The Unexpected Champion (High Sierra Sweethearts Series #3)

The Unexpected Champion (High Sierra Sweethearts Series #3)

by Mary Connealy (Preface by)

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Overview

City dweller John McCall never expected to be out in the High Sierras of 1868 on a wild-goose chase to find the Chiltons' supposedly lost grandson. But now that he's out here, things have gotten even more complicated, mostly due to wildcat Penny Scott. She's not like any woman he's ever met--comfortable in the woods, with a horse, and with a gun.

When Penny and John are taken against their will by a shadowy figure looking for evidence they don't have, both realize they've stumbled into something dangerous and complicated. With their friends and family desperately searching for them, Penny and John must make a daring escape.

When they emerge back into the real world, they are confronted with a kidnapper who just won't stop. They must bring a powerful, ruthless man to justice, even as this city man and country woman fight a very inconvenient attraction to each other.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780764233180
Publisher: Baker Publishing Group
Publication date: 03/05/2019
Series: High Sierra Sweethearts Series , #3
Pages: 306
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.81(d)

About the Author

Mary Connealy writes "romantic comedies with cowboys" and is celebrated for her fun, zany, action-packed style. She has more than half a million books in print. She is the author of the popular series Wild at Heart, Kincaid Brides, Trouble in Texas, Lassoed in Texas, Sophie's Daughters, and many other books. Mary lives on a ranch in eastern Nebraska with her very own romantic cowboy hero. Learn more at www.maryconnealy.com.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

June 1868

Dismal, Nevada — never had a town been named so right.

The sheriff's office and barbershop were in the same building because the sheriff and the barber were the same man.

Penny Scott suspected the man made more money at his barbering.

"Trace has been in there a long time." Penny looked through a window, a small one built with an eye toward saving money on glass. She watched Trace Riley tell their story to the sheriff while the sheriff lathered up a man's face.

Trace was her brother's wife's sister's husband, but honestly they all lived fairly close. Going strictly by geography, she was claiming Trace as a brother.

"I don't know who's getting a shave." John McCall watched through the dirty window and ran his hand over his face as if wondering about going next in the barber's chair. He was a tidy man, a city slicker in a black suit and a flat-topped black Stetson. Dark blond hair and blue eyes.

"But it isn't right for the sheriff to question a witness in front of someone."

"You know the law?" Penny thought of all she didn't know about this man. It was high time he answered some questions.

She'd met him over Raddo's dead body.

Penny hadn't shot the outlaw, but she'd been running toward Raddo Landauer with her gun drawn, and she'd witnessed the whole thing. She felt the weight of being willing to kill a man.

Raddo had shot Cam and Penny's brother. Now he had three bullet holes in him.

Her brother Cam had pulled one trigger. Cam's wife, Gwen, had also shot him. Raddo was threatening to kill her and the two children.

And John McCall had supplied the third gunshot when he'd seen Raddo ready to shoot Gwen. The first time Penny had laid eyes on McCall, he'd been standing there with a smoking gun.

Trace had come along after the gun smoke had cleared, and he'd ridden to town with them because he knew the sheriff. He was the only one of the three of them who'd come to Dismal since the sheriff had arrived. And Trace believed Raddo had killed his pa years ago. Trace had brought in two men last fall to Carson City, one dead and both partners of Raddo. If Raddo had been alive, Trace would've taken him there, because Dismal's sheriff might not be up to housing prisoners. Unless there was a jail cell tucked in the back room of the barbershop. But with Raddo dead, none of them saw any reason to ride one mile farther than necessary.

John McCall, who'd told them he was a Pinkerton agent, had come as one of the shooters. Penny had come as a witness.

Gwen and Cam had stayed home because Gwen couldn't stop shaking, Cam was frantic to hold on to her, and the children were beside themselves.

Trace Riley was anxious to get back to his wife, Deb, who was Gwen's sister. He talked to the sheriff to vouch for the attacks on all of them all through the winter. Well, no attacks on John, as he'd shown up just today.

Trace came out of the barbershop and part-time sheriff's office. "Sheriff Walters has a lot of questions about what happened today. I told him you two could answer them." Trace hadn't really seen anything. He'd come galloping in like mad at the sound of gunfire.

Penny took a step toward the building, but then John caught her arm. "Let's wait until after the haircut."

"He's done with you, then?" Penny asked Trace.

"Yep, I'm heading back to your place." Bringing along a man the sheriff knew and trusted was a mighty good idea when a group rides into town with a man draped over a saddle, a man with three gunshot wounds and a whole passel of teeth marks from a wolf. "Sheriff Walters doesn't seem to be planning to lock any of us up, and he told me I could go if you'd stay."

"Be glad to," McCall said, not sounding all that glad. He probably didn't like shooting a man much. Penny sure hoped he didn't like it.

"I'll ride the body over to the undertaker. Then I'm heading out."

Trace went off with the body.

Penny looked at John McCall. "Let's go find a quiet place to talk."

McCall arched a brow but came along, as if the empty dirt street of Dismal wasn't quiet enough right where they were standing.

