since it contains biographical information but that information is relayed within a fictional narrative. I was mesmerized by it and couldn’t wait to share it with you.

Josephine Marcus grew up in an orthodox Jewish family of bakers in San Francisco. Theirs was a very traditional home which observed all of the tenets of their faith. It was expected that Josephine, like her sisters, would marry a nice Jewish man of her parents’ choosing and settle down into a life very similar to the one her parents had. That just shows how little they knew about who Josephine was deep inside.

She had always longed for adventure, much like her best friend did. A couple of decades after the Civil War, these two teens plotted and schemed and ran away from home to perform H.M.S. Pinafore with a traveling theatre troupe. That adventure didn’t last long and Josephine soon found herself back at home. If she thought she had a lot of rules before, now she was basically a prisoner in her own home. And her family let her know how shamed they felt by her behavior.

While traveling with the show, Josephine had met a charming man who was much enamored of her – Johnny Behan, a smooth lawman in Tombstone, Arizona. Johnny swore he was in love with her and wanted to marry her. He showered her with affection and gifts and he was determined to spring her from her home and family. To that end, he sent a woman to San Francisco to bring her back to Tombstone to be married to him. Her parents told her that if she went, they would disown her and that she would be dead to him since Johnny was not Jewish and they did not approve of him.

Josephine was so besotted that she didn’t listen, and soon she was on the stagecoach with her chaperone with only a few moments of sadness at leaving her family behind. She was, after all, embarking on a daring adventure to be with the man who loved her incredibly.

So, I can hear you right now saying, “Wait a minute. What does all this have to do with Wyatt Earp?” Patience, my friend, because this story has lots of twists and turns. What is that saying about the path to true love never running smooth? Well, this story proves that saying in spades.

Josephine is, after all, a sheltered and pampered teen without a clue about the real conditions in the Wild West town of Tombstone…and they don’t come much wilder. She also has little to no experience with men beyond those older men her family tried to foist onto her as beaus. All that is to say that she has no clue what she’s riding into on that stagecoach. Spoiler Alert: Let’s just say that Johnny Behan is not at all the man she thinks he is and his idea of marriage and hers are vastly different.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Josephine hasn’t arrived and even gotten the layers of dust off before she spots Wyatt Earp and his brothers, and is shocked at her reaction to him. She’s never reacted physically and emotionally to anyone – much less a complete stranger – like she does to the gorgeous Wyatt Earp. But she pushes all of that away since she’s engaged to Johnny. And thus begins a story filled with enough hairpin turns to make you think you’re going to get whiplash. And this is where I leave you dangling…sorry about that but saying more would definitely create huge spoilers.

Josephine Marcus is naïve and easily fooled, but what none of the much harder men or women who encounter her expect is that she has a backbone of steel and one smart and savvy brain to boot. She is dealt some extremely harsh life lessons in a very short time and she rises from the ashes over and over again. You’ve got to admire that. I can’t write my opinion of Johnny and his confederates here – let’s just say it’s a good thing he’s not around to hear what I think of him. Wyatt and his brothers are not angels but, comparatively speaking, they are the heroes of this story. Like most people in real life, they were trying to do what they thought was right even if it didn’t always work out that way.

Excerpt from an online interview with Thelma Adams: “…in the conventional history of gunfights and border skirmishes, law and order, Republican and Democrat, she only existed at his side on the frontier. And, then, she’s often portrayed as a floozy, an actress or dancer, a beautiful opportunist, an exotic, a Jewess. As a historian out of Berkeley, I knew that there were many alternate histories, and the history of women and the poor are not marked by battles won or lost. A social historian has to dig deeper and read between the records in order to discover what these forgotten people were about. Once I heard about Josie, I wanted to dig deeper and discover what made her tick…I knew that I could only get close to it through fiction, through imagining what impelled Josie from a good home in San Francisco to the dangers of Apaches and outlaws and scheming politicians in the Arizona territory, in Tombstone.

Bottom Line: Thelma Adams is an excellent storyteller and her fascination with what made Josephine tick shines in this novel. I think she also had a wonderful subject in Josephine Marcus, and I’m so glad that she’s brought Josephine’s life to us. Why have we never heard of Wild West women like Josephine before? We need more of these kinds of stories because men were not the only ones to make their mark on the West when it was being founded. I loved every minute of The Last Woman Standing and I hope you will too!

Can’t wait to read it? The Last Woman Standing is available in every format from your favorite online bookseller. BTW: The e-book is free on Amazon if you’re a Kindle Unlimited member, and it’s a bargain at $4.99 if you’re not.

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TitanbornArtificial intelligence fascinates me, sometimes morbidly so but I still find it fascinating. As soon as I saw that the publisher compared Titanborn by Rhett C. Bruno to Phillip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, which formed the basis for the film Blade Runner, I was hooked and knew I had to read it. Now I know quite well that publishers’ comparisons can often be a stretch but, in this case, it’s dead-on. This novel has the same gritty feel to it and shares the same type of dark futuristic view – off-planet as well as on-planet. Let’s just say that I was pleasantly surprised by both the story and the characters. Think it might be something you’d find interesting? Let’s find out…

Malcolm Graves has been a freelance Collector for thirty years and has not survived in that bounty hunter role by being sloppy. He has two cardinal rules that he follows: 1), just do the job; and 2), make sure you get paid. Then there’s his sub-rule: don’t get sucked in or involved – just get it done. In those thirty years, he’s chased his quarry all over the galaxy and been called upon to squelch rebellions in countless sectors. He always does what he’s told, no matter what, and leaves it to others to sort out the ethical questions. That ability to detach from his job is just one of the things that makes him so successful.

His personal life is his own, even if it hasn’t gone all that well. He used to bring his daughter on jobs with him, to train her so she could have a lucrative and steady career. He still thinks it was the right thing to do. Most people now just struggle to survive, no matter which planet they live on. Being a Collector gives you freedom and at least assures that you’ll survive if you do a good job. He was proud of the way she picked up the skills needed to do the job. But then she got older and wanted to strike out on her own. It’s been a long time since they’ve spoken and he has no idea where she is or what she’s doing. He can only hope she’s happy and still alive, although it saddens him to have lost their close connection – the only close connection he had. Now his job is just a job again…oh well.

Speaking of the job, Malcolm has just gotten new marching orders. One of his client corporations is outraged at an explosion on Earth that should never have happened. It’s put the company at risk and Malcolm is tasked with discovering not only who was behind it but stopping them in their tracks before they can do further damage.

Unfortunately, that’s not all – the corporation has decided he needs a partner on this job and they’ve assigned him someone he never would have picked – an android. Talk about cramping your style…there’s nothing like a statistics quoting bean counter android to make you want to tear your hair out or worse. Still, it is what it is and Malcolm is stuck with him so he’ll just have to find a way to work around him or at least tolerate him until he can offload him somehow.

The trail of breadcrumbs they follow lead them to Titan, a Saturn moon the corporation uses for mining valuable ore. Humans colonized Titan a long time ago but, like humans on a lot of far-flung corporate-run colonies, they and their labor have been exploited. To say their living conditions are horrific would be an understatement. Let’s just say human miner life expectancy on Titan is pretty low.

If Malcom didn’t follow his cardinal job rule, he’d probably sympathize with the miners; however, his job is to find the dissidents and put down the revolt that’s fermenting on Titan. His boss has given him carte blanche to do whatever needs to be done to make that happen – and I do mean anything.

There’s nothing to be done but to try to infiltrate the dissident mining factions, a prospect that statistically isn’t very promising for Malcolm’s life expectancy but a job’s a job and he never lets a client down. Unfortunately, he hasn’t counted on finding the one person in Titan’s mining complex who he never expected to find – his daughter. Well, crap, there’s goes his carefully constructed objectivity. Now what?

Being who Malcolm is, he had no option but to raise a daughter who’s every bit as stubborn, determined, persistent, and whip-smart as he is. Talk about karma. LOL And his android partner is a hoot…a good counter-balance personality for him. Corporations as villains is not a new thing. This time there is a personality behind the corporate façade that gives us someone to jeer at – a person who sees humans purely as a means to an end. There have been people like that throughout history who somehow gain power periodically, which proves to be extremely detrimental to all of humanity. It makes me sad that we never seem to learn from history because those people would never gain power if we did. (end of soapbox)

Rhett C. Bruno has written a non-stop sci-fi thriller in Titanborn that I thoroughly enjoyed. I hope it will have a follow-up novel because I’d love to see several of the central characters explored further. If you’re looking for a bargain summer e-read that takes you all over the galaxy, I think this one will fit the bill!

Can’t wait to read it? Titanborn is being published on June 21, 2016 and is available only as an e-book from your favorite online bookseller. If you don’t have an e-reader, you can always download a free e-reader app for your cellphone or read it on your computer. And, it’s a real bargain so enjoy!

I’d love to get your comments on Titanborn, Rhett C. Bruno and/or his other work, and/or this review!

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The Girls In The Garden by Lisa Jewell: Dark Secrets in a Secret Garden

The Girls In The Garden

When I reviewed The House We Grew Up In by bestselling author Lisa Jewell, my review title included “Do All Families Have Secrets?” In that novel, she looked at hoarding and its effects on a family (review link at the end of this review). Lisa has a talent for delving down below the surface of […]

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Charcoal Joe by Walter Mosley: Easy Rawlins Has a New Mystery to Solve

Charcoal Joe

Those of you who’ve followed our reviews for very long know that I’m a huge Walter Mosley fan, and that I love his Easy Rawlins series, so I was delighted to get Charcoal Joe. There’s a reason Mr. Mosley’s consistently an award-winning and bestselling author…he’s an amazing storyteller. The Easy Rawlins series beautifully portrays what […]

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Before The Fall by Noah Hawley: One Small Decision Can Change Everything

Before The Fall

Noah Hawley has won multiple awards as the creator of the TV series, Fargo. He also worked as a writer on Bones and has written several novels. His newest novel is the thriller, Before The Fall. There are a number of interesting threads running through Before The Fall that pulled at me; however, two stood […]

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The Weekenders by Mary Kay Andrews: Beach Read Book Review & Giveaway

The Weekenders

For me, it’s not summer without a Mary Kay Andrews novel to read. I started reading her novels about the Charleston Low Country area when I lived in Charleston, SC a long time ago (we won’t say how long) and I’ve been a fan ever since. So when the publicist approached me about reading and […]

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