Aim for hours of reading pleasure with award-winning author Mary Connealy’s last book in the Sophie’s Daughters series. Mandy Gray, a wealthy sharpshooting widow, is content living in her mountain home and raising her young-uns alone. But how long can she protect herself when thieving outlaws have her surrounded? Rancher Tom Linscott can’t bear to see a defenseless woman in danger. Yet his rescue efforts end up bringing trouble right to her door. Now that they’re both trapped on Mandy’s Mountain, can they learn to live together—or will they die alone?
About the Author
Mary Connealy writes romantic comedy with cowboys. She is a Carol Award winner, and a RITA®, Christy, and Inspirational Reader’s Choice finalist. She is the bestselling author of the Wild at Heart series, Trouble in Texas series, Kincaid Bride series, Lassoed in Texas trilogy, Montana Marriages trilogy, Sophie’s Daughters trilogy, and many other books. Mary is married to a Nebraska cattleman and has four grown daughters and a little bevy of spectacular grandchildren. Find Mary online at www.maryconnealy.com.
Read an Excerpt
Sharpshooter in Petticoats
By Mary Connealy
Barbour Publishing, Inc.Copyright © 2011 Mary Connealy
All rights reserved.
Montana Territory, August 1884
Tom Linscott slid backward five feet before he caught a slender rock ledge and clawed at it to stop himself from plunging a hundred feet more.
The rock was nearly sheer. He felt blood flowing from his fingertips. His grip was shaky already, and now it was slippery. He clung to that ledge like a scared house cat, afraid to move, fighting to slow his slamming heart and steady his breathing. He'd been climbing a long time, and he had a long way to fall if his grip didn't hold.
Then he did what any thinking man did when something scared him. He got mad.
So, he clung to the side of that stupid mountain, gathered his strength to go the last twenty-five or so feet, and fumed. He was a rancher not a mountain goat. He should not have had to climb up here.
No woman should be this hard to get.
His handhold felt solid; his footholds were all of three inches wide. He needed a minute of rest before he went on to a more precarious spot. And while he hung there, dangling over a dead drop that ended in jagged granite, he looked up and saw her.
The woman he'd come for. Lady Gray.
She lived in a fortress, cut off from all the people she considered beneath her. The rumors about her were legion and harrowing. Ruthlessly dangerous, some said. A witch, others had called her. She'd put a curse on the land she ruled over.
Tom hadn't told anyone of his plans until just before he left home. But he'd listened for any whisper of her name, any passing reference to the legendary Lady Gray.
She was the most dangerous woman in the West. As fast and deadly with her rifle as any woman alive.
That last part Tom suspected was true. The first, well, he hoped she wasn't dangerous to him, but he was minutes away from testing the theory.
He'd had to admit he was coming right before he left because there were arrangements to make. That's when one of his cowhands told Tom with dead seriousness that he'd lived in this area and it was widely repeated and believed that to approach Lady Gray meant certain death.
But Tom knew something none of the rest of them did. He knew what had brought her to this place. He understood the roots of her reputation. He knew who she was before the legend had been born. And he knew she was no witch.
That didn't mean she might not blow a hole in him with that blasted Winchester if he wasn't real careful.
Right now she stood motionless, looking up, clearly visible in the starlit night. He watched her and stoked his temper while he hugged this stupid cliff that he should not have had to climb. The fool woman should have invited him to come right up to the front door of her fortress.
As he watched, a mountain breeze billowed her dress and cloak and scarf in the night, and in the moonlight it was as if living power swirled around her. Everything she touched was more alive, more vital, more beautiful. A half moon glowed in the cloudless eastern sky, while she faced the west.
As her dark cloak and light hair danced around her, Tom knew exactly why her reputation had reached the level of the mystical. Back when Tom had last seen her, she'd been beautiful and wounded and sweet.
No one put those words to Lady Gray now. Untouchable was more often repeated. Untamable certainly, as if anyone would consider trying to tame a witch. She was called cold, but Tom had seen the warmth. Life might have forced her to hide that away, but Tom would never believe the warm, intelligent, vulnerable woman he knew wasn't there somewhere. Merciless. That might be true. Tom was sneaking in after all. He didn't want to risk finding out she had no mercy. Unbeatable, too. A warrior with nerves as steady and strong as the stones of her castle.
But all of that reputation wouldn't keep friends nor enemies away. She had a large supply of both.
A rifle, now, that made people fight shy. But even the rifle wouldn't keep Mandy Gray's family back. They were a salty lot. But the danger of knowing her was so intense that she'd begged those she loved to stay away, and they'd let her alone.
Tom had heard the grumbling, had done some of it himself. Her pa had come and tried to pull her out of her mountain fortress, one of her sisters, too, and some faithful old friends. She'd run them off to save their lives. And Tom knew, even if no one else did, that her coldblooded rejection was rooted in love. Or maybe he just believed that because he'd been run off, too.
Her cloak stormed and twisted around her. Her hair, loose in the wind, danced white, like living smoke curling around her head. It went with the gray of her clothes. It was said she always wore gray to match her name and her castle and her mood. But in the night, who could say what she wore? Everything about her looked gray, even her eyes, which Tom knew were a flashing sky blue.
It gave Tom grim pleasure to know he was dressed in pitch black. That suited his mood.
A desire to yell at her, tell her he was coming, coming to rescue her from this self-imposed exile, clogged in his throat as he saw the butt of that deadly accurate long gun poking up at an angle by her left shoulder. She always wore it that way. The rifle and her lightning-fast reflexes were as much a part of the legend as her beauty and isolation.
She'd be real glad to see him. He was sure of it. But she had a reputation for shooting first and asking questions later, so he didn't want to startle her.
Mandy Gray and that rifle. Tom bit back a growl that she'd made it so hard for him. He fully intended to own Mandy, and he'd use that rifle on her backside if she didn't come along quietly.
But he'd tell her all that a bit later, after he had her disarmed. The element of surprise increased his chance of survival.
Since she was right where he wanted to be and there was no way to gain that high ground as long as she was there, Tom settled in to his precarious perch to watch her and pick his moment to stake his claim. Considering she was the most beautiful woman Tom had ever seen, watching was no hardship.
As he waited, a long tube appeared over her head as if she were taking aim at the sky. A thrill of fear raced up his back as the irrational thought flickered through his head that Lady Gray was having a showdown with God. She'd declared war on the whole world, why not God, too?
Tom followed the line of the tube and saw a falling star streak across the sky, then another. As if maybe God was shooting back.
Shaking that madness away, he knew she hadn't made a move toward her rifle. Tom was watching too closely to miss even Mandy Gray's wicked speed.
She pointed upward and held the tube to her eye, riveted somehow, completely unaware of her surroundings. Tom tried to figure out what had caught her attention until he realized that her utter focus on the sky gave him his chance to move.
Wiping his bleeding fingertips on his black shirt, to make them less slippery, he resumed his stealthy climb, glancing every few seconds at Mandy and that tube and her frozen fascination with ... something.
He'd never seen anything like it before.
* * *
The sky is falling.
Mandy's heart trembled and she enjoyed it—the fear.
For so long she'd feared nothing. Felt nothing. Not joy, not fear, nothing. She loved her children, so she felt that to some extent, but her love translated into protecting them, and to do that she needed to remain in control.
Beyond the love of an angry mama grizzly, her heart was as dead as her husband.
She didn't fool herself with romantic notions that her heart was dead because her husband had died. No, she'd been finished with feelings long before Sidney had assumed room temperature. The men who'd shot Sidney had hardened what few feelings she had left.
So now the sky was falling.
Maybe the end of the world. Maybe Jesus coming again.
That suited her.
White lights shot across the sky. She lost count. She stood and watched through Sidney's telescope and felt. For the first time in a year she wasn't ice cold all the way to her soul. It was as close to free as she could be in the stronghold of her home, Gray Tower.
Logic told her that the world probably wasn't coming to an end. That would be too easy. She hadn't had an easy day in her life. West Texas wasn't what anyone would call easy, and certainly there'd been no ease since she'd come to Montana.
She pulled the telescope away from her eye and watched white slices of heavenly light. Content with the goose bumps of fear, her spirits rose. Assuming the world wasn't ending, she'd come to a good place out here. Her children were safe. She was safe—bitterly lonely but safe.
And at night she looked at the stars and dreamed of being far away. And dreamed of making sense of that map Sidney had left, a map that would take her to a gold mine and give her a way out of her troubles.
But the map with its odd star markings as a starting place made no sense. And the gold and the freedom it could buy might as well be as far away as those slivers of slashing light. But the stars changed. She'd learned that since she'd begun studying them. And every night the stars were out, she looked and hoped Sidney's map made sense.
Tonight, here she stood again and watched the sky and stayed safely in her tower. The Shoshone people who lived around her had made this land impenetrable. And she hadn't had a report of someone trying to gain access for months.
A few reported deaths weighed on her. And there was one nightmarish night when they'd gotten through the watching Shoshone and come upon her. She'd survived that life-and-death fight on a moonlit night, but with a scar on her soul—the knowledge that she had killed another human being.
What choice did she have? Running her thumb over the little callus on her trigger finger, she knew she could fight or she could die, and her children with her. When evil men preyed on a woman, they had no right to hope for mercy, and neither the Shoshone nor she showed them any.
Another star shot a streak of white light, and she shivered in that lovely fear, the first real feeling she'd had since the cold had sleeted through her veins on the night she took a man's life. The fear gave her hope.
Maybe, finally, even without Sidney's gold, she could believe she was safe. She could dare to believe the men who hunted her had finally given up.
A hard hand clamped over her mouth. She went for her rifle to find it locked between her body and whoever held her.
"Hold still," a voice hissed in her ear. "I won't—ouch!"
Mandy struck hard with her telescope, going for the kill. She slammed her attacker in the nose. Even as she landed the blow, she knew it wasn't hard enough. His arms never relented. His grip on her trapped rifle never wavered. Then somehow her telescope was gone, thrown aside. She heard glass shatter as it landed against the rocks. Then it bounced and clattered over the cliff. The telescope she needed to study the stars and save herself.
With a sickening twist of her stomach, she knew she'd failed her precious babies. That thought made her desperate, and she twisted, fighting the iron grip. Her hard boots stomped but missed the man's foot. With a sinking stomach, she knew this man was tough.
Her elbow rammed his stomach. He grunted and his grip tightened, pinning her arms. She could get no force behind the blow. He lifted her off her feet. She kicked with her heavy boots. Grunting in pain, he wrapped one leg around both of hers and they fell backward.
The grip knocked the wind out of her even though she landed on top.
"Stop! Mandy, quit." The man still whispered.
Mandy instantly knew he was aware of her Shoshone friends and was careful not to alert them. Where were they? They were so diligent.
"Will you please—"
Writhing against him, panic drowned out his words. She didn't need to hear to know the man would spew threats and gloat with pleasure at her sure death.
Her children! What would become of them? What plans did this evil man have, all because of Sidney's filthy gold. She sank her teeth into the hand over her mouth and clawed at the muscled wrist.
"Mandy! Will you stop that?" The voice was deep. "Ouch!" Raspy. "Get your teeth out of me." Familiar.
She froze. She knew that voice.
"Are you done trying to beat the stuffing out of me yet?"
Mandy's taut muscles relaxed. She opened her clenched, attacking jaw and sagged back against the hard length of him. She wasn't going to die today.
Looking toward the heavens, she saw yet another streak of light. The sky wasn't going to fall after all. Her world wasn't going to end.
Tom's hand lifted from her mouth. "I knew I had to quiet you down before I tried to talk to you." He rolled sideways, tipping her off of him.
She kept moving and gained her feet, ignoring an almost instinctive need to go for her rifle.
Standing, dusting his backside, Tom gave her, and her rifle, his full attention.
"Get out of here. You need to go. I'll signal the Shoshone people so they'll know you're coming out the gap." Mandy frowned and looked over the ledge. "Did you climb up that cliff?"
Taking his hat off and slapping it on his leg, Tom said, "Yep."
"How'd you do that? Wise Sister's family would have seen you. They know this is the only other way in."
"Not exactly a 'way in,' Mandy. It took me two hours of hard climbing in the pitch dark. My fingers are bleeding." Tom scowled at his hands, black tipped with blood.
Mandy noticed some teeth marks, too. "Well, you're in." Mandy took an uncertain step forward when she said those words.
He was definitely.
Then she, who thought everything over and had complete control of her actions and complete death in her emotions, launched herself into his arms.
He caught her and lifted her onto her tiptoes and kissed the living daylights out of her. A moment stretched to a minute, then two. Her arms tightened on his neck.
He pulled back. "Mandy, I've been—"
"Shut up." She tilted her head to deepen the kiss and put an end to his ridiculous talking for long minutes more. He cooperated fully, and Mandy realized she could feel so much more than just fear.
When she regained her senses, she found her toes dangling about three inches off the ground, not quite sure when he'd lifted her. He pulled away and, even with his face shaded by his Stetson in the dark, she saw him smile.
"Hi." His white teeth flashed as pure as shooting stars.
She dove for his lips again but he ducked. "We're going to talk now. I've come to get you out of here."
In one second, with one poorly chosen sentence, Tom cleared Mandy's head of nonsense.
"I can't leave." She pushed against his shoulders. "I'll be killed."
"I'll protect you." He ignored her pushing.
"You can't." Her shoving hands turned into fists. "You'll be killed."
He lowered his head and kissed one of the fists that was curled upon his chest. "I'll hire enough people to guard us."
"No!" Her struggling paused as she watched his soft mouth touch her taut fingers. She shook her head to clear it. "They'll be killed."
"I've got tough men. We'll protect you and your young'uns."
"I can't take the children out." Shaking her head frantically, Mandy knew they'd come to the real reason she stayed trapped in here. "They'll be killed."
"Will you stop saying that!"
"Will you shut up, or do I need to gag that mouth again?"
Mandy frowned but didn't speak the obvious. He'd clearly heard her already.
"There is no reason on earth you have to stay up here."
"Yes, there is. I'll be kill—"
An extremely rude snorting noise cut her off. "There have been other rich people, Mandy. Many of them have lived to an old age."
"They didn't make enemies of the Cooter clan. There doesn't seem to be any end of them. And they all have a grudge, aimed straight at me."
"The Cooter feud against you is famous, no denyin' it. But the solution isn't to hide up here for the rest of your life."
"Yes it is." It was a stupid solution; even Mandy knew that. But it seemed to work, and the alternative was death. "If I go out in public, they'll come for me."
"Then they'll be stopped, arrested, and hung."
"You can't arrest them all. They're like cockroaches. They keep coming. I've already been shot at twice. Hit once." Mandy rubbed her arm, long healed but not forgotten. "Sidney is dead."
"No great loss."
"Buff was shot."
"That was before the feud."
Excerpted from Sharpshooter in Petticoats by Mary Connealy. Copyright © 2011 Mary Connealy. Excerpted by permission of Barbour Publishing, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Really pulls the characters & story lines from all of the books together. Love Mary Connealy!
This was amazing series!! This book was a great conclusion to great, strong characters!
Not knowing this is the last book in the series I just feel in love with all the people in this book! I just love Mandy and her courage and when ger family comes to help it brings tears to your eyes to see how close this family really is. When I finished it I noticed on the cover the names of all the books before this one and ordered them and read all 6 of them in a weeks time including a re-read of this one! This series is a keeper, loved all of them. Enjoy
My favorite in this series. Even though some of the story line is predictable, I found myself laughing at some of the antics. Can't wait to read the next series.
Marooned. In a castle set in the middle of nowhere. A self-imposed imprisonment, but imprisonment just the same. For the last two years Mandy has protected her family from the vultures that were out to annihilate them. She managed to keep her kids alive if not her husband. But when the others she loved stared to get hurt she sent them away and hardened her heart. Tom Linscott fell hard for Mandy just after she moved to the area and though he wanted to just take her husband out of the picture he waited -- and was amazed that Sidney lived so long. Now, though, Tom's sick of waiting, he's going to rescue Mandy from herself.
RATINGF: 4.5)SHARPSHOOTER IN PETTICOATS by Mary Connealy is an exciting inspirational historical romance set in Texas. It is the third in the "Sophia's Daughters" series,but can be read as a stand alone.See #1 "Doctor in "Petticoats" and #2 "Wrangler in Petticoats".What a wonderful conclusiong to the Sophia's Daughters series. This story brought back together some of the characters from the previous books.It Mandy and Tom's story. While both Mandy and Tom are not only stubborn,but are also a force to be reckoned with. They will have to fight to survive,escape a family feud,and Mandy will have to learn to trust her three children and herself to the handsome,determined Tom.This story has romance,love,trust,forgiveness,family,and of course faith. It is a must read and was a great way to bring Sophia's Daughters to its conclusion. As always this author will not disappoint.This book was received for the purpose of review from Net Galley and the publisher and details can be found at Barbour Publishing and My Book Addiction Reviews.
SHARPSHOOTER IN PETTICOATS by Mary Connealy is an exciting inspirational historical romance set in Texas. It is the third in the "Sophia's Daughters" series,but can be read as a stand alone.See #1 "Doctor in "Petticoats" and #2 "Wrangler in Petticoats".What a wonderful conclusiong to the Sophia's Daughters series. This story brought back together some of the characters from the previous books.It Mandy and Tom's story. While both Mandy and Tom are not only stubborn,but are also a force to be reckoned with. They will have to fight to survive,escape a family feud,and Mandy will have to learn to trust her three children and herself to the handsome,determined Tom.This story has romance,love,trust,forgiveness,family,and of course faith. It is a must read and was a great way to bring Sophia's Daughters to its conclusion. As always this author will not disappoint.This book was received for the purpose of review from Net Galley and the publisher and details can be found at Barbour Publishing and My Book Addiction Reviews.
Loved it! Fun, funny, and uplifting. Strong women and strong men with moral centers.