Dismal had two strips of businesses that faced each other like a couple of gunfighters at high noon. The dirt main street was just wide enough for two buckboards to pass by going opposite directions. Probably fifteen buildings in all, one ramshackle store after another, bare wood, hand-painted signs if the owner was ambitious ... and plenty weren't. Half of them stood empty. Some had space between them, while most shared a wall.

There were a few houses scattered here and there in the wide plain, set slap in the middle of mountains, woods, rocks, and a long stretch of wilderness.

There was wealth to be had a day's ride from here. In cattle, in timber cut from the dense forests, even in tourism because of the beauty of nearby Lake Tahoe. Add in the heavily traveled California Trail that ran along the north side of the lake and there was plenty of money to be made. There was also the Comstock Lode that'd turned hardworking miners into millionaires.

Yep, there was wealth to be had, but somehow Dismal managed to avoid it. Apparently, ambitious folks rode a day away and didn't come back.

Penny tapped her foot impatiently. She needed to get somewhere so she could yell in private. It would be easy to find a quiet spot. The whole town was a quiet spot. Of course, it wouldn't be quiet once she got there.

"I want to know exactly who you are, mister." Penny walked away fast from the sheriff's office. Just as well she put some space between her and the law. In case this came to fists. She didn't want the sheriff mad at her in the event she was within a few minutes of committing a crime. McCall struck her as the type not to go and punch a woman, so who knew how tough she might be able to get?

He kept up with no trouble. He was a long-legged galoot. Good enough looking, but she spent most of her life surrounded by men, so few of them impressed her much — especially when it came to looks. She'd learned long ago a pretty face didn't make up for a foul character. And how could this child-stealing varmint be anything but?

"Where'd you get the blamed fool notion you've got any right to my nephew?" Penny had to admit they'd been busy, yet why had no one demanded some answers?

She heard thundering hooves and turned to see Trace gallop off at top speed on his fleet-footed black stallion. He'd gotten shut of their prisoner, or what was left of him after he'd been chawed on by a wolf, then shot to death three times.

That left her alone with this low-down coyote.

Penny decided they'd come far enough. Past all but two empty storefronts at the far edge of town. She stopped between the last buildings and turned to face him, arms crossed.

"We're going to clear this up right now. You will never take my nephew."

"Your nephew is the grandson of the people who hired me to find him and bring him home. They have a solid claim on the boy."

"I know the Chiltons. I lived with Abe and Delia for two years, since before Ronnie was born. The Chiltons —" A gun cocked with an ugly metallic click in the darkened alley between the stores. A second gun jacked a bullet into the barrel. A third. Penny whirled to face three masked gunmen.

The one in the center said, "Not a word out of either of you."

Penny gasped and stumbled back a step right into McCall. He slid an arm around her and pulled her back, getting one shoulder in front of her.

"Freeze." The middle outlaw extended his gun. "I only need one of you alive."

McCall stopped. Penny felt him tense with frustration that he hadn't put himself fully between her and those guns.

"We don't have much money," McCall said. "Take it all, we won't —"

"Shut up!" The gunman cut McCall off. The man was wearing a heavy coat, thin leather gloves. His face was covered with a red bandanna, with a hat pulled low over eyes that glowed black.

"I have questions, and if I get the answers I want, no harm will come to you. Don't fight me. I'll shoot one of you dead and wound the other. One is all I need to get my answers, and you'll talk better if you're bleedin'."

They stood frozen, waiting. Penny hoped for an opening to run or draw her gun and attack. She always carried her pistol in the bag she wore slung over her head and under her arm, dangling below her right hand. But it was her left side that McCall shielded. No possible chance to get her gun drawn in time to shoot three cold-eyed men.

"Ask your questions. We'll tell you whatever you want to know, just don't harm the woman." McCall the hero. He was lucky she was too cautious to move, or she'd've swatted him.

His voice was as smooth as water over a stone, too. Calm and cool. Like he'd had so many guns aimed at him that he didn't take much notice anymore.

The cool was fake, though. She felt his coiled muscles, knew he was looking for an opening. And, like her, he was well aware that these men weren't about to give them one.

"Walk toward the alley. Side by side, slow, and get outta the street."

No ideas sprang to her mind to save her and McCall, so when he stepped forward, she stayed with him.

The alley swallowed them up. The men, much closer now, wore different colored bandannas, different hats and coats, yet they were three of a kind.

When they were out of the line of sight of anyone on the street, one man said, "Turn around and put your hands behind your backs."

McCall turned first, and his eyes met hers, his jaw rigid. He glanced at the boardwalk just a step away from the alley entrance. He wanted her to make a run for it. He'd block her, and there could be no doubt these outlaws would shoot.

McCall was offering to die for her.

The big gallant idiot.

She stepped aside and took another pace forward out of blocking distance. She wasn't about to save herself at the cost of his life.

McCall glared, but there was more to it. His brow furrowed. Worry, maybe even grief. He didn't expect this to end well. And judging by the steady hands on those guns, and the short, clear demands, she knew they were dealing with a salty bunch.

