"The Wives of Bowie Stone" - Maggie Osborne- 1994

The heroine of "The Wives of Bowie Stone" wife #2, Rose Mary Mulvehey is the most interesting female character I can remember in any romance.   She only bathes after spending a night in jail - she goes to jail for getting drunk and shooting up the saloon, she smokes, rides fast and lives rough as any cowboy in the west.  She was also abused by her step-father, and depends on alcohol to cope.  She is complex and difficult - she would never have 'caught' a husband without a post-war town loophole.  The town of Passion's Crossing (sounds like a soap opera name doesn't it?) needs men, and they are in such limited supply a woman can save a man from a hanging if she marries him.  Rosie chooses Bowie Stone - who escaped the noose and fails to mention wife #1.  

Rosie sees a profitable harvest as the ultimate revenge on the step-father who died before she could kill him.  She needs Bowie to be her 'roustabout' or man of all work and over the course of a year he pulls the plow because her horse is the only good thing she owns, they work until they bleed and do it despite the town's mockery.  Bowie and Rosie fall in love slowly.  Which makes sense as she looks like 'Calamity Jane' from HBO's "Deadwood" for most of the book.  I must admit that's kind of how she talked in my head too, it was pretty distracting. 

Bowie discovers the beautiful woman underneath the liquor, dirt and men's clothing - but most importantly he helps Rosie dry out and see the beautiful woman she is.  

There's a nice subplot with Susan Stone - wife #1 - learning to take care of herself without the support of a man.  Bowie never loved Susan, his brother died while she was pregnant, Bowie marries her to give his nephew a name.  She's never had to do more than plan menus and act as hostess.  In the west she meets a man who expects more and finds more courage than she knew she had.     

My only issues with "The Wives of Bowie Stone" are plot issues.  There were a few loose ends that tied up too neatly and unnecessarily in my opinion.  But overall this book is wonderful at showing a completely new heroine and a real hero to love her.