Catching up on an older book I had in my to-read pile today. This is the third book in the Sophie's Daughter series, but it stands alone. For those who like to read in order, the books are Doctor in Petticoats, Wrangler in Petticoats, and SHARPSHOOTER IN PETTICOATS. If I read the first two in the series (I think I did) I don't remember them, but this book seems to stand alone. It is pure, classic Mary Connealy, romance/western/comedy. Belief is suspended in this story, and there is a lot of kissing -- about the only attraction hero and heroine had for each other. She talks, he wants to shut her up. She cries, he wants to stop her. He bosses her around like a mindless idiot and she believes he is one. Sounds like a match made in Heaven. Plenty of shooting action, too. Definitely a historical western with a lot of humor. If you like westerns, historical romance, or Mary Connealy and you missed this when it first came out, it's still available. Fans will be delighted. I received this book free. My opinion is my own
I loved all three in the series. This is book three. Will purchase other works from her.
At times I got annoyed with Mandy's actions and thoughts, but I love the series and think this was a solid ending to the series. I love that all of the women in the series have grit and faith, although this book isn't as based in faith in my opinion, but still a satisfying Christian Romance novel.
A bang of a finish to a great series - Yep, Mary has ended this series with a bang. All I can say is that I'm glad she still has some books that I haven't read yet because I really do enjoy her writing. Throughout this series she expresses faith just through the few thoughts each woman has when they get in a difficult situation. You can just tell when they each repeat their own special thoughts (words of faith asking God to protect them and their loved ones) to themselves that they know God is with them. In this book also she shows how close a family can be even though they are miles apart and only feelings and emotions to communicate one of them needs help. This book seemed to be the most action packed and the best one of the series.
This series is one of the funniest and entertaining book series I read. If you like westerns and "clean" fun, these books will keep you in stitches.
Amazing book. I have known the characters for so long from this series and other series, that it was awesome to see them finally get together. Mandy Mclellen has become known as "Lady Gray" by those around her. To protect herself and her three children from gold-seeking outlaws, she has holed herself up in the mansion her worthless first husband built. When Tom Linscott hears about this, he climbs up a cliff to rescue her--and she refuses to be rescued. So, naturally, he "kidnaps" her children, forcing her to join him. Mandy does not want to involve this poor man in her life, which will no doubt get him killed. This book is awesome. It's full of action, romance, and perfect comedy. Mary Connealy is a genius. I would be lucky if I could write only a tiny bit like her.
This was a fun trilogy. I would have loved to know all these women!
Mary Connealy writes such adventurous and fun stories that suck me in from the get-go. She is so good at starting off her books with action that hooks me fast and keeps me turning the page throughout the book. There are many characters from her previous books in Sharpshooter, which I enjoyed seeing again, and Mary's ability to weave these characters in while staying focused on the main plot is truly amazing. Both Mandy and Tom are stubborn people who butt heads from the very beginning of the story, but their chemistry together is sizzling and makes for some great scenes! Sigh...I love a strong hero who can be gentle in his dealings with the woman he loves. This is another great book from Mary Connealy and you won't be disappointed! Well, maybe disappointed in that it is the last in this series, but I'm sure she has upcoming books that will knock our boots off! *This galley book was provided by the publisher and Netgalley in exchange for posting my honest review.
Mandy Gray and her three children had been living with her no-good husband for years before he went off and got himself killed. Instead of this being good news, though, it leaves Mandy the prime subject of a family feud between her husband and the vicious Cooter clan. When long-time friend Tom Linscott comes to rescue her and the kids out from under the fear of being killed, Mandy is convinced it means death for him as well. Fortunately (and unfortunately) for Tom and Mandy, both of them are strongly stubborn. And they both know they will have to work together if they want to survive. *sigh* A Mary Connealy book. Always such good reading. It feels as though I've known these characters for years now, like my own friends of the family. I've watched them grow up and marry off and start families of their own. Been on adventure after adventure with them. It is one of the reasons I enjoy Mary Connealy's books. This latest book (and the last in the Sophie's Daughter's Trilogy), was not my favorite though. For some reason I just wasn't into the story as I was with Beth and Sally. Perhaps because in the previous books, Mandy's story was always on the sidelines, little teases here and there about her terrible situation and the strong woman she was having to be in order to survive. So when we finally push everyone else to the side and get to see Mandy's story full-time, I was expecting more of the same feelings from before. They just weren't there. Not that Mandy is not an incredibly tough, independent woman. But the way she interacted with Tom was simply not interesting enough for me. The best scene in the whole book was when the reader finally gets to see just how sharp a shooter Mandy really is. I would have liked to see more of those shots! Still, Mary Connealy is no stranger to finishing a trilogy, and expertly wraps this one up with happy endings all around.