Penny suspected he had the right of it, but even if she'd dove away and run, in this mostly deserted town with no witnesses at hand, these men would've grabbed her and dragged her back. Done their worst.

She wasn't going to let McCall die for her, but it'd be even worse if he died for nothing.

Turning, she put her hands behind her as they'd ordered. A man stepped up. Her hands were wrenched hard. The outlaw enjoyed causing pain. Her stomach twisted with fear from what might come next.

Penny was a woman who'd followed her brother into frontier forts. She'd seen every way evil could show itself in the Wild West. She knew just how ugly this could be.

A rope wound tight around her wrists, cutting into her flesh. A sideways glance showed another man doing the same to McCall.

Her brown eyes met McCall's. His were light blue, but right now they darkened, and she saw him thinking, planning, still coiled.

She stayed ready should a chance come to run or fight back.

Hard hands grabbed her shoulders and spun her around. A dull thud beside her drew her eyes over her shoulder. Before she could look for the source of that sound, she was hoisted over a man's shoulder, and the man strode toward the back of the alley.

Lifting her head as high as she could, she saw McCall collapsing to the ground. One of the outlaws holstered his gun, which he must've used as a club. As he grabbed McCall's feet, the other picked him up by the shoulders. They weren't men who were brave enough, or stupid enough, to trust mere ropes to hold a man as strong as McCall.

She was whipped around and tossed on her back in a wagon. The outlaw was quick to gag her, flip her onto her stomach, and tie her bound hands to the side of the wagon. The ropes were already cutting into her wrists, and now with her arms wrenched to the side, every moment made the pain worse.

John landed hard right beside her. Even though he was unconscious, he was gagged and secured by his bound hands just as she was.

Facedown in the wagon box, she couldn't see much. But then something big was thrown over her, blocking out the sun. A tarp or a large blanket. The wagon lurched forward. Hoofbeats fell in beside the wagon. Already at the edge of town, they were leaving it behind fast.

Their horses were hitched in front of the sheriff's office. How long before Sheriff Walters noticed? How long before someone even suspected that Penny and McCall had been very smoothly kidnapped? Trace had gone back to her brother Cam's house and would tell everyone that Penny would be a while coming. They might not even start to worry until dark, and by then these men could get themselves well hidden.

Three men, deadly aim, a few seconds' time. It worked so well that she knew they'd done it all before. She was now in the clutches of three very skilled kidnappers with no way to escape and not much hope they'd make a mistake that gave her a chance.

Except they'd made one. They'd left her bag draped over her neck. Her hands were tied so tightly that she didn't think she could reach her gun, not now. She'd try, but there was no room to even wiggle. Still, she'd be ready, watching and waiting.

And she'd be listening, too. Maybe she could figure out what in the world was going on.

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "The Unexpected Champion"
by .
Copyright © 2019 Mary Connealy.
Excerpted by permission of Baker Publishing Group.
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.

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The Unexpected Champion 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 41 reviews.
tickmenot 3 days ago
Hold on for a Thrilling Tale! Get ready to face kidnappers, murderers, and danger as Penny Scott and John McCall run for their lives while trying to figure out who is after them. Penny is a tough wilderness woman who can find food and survive in any wilderness. John is a city-dwelling Pinkerton agent who can disguise his identity instantly, and is the master of undercover methods. The two of them can’t stand each other but will need all of their talents, and work together to discover who is behind the plot to get rid of them. Teaming up is no easy matter, since the two of them can’t stand each other. What follows is a wild romp in the 1860’s through the Lake Tahoe area. Can Penny and John quit bickering with each other long enough to discover who is trying to kill them? Will the two of them be able to figure out the clues left by a dead man? If they uncover who their dangerous adversary is, will he be too strong and powerful for them to stop? This thriller is full of action, excitement, a dash of romance, and a sprinkling of humor--all told in a clean story from a Christian perspective. The Unexpected Champion is the third installment in the High Sierra Sweethearts Series, but the story stands alone without reading the others. However, after enjoying this tale, you will want to get the others to find out the other adventures these characters have been in. I recommend this 5-star story to anyone who likes to be entertained, enjoys 1800’s stories, or well-written fiction. Bethany House Publishing through NetGalley has provided bookreadingtic with a complimentary copy of The Unexpected Champion, for the purpose of review. I have not been compensated in any other manner. All opinions expressed are my own, and I was not required, or influenced, to give anything but an honest appraisal. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.
lsnlj 18 days ago
This is book three from the High Sierra Sweethearts series. I have read all three of this series so far and love them all. Mary Connealy has a fun writing style, She keeps you interested with plenty of action, laughter, sparks and so much more. I would recommend you reading book one, Accidental Guardian, and book two, The Reluctant Warrior first to get a better understanding of what is going on in this book. This book will focus on solving problems which developed in book one and two, also on Penny Scott and her unconventional ways. When Penny and the newcomer, John McCall find themselves in a very difficult situation it will forever alter their lives. This novel is full of action, adventure, drama, sparks and much more. I enjoyed this entire series.
BethErin 3 months ago
Mary Connealy's feisty female leads are always entertaining and this story’s hero is a steady breeze. The addition of a rather inconvenient marriage of convenience seasons the plot with irresistible laugh out loud moments. Penny and John are a sweet example of opposites attraction, I love their chemistry and banter. The conclusion of the series arc was wonderfully satisfying and I hate to say goodbye to these dear fictional friends. I highly recommend this witty and adventurous series. I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher and was under no obligation to post a review. The opinions expressed are my own.
WishEnd 3 months ago
4.5 Stars THE UNEXPECTED CHAMPION is a story about a woman roughened by the wild west and a Pinkerton Detective from the city who find themselves in a whole lot of mess and get themselves out of it and after the bad guys together. Connealy's trademark wit and humor, memorable characters, and an exciting plot will entertain readers from beginning to end. Highly recommended to fans of the author and historical romantic suspense readers! One thing you can always count on with Connealy's books is her quirky and memorable characters. This story is full of the sarcasm and banter between these characters, and the straight-forward approach of life in the wild west, where the law isn't always dependable and you have to be ready to protect your own. You don't need to have read the first two books in this series to read this one, but as characters and backstory from those is included in this one, it might make for a stronger connection with the story. There are references for where the reader needs to be filled in for those who need it. I really fell in love with John and Penny, as well as the whole crew. John is quite a tease as he takes turns annoying Penny and trying to make her laugh, which he is quite successful at. Penny is pretty blunt and says it as it is, so John brought a little levity to the situations they find themselves in and keeps Penny distracted when she needs to be. The chemistry between these two gew as the story progresses and I liked how being stuck together as they get to know each other develops a strong relationship between the two of them. They are both really fun characters. The plot is this roller-coaster of intense with some quiet moments here and there. I loved it! It was exciting, crazy, hilarious, and sweet in equal measures with a dose of inspirational moments mixed in. The villains were really hideous and came from different directions, so readers don't know exactly what is going on until the story unfolds. In the end, was it what I wished for? This author always entertains and she certainly doesn't disappoint here! This story was enjoyable from beginning to end. If you're looking for something fun with characters you can love and a plot that will keep you turning pages, definitely grab this one. Content: Some innuendo and violence, but clean. Source: I received a complimentary copy from the publisher through JustRead Tours, which did not require a positive review nor affect it in any way.
Erin_Slocum 3 months ago
My thoughts: I have long loved Mary Connealy as an author. Unfortunately, I have not read the first two books in this series so I feel like I'm at a bit of a disadvantage. Her series are definitely ones you want to read in order. So quick pop over to her site and order books one, two, and three! You're going to want to read this one so you should read the other two first. Get them on ebook and you can read them while you wait for book three to arrive by snail mail. Perfect timing. First this is a crazy funny book. I loved it. Laughter followed me through the book. But it also contains some suspense and mystery. It's not stop your heart don't read after dark suspense but it's good! Who doesn't love seeing two people forced into marriage? What about wearing disguises and pretending to be cranky and old oh and fat?! Hilarious. The year is 1868. Penny wears pants. Shes forced into marrying John because they were out, together, alone, for months. . . . or was it days? And were they really alone? Oh well. Rumor is she's with child and it just keeps getting better!! Will they stay married? Or will they not make it out alive? Definitely recommend not only this book but the whole series. I have been a fan of Mary Connealy's writing for a while now and this has only cemented how much I love her works. Check her books out at the library, purchase them on Amazon, but get some in your hands and start reading. I do recommend you read her series in order though. You get the best read that way.
