Title: Most Wanted
Author: Barbara Sheridan
Publisher: JMS Books LLC
Pages/Word Count: 47 Pages
At a Glance: A prime example of a complete short piece
Blurb: Boston born and bred Tim Dwyer doesn’t relish the thought of giving up Eastern comforts for life in the rough-and-tumble West. But when he finds himself with no job, little money, and no place else to go, he accepts a position at his cousin’s weekly newspaper in the Indian Territory. When his cousin and new editor cook up a roving reporter assignment, Tim learns that spending a mere week in the life of U.S. Deputy Marshal Jon Sauvage won’t ever be enough to satisfy his needs.
Choctaw lawman “Savage Jon” Sauvage has spent his entire adult life content with chasing wanted men and taking his pleasures wherever and however he can. But once he’s roped into letting a big city reporter tag along with him on a manhunt, Jon soon suspects that Tim Dwyer might just capture his heart.
Review: Barbara Sheridan’s Most Wanted is a prime example of a complete short piece without any cramming of unnecessary information or the sacrifice of a plot by a too-lengthy sex scene (or more). At 15,000 words, it’s a novelette that works like a mini-novel, providing us with a great backstory for both Tim and Jon, accidental meetings whose sexual tensions spiral, a first-hand view of the dangers of law enforcement in Indian Territory, and the eventual coming together of two men who risk a good deal for their happiness.
While I’ve referred to overly used tropes in previous reviews, I really don’t mind them so long as the author gives us a different spin on them. In this case, while Tim and Jon are classic yin and yang romance heroes, each man is at least given distinctive qualities that keep them from disappearing against hundreds of other yin and yang couples who’ve been written before. Tim perhaps hews the most closely to the familiar as the wide-eyed ingenue type (albeit male), the naïve city boy who finds himself in over his head when he ventures into uncharted territory. But while he’s uncertain and somewhat shy, he’s definitely no pushover, though at the same time gets his way without resorting to a sudden switch to hypermasculinity. One can’t help but feel both sympathetic and yet amused when he ultimately bows to the authority of the law because he really is a fish out of water and is practically flopping around despite his insistence at getting what he wants as a newbie reporter.
Jon, on the other hand, is the hardened lawman who barely manages to keep his secret safe while living off what he could in the exercise of his duties. It’s a harsh and lonely existence he faces day in and day out, the constant fear of discovery hanging over his head with his reputation as a perpetual bachelor. At the same time, he’s not the quintessential embittered alpha male who roughly pushes people away, particularly those he finds himself genuinely attracted to. There’s a softness in him that lets itself be shown whenever his guard’s down, and it’s so refreshing to see this kind of characterization for someone with very dominant traits like his. While hardened, he’s never unemotional, cold, or even cruel. He’s in every way a sympathetic character, which melds quite nicely with Tim’s whenever they find themselves alone together.
The ending’s quite beautiful as well – poignant without being overly sentimental and realistic without resorting to tragedy. It is a romance, so we know what to expect, and Sheridan gives us exactly that but with a nice, non-melodramatic reminder of the historical context and the unfair secrecy that gay lovers are forced to resort to. If I were to wax poetic about the final scenes, I’d say that I’d never before expected the coming together of love, art, and a simple campfire to be so mystical.
You can buy Most Wanted here: