Author:  DiAnn Mills
Title:  A Woman Called Sage
Publisher:  Zondervan

DiAnn Mills chose the gorgeous, dangerous Colorado Rockies in which to set a story of betrayal, kidnapping, revenge, and love. And though the pace waxes and wanes, the mystery keeps you turning the page.

It's 1875 in the Colorado Territory. When Sage Morrow watches her husband's and unborn child's murderer ride away, she vows to hunt him down and bring him to justice. After training with her kinsmen from the Ute tribe, the half-breed beauty becomes a renowned bounty hunter at home in the Rockies. Now, she learns that the latest outlaw she's tracking is somehow connected to her erstwhile prey.

U.S. Marshall Parker Timmons is stuck. He can't let the townspeople of Rocky Falls, Colorado, continue to be terrorized by the McCaw gang. But he can't leave his post in order to hunt them down himself. Skeptical of a female bounty hunter, he eventually learns that Sage Morrow is skilled, trustworthy, and tenacious. Chasing a common goal, they are drawn to each other. Can they have a future? The answer to that depends in large part on a mystery, the answer to which only the outlaws know. Will Parker and Sage pursue justice, or revenge?

Mills combines a variety of storytelling elements to create an interesting, attention-grabbing story. Murder, romance, prejudice, revenge, Christian ethics … and the Wild West? It's a provoking combination. And it ends with a surprise conclusion to the prevailing mystery—why does this outlaw gang think Parker and Sage have been connected for years and conspiring against them?

The author draws us into the action by appealing to our senses. She paints the scene well—the majesty of the Colorado Rockies is vivid and compelling. We can see Sage's partner, Hawk, soar high over the trees before he swoops down to perch on her sleeve. We smell the campfire and taste the beans. We hear the pebbles fall from the cliff where Sage clings by her fingertips. The story is richer for the details.

A major subplot involves the local church, pastored by a reformed no-good bum. He's turned into a fire-and-brimstone preacher with no sense of grace, forgiveness, or humility. He causes all sorts of problems for the main characters, but their conflict seems somewhat contrived. A far-fetched accusation takes up an inordinate portion of the plot, slowing the pace and distracting somewhat from the main plot. While plausible, it's a stretch. And in the end, the differences between Parker and the pastor are wrapped up a little too neatly.

This particular subplot also includes an anachronistic reference to the separation of church and state, an unnecessary distraction from the point being made in that scene. The church vote in question resulted from prejudice and jealousy, and it could have been handled adequately without bringing (incorrect) politics into question.

In the usual Mills tradition, readers will enjoy a character-driven story propelled by lively dialogue, descriptive prose, and compelling action scenes.



**This review first published on June 7, 2010.