MJK108 3 months ago
“The first time Penny had laid eyes on McCall, he’d been standing there with a smoking gun.” --Thoughts from Penny Scott Love comes in all sizes, colors, and shapes. Considering the tomboyish demeanor of Penny Scott, a man holding a smoking gun is really not far from what she should have expected for the love of her life. However, since I have background knowledge from the first two books of the series, I might have expected Penny to be holding the smoking gun on him. After an unconventional introduction and being harnessed with Penny as a witness to the shooting, John McCall, a genuine Pinkerton agent, finds himself kidnapped along with Penny by three mysterious strangers. Pooling their skills, John and Penny manage to escape only to find themselves trapped into exchanging unwanted and unexpected wedding vows. The unconventional wedding is just the beginning of their shared adventures. John’s work brought him to the Tahoe area and into the Scotts’ life. The mysterious kidnapping could be tied to his case if he and Penny can just figure out the hows and whys and get the bad guys. Read this action packed adventure story to see if another mismatch couple can work their way to marital bliss in the Wild West. Or will they move to the city and live happily ever after? Filled with family, friendship, good guys, and bad guys, book three is great fun. I thoroughly enjoyed this historical western full of Mary Connealy’s great humor! This ARC copy was received from Bethany House Publishers and Netgalley.com in exchange for an honest review. The above thoughts and opinions are wholly my own. #TheUnexpectedChampion #NetGalley #HighSierraSweethearts
SBMC 3 months ago
A great book filled with funny dialogue, wonderful characters, a hefty dose of suspense and quite a few evil villains! This book is #3 in the High Sierra Sweethearts series and I do recommend that the books be read in order because the three books weave a continuous thread in the plot that encompasses the whole series. I read the first book Accidental Guardian but did not read the second book prior to starting this one and I needed some time to fill in the gaps of my knowledge of the Riley, Harkness, and Scott family since the book starts out with a bang and takes off at a fast pace. If you enjoy a well-written historical romance, you will absolutely enjoy this book. Set in 1868 Dismal, Nevada, Penny Scott has been leading a tough and roughened life in the west with her brother Cameron and his extended family. Capable, loyal, stubborn, impulsive, unconventional and with a mind of her own, Penny vows to bring down those villains who are threatening the life and peace of her family. John McCall is a Pinkerton agent who is the most comfortable ferreting out secrets and information in a big city. He possesses no survival skills in the wilderness but is hired to find and bring back Penny and Cameron's nephew whose parents were killed during a raid moving out west. Though clueless in Nevada, John is humble, intelligent, observant, thoughtful, and brave. Penny and John are thrown into several skirmishes where they need to work together to survive and ultimately bring down the villains. Though completely different from each other, their relationship and partnership emerge from mutual respect and trust and filled with laughter. This may be the end of the series (since Mary Connaly seems to like writing three-book series) but I would love to see some of the other minor characters, like Trace's hired hands, have their own story! I was given a copy of the book from Bethany House via JustRead Publicity Tour and was under no obligation to post a positive review. All comments and opinions are solely my own.
ARS8 3 months ago
Every book I read by author Connealy gets better and better. In The Unexpected Champion, third in the High Sierra Sweethearts series, the action and adventure continues with Penny Scott and Pinkerton agent John McCall who have just met at the end of the last book. As they head back to town to report to the sheriff from the last encounter, they are both kidnapped and their adventure together is only beginning. What I really liked about this story was just how suited these two were together even being forced into an uncomfortable life change, they don’t seem to lose their cool. Penny has the smarts in the woods and John has the smarts in the city and they both come to the conclusion that they are stronger, smarter, and work really well together. I think the cover captures their characters well. I highly recommend this story with the author’s trademark humor, interesting situations, and a romance you can’t help but cheer on while the danger and action abounds. I received a copy of this novel from the publisher. I was not required to post a positive review and all views and opinions are my own.
BrittanyMc 3 months ago
The Unexpected Champion was a well-written conclusion to a fun series. It was full of adventure and danger in the wilderness, as well as plenty of romantic tension. The author did a good job of providing satisfying conclusions to all of the various threats that the characters of the three books in this series have been working to survive. Each book in the High Sierra Sweethearts series definitely leads to the next story, so I would highly recommend starting with book one and enjoying the stories in order. Both of the previous books had a main threat that is overcome within the novel, yet there was always something that the reader knew would probably lead to trouble for the upcoming story. The Unexpected Champion gives the exciting final wrap up and provides the reader with the satisfaction of seeing all of the main characters looking toward the future. I enjoyed this story and this series a lot. I received a complimentary copy of this book. All opinions are my own.
ChatWithVera 3 months ago
The author's sense of humor shines like a rocket and takes off right from the beginning of The Unexpected Champion. At times the scenes and characters are almost "slap-stick" funny. But this isn't just a funny story - that's just a plus. The story is set in the historical Lake Tahoe region with references to gold mining and the San Francisco area. It is a bit of a good guys and bad guys in the old west story. Two main characters are a city slicker from back East, John McCall, and a homesteading ranch-grower woman, Penny Scott. And soon the two are virtually joined at the hip as they try to find and capture the mean old varmints. Each has skills and each has their own idea about what to do and how to do it. I'd really like to mention some of the scenes where this duo was trying to escape the desperadoes who kidnapped them. Their traipse through vast forests and over mountains when neither knew where they were or which direction they should go to get back to the place from which they'd been kidnapped - the cliff, the water, the trees, the mean men. Wow! Then once they do reach civilization (well, Wild-West-Civilization) the scene that erupts in the small town with the sheriff and others is more of that belly-laughing story telling for which Mary Connealy is known. Feisty and sweet (no that's not a contradiction) Penny, wants to be a good Christian and not sin so she calls into question lots of the activities that John plans. Highly recommend this fun, clean read. DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy to facilitate this review. Opinions are my own and are freely given.
MissKnu 3 months ago
With a deceptively peaceful opening for a Mary Connealy book, the third in her High Sierra Sweethearts trilogy begins with Penny Scott wanting nothing to do with John McCall, the Pinkerton agent who came west to retrieve (Penny would say kidnap) her nephew. And John, well, he's still rather shocked by Penny's manner and dress, or rather, pants. But after being kidnapped together, and then going on the hunt for their kidnappers, their growing respect for each other slowly turns to attraction and to love. More Western adventure than pure romance, though, and what a rip-roaring adventure this turned out to be! With twists and turns, malevolent villains, and enough danger and excitement to go around for the whole family and their ranch hands, too. And as far as city man/country woman romances go, The Unexpected Championis top notch. Due, in no small part, to the mutual respect and the partnership that springs up between them. One of the things I've appreciated so much about this particular trilogy is that the Hero of each novel isn't automatically the best choice for every bit of daring-do, and he knows it. In this final entry in the trilogy, John is quick to recognize Penny's skills and resourcefulness. But often, it is one of the dedicated ranch hands, and I do hope to encounter them both in future Mary Connealy novels. Skillfully plotted, quickly paced, and filled with the author's signature mix of romance, cowboys, faith, and comedy, this is a fun and exciting finale to another highly enjoyable trilogy from Mary Connealy. This is a must read for fans of Pinkerton agents and unconventional women in fiction, The High Sierra Sweethearts novels in particular, Connealy fans in general, or readers who are just curious to give her writing a try. While reading them in order will doubtless add to the reader's enjoyment, there are enough reminders along the way to inform or remind the reader of what went on before. This review refers to a finished copy I voluntarily received from the publisher for participation in a blog tour with Just Read Tours. A positive review was not required and all opinions expressed are my own.
Faye_reviews 4 months ago
Picking up right where the previous book left off, the Chiltons have hired Pinkerton agent John McCall to restore to them their long lost grandson, Ronnie, in order to control his handsome trust fund. Ronnie has been living with the Scott family, who loves him very much. Penny Scott is a strong woman who knows how to take care of herself in the wilderness, she can ride, shoot, and speak her mind. She has a homestead next to her brother Cameron and plans to raise cattle, she is suspicious of John and dislikes him right away because of his job. But when they are kidnapped and held hostage together, they must work together to escape. John is a city-livin' Pinkerton agent, he is a master of disguise and dedicated to his work. John is comfortable with his life in the city, but he is an honorable Christian man. He admires Penny's strength and know-how. I loved seeing them get to know each other and learning to work together, seeing each other's strengths and weakness, with a common bond of faith. Fast paced adventure, with everything happening over a span of weeks. The explosive conclusion to a fantastic trilogy, it is not one I'd advise reading as a standalone. I was surprised by how much I liked John by the end of this book, as he was in previous books and at that point in time he wasn't my favorite. I loved seeing the familiar faces from the previous books, as well as Ms. Connealy's signature humor. Page-turning suspense that was hard to put down, I found that this book ended far too quickly. Fantastic western storytelling, with strong bonds of faith and family. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and testimonials in Advertising."
EElizabeth 4 months ago
I read a lot of books in all different categories. However, my favorite category (if there even is such a category) is humorous historical romance. I love a book that will make me laugh throughout and I love history and romance. So, when I am needing a good book that fits this very specific category, one of the authors I enjoy is Mary Connealy. Her books never fail to make me laugh which is why I was so excited to read her newest book, The Unexpected Champion! I think out of all three books in the High Sierra Sweethearts series, this one was my favorite. Like her other books, I found myself laughing throughout the entire book. The way she phrases explanations of what is happening, or conversations, or character’s thoughts is very amusing and sometimes absolutely hilarious to me. I enjoyed the crazy circumstance the characters find themselves in. I enjoyed reading how Penny and John work so well together in spite of the fact that they are opposites. They’re both comfortable in different environments but their strengths and weaknesses balance each other out and enable them to help each other in every circumstance they find themselves in. I was very entertained by this book and enjoyed all the giggles I gained from it. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction that is humorous and entertaining. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
Stacy Simmons 4 months ago
Mystery, romance and a few kisses lie in these pages! Penny Scott is a heroine with mettle, she can out track, outshoot and outsmart many a man. . . until John McCall comes along. In order to solve the identity of some very nasty men, they are thrown together and what ensues is nothing short of a riotous read! I'm unabashedly a huge fan of Mary Connealy's books. She has the brilliant knack of writing funny, thrilling, and romantic scenes which sweep you into the pages of her books and make you feel as if you're part of the action. I received this book from the publisher. I was not expected to write a positive review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
RobinWillson 4 months ago
Christian Historical Fiction. 1868 Dismal, Nevada. The old Wild, Wild West. This story is built with people from previous books and an underlying evil that needs to be solved. A Pinkerton Agent comes into the mix when one of the evil doers is shot. With a few pages turned you can easily get into the full story and keep straight who everyone is. Mary Connealy is one of those very gifted storytellers. It's easy to become fully engaged in the story and you won't even notice as time rushes by. The chemistry between the characters is deeply woven with pictures of old Nevada, including Lake Tahoe. Richly developed people who are painted with life stories. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher and NetGalley book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” #TheUnexpectedChampion #MaryConnealy #NetGalley #BooksYouCanFeelGoodAbout
Mauri 4 months ago
Reading Mary Connealy's books makes me happy. The banter between her characters and her descriptive writing make me grin and sometimes laugh out loud. Hired by Edmond and Florence Chilton to find and return their grandson, Pinkerton agent John McCall locates young Ronnie but finds himself caught up in the dangerous threats against the Scott and Riley families. John and Penny Scott are kidnapped, which is just the beginning of their adventures together. Though the author gives enough back story that you won't be lost if this is the first book in the series you've read, do yourself a favor and read the previous two, THE ACCIDENTAL GUARDIAN and THE RELUCTANT WARRIOR. THE UNEXPECTED CHAMPION is a very satisfactory conclusion to the High Sierra Sweethearts series. I found it to be purely delightful.
Anonymous 4 months ago
I really enjoyed this book! I started it knowing that it wasn't a standalone, so I forgive what seemed abrupt. However, it was great, even though I had no former knowledge of the characters! Penny's such a great character - a real tomboy, but definitely a woman. And McCall is just as strong. Not a wimp, but just citified enough to find her quite interesting. The whole plot was really funny, and I loved the adventure thrown in. The story definitely took off and it kept its humor amidst wild west bandits. It was slightly far-fetched, but not so much that it was distracting - and just enough for an enjoyable story. I also really enjoyed the romance. It didn't feel forced, and was sweet. I liked that Penny didn't really fall for McCall, and one aspect of their romance was hilarious! Also the cover! It's pretty and fits the story so well. Overall, if you like wild west stories, romantic comedy with some adventure sprinkled in, you'll love this! It's well-written, the characters are vivid, and it's a very fun read. *I was given a free copy of this book to review by NetGalley. My thoughts and opinions are all honest, as a positive review was not required.*
annelr 4 months ago
The Unexpected Champion by Mary Connealy is the third book in her High Sierra Sweethearts series. It can still easily be read as a stand-alone book. I had not read the first two and was able to follow the story well as the author fills in enough of the backstory that the reader does not get lost or have a lot of unanswered questions. Connealy has a nice style of writing and kept my interest throughout the entire book. I was hooked from the beginning as the action starts right up and continues through the story, always keeping the reader wondering how in the world will things work out now. The characters are realistic, vibrant, and relatable. Penny is outspoken and feisty. John is, in Penny's opinion, a long-legged galoot, and yet he is determined and quite the gentleman. Two strangers unexpectedly brought together and they become entangled in unforeseen events that lead them into danger. Has Penny found an unexpected champion in John or are these situations so tangled that only God can untangle them? The Unexpected Champion is a captivating tale of family and faith, courage and love. I am looking forward to reading more books from this author and lovers of Western romance will not want to miss this series. I read a complimentary copy of the book and was not required to write a review. The opinions are my own.
arkieclown 5 months ago
THE UNEXPECTED CHAMPION by Mary Connealy is the third book in the High Sierra Sweethearts series. It takes place in June of 1868 in Nevada around the Dismal/Lake Tahoe area when the west was still a wilderness and towns sprang up around gold mines. People were getting rich and crime seemed to be running rampant. This is the story of city dweller John McCall and frontier gal Penny Scott. John McCall was hired by the Chilton’s to find their “lost” grandson through his employer, the Pinkerton Agency. Although he’s very good at his job and can track and find his man in the big city, he hasn’t a clue about the way things are done in the frontier. All in all he’s a God fearing man, but he’s not beyond bending the rules a bit if it helps bring in the bad guy or solves a crime. Penny Scott is as smart and tough as any man. She’s been through a lot in her life. After the man that had been harming her family was killed, she thought that things could finally settle down. She has her family around her, staked her homestead plot of land and was ready to build her cabin to live a quiet, happy life. Love of family and faith in God had prevailed. When John and Penny were kidnapped, they had a mutual bound – to escape and found the parties responsible. Escaping by jumping off cliffs and running for their live was the easy part. After days and days, they make their way back to town to be given the choice of marriage or John to be hung for kidnapping the girl that stood before them. They soon find out that marriage wasn’t the only way they would be united. When they see that the kidnappers are out for blood – theirs and Penny’s family’s, they join forces to find those responsible and bring them to justice. Can they find the man with the fancy boots before harm comes to either of them or the ones they left behind? Can Penny’s skills in the frontier get them where they need to be? Once there can John find what he needs in his bag of tricks to help lead them to the ring leader? Will the Chilton’s showing up increase the risks and muddy the waters? Is a true marriage ahead or are they headed to a life alone – married but remaining single? Or will respect and admiration turn to feelings of love? Mary Connealy writes an amazing story of danger, adventure, growing feelings of affection and a sprinkling of faith while showing the strength in family (blood or my choice) and tossing in a bit of humor. She has you turning the pages to see what excitement is over the next cliff or behind that door. Her characters are more than believable - they are enduring. They have you wanting the good guys to come out ahead, for the bad guys to pay for their crimes and for John and Penny to turn to one another as true husband and wife. THE UNEXPECTED CHAMPION can definitely be read as a standalone. However, if you are like me and this was your first book of the series, you will be running to get book one and two. I highly recommend this book and give it FIVE STARS!
kp68 5 months ago
Mary Connealy wraps up her High Sierra Sweethearts series in The Unexpected Champion. This latest tale will concentrate primarily on Penny Scott and John McCall. John is a Pinkerton agent, who has travelled west on a job. He has been paid to return Penny's nephew, Ronnie to his East Coast grandparents. The truth is no one in Penny's family will willing let go of this little boy! After Penny and John return the body of Raddo, the outlaw who had been out to destroy Penny's family, they are soon kidnapped in this small western town. This group of kidnappers seem to have vengeance on their minds! Hold on tight to see where this tale will take you. When Penny and John find themselves in all sorts of difficult situations, including being forced to marry each other, you have no idea what to expect next! It is interesting to see how all the pieces of this tale come together by the final page!
swissgranny 5 months ago
Once again, I found myself giggling, snorting, chuckling, and laughing out loud through a Mary Connealy novel. This time it was The Unexpected Champion—the last in High Sierra Sweethearts series. The setting in Nevada in the old west, and the well-crafted, horse riding, homesteading, gun-toting characters (both friendly and dangerous) came to life quickly and drew me right in. I loved the delicious chemistry and witty, hilarious banter between Penny Scott and John McCall, the two main characters. Penny’s strong will and independence combined with John’s handy skills and determination made for a delightful and somewhat quirky couple. The appearance of some of the characters from previous books in the series was such fun. I loved how Penny’s family and friends all had each other’s backs. If one of them had a problem, the others were ready and willing to ride to the rescue. Immersed in the story are threads of faith, mercy, and love of family that add dimension to it. I’m sad to see this series end, but I’m also looking forward to more books from this highly entertaining author. 4 1/2 stars* I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy from the author/publisher/NetGalley. All opinions are my own.
Heidi_Reads 6 months ago
The conclusion to the High Sierra Sweethearts series did not disappoint! Full of adventure, humor, and tough characters with tender hearts. I enjoyed getting to know Penny more, and John had some surprises up his sleeve in this book! He has a great attitude, and I was impressed that he was so proactive in hunting down his kidnapper instead of remaining a victim. Penny and he are a great match as they both learn from each other's very different skill set. I liked the new settings the characters explored and the new types of adventure as they investigate in the city. I felt like this third book brought something fresh to the series as well as wrapping up the loose ends of the mystery and bringing more of the characters we fell in love with in the first two books. I'd love to read novellas for Adam and Utah! (I received a complimentary copy of the book; all opinions in this review are my own)
Jaquelyn 6 months ago
I couldn’t get my hands on this book fast enough. If you have read any books by Mary Connealy, you know exactly what I’m talking about. The Unexpected Champion was everything I want in a book. It was the perfect amount of suspense and romance mixed together. I originally met Penny earlier in this series and as hoping she would be the heroine of her own story. She is definitely one of a kind. I couldn’t wait to see what kind of man she fell for, and I knew he’d have to be pretty special. Being kidnapped together, Penny and John must learn to work together to not only escape but stay alive. They both have their own tricks up their sleeves, and just might learn to get along after all. This story was an absolute joy to read. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys Historical Romance. I couldn’t wait to find out what happened next, and was completely taken by surprise. I received a copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers and was in no way forced to post a review. All opinions expressed are my own.
Phyllis_H 6 months ago
Everyone needed to be a champion If you haven't read the first two books of the High Sierra Sweethearts, hurry off and read them before you read this review! And when you're done, hurry back - you won't want to miss the fantastic conclusion to this series. This was the best of the set. Penny was prepared for everything. Her cautious nature had her ready for any emergency in her bag. And that very thing saved her life. More than once. It could have almost been Marry Poppins' bag for the amazing way she had just what was needed. I loved the way she was so resourceful, intelligent, strong, and yet willing to submit to others when necessary. She is one of my favorite spunky heroines! John's satchels were full of items he couldn't be without as well, yet his preparedness looked so different from Penny's. He carried with him the tools of his trade including disguises for every occasion. This Pinkerton detective, though more than just in his element in the city, was more like a babe in the woods there in the . . . um . . . woods. John was admirable in so many ways. Not only was he resourceful, gallant, and handsome, he respected Penny despite her mistrust of him. He knew she was better in the wilderness than he was, and deferred to her when necessary. Still, he was fully able to take charge and had a cool head in the face of danger. This fast-paced adventure had the two running and riding all over Nevada, escaping from their kidnappers and then tracking them down. The circumstances that they continued to find themselves in and the way they got out of the predicaments were such fun to read. Mary Connealy has a knack for balancing laugh-out-loud humor with high adventure and romance. You can see some of her humor in the quotes here, yet there was so much more I wanted to share but didn't because, outside of the context, it wouldn't make sense. This stunning conclusion to the series neatly wrapped up the loose ends from the previous books. I was so grateful the author didn't find it necessary to rehash the details here. She sprinkled in enough to jog the memory when needed so it didn't matter that it has been months and hundreds of books read since I read the first two books. Not to mention that they are the kinds of stories that simply stick with you. Read with a Preview at AmongTheReads.net I was given a copy of this book. I was not required to give a favorable review nor was any money received for this review. All comments and opinions are my own.
3C 6 months ago
The Unexpected Champion was an entertaining and heart-warming read. Penny Scott had me smiling from the beginning with her droll comments and exciting adventures, including her evolving relationship with Pinkerton detective John McCall. The plot presented mystery and excitement without overshadowing the interesting personalities of the characters. The descriptive writing had one seeing the splendor of the area in their mind. I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher, through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.