Originally published in 1997
H/h - Jake Moran/Annabel "Outlaw Annie" Foster
Setting: Colorado, 1868.
Read in Jan, 2013.
Chasing Rainbows was my third book by Victoria Lynne and honestly, I found it a little on the disappointing side. But even then, it was good because of VL’s writing. Even though I liked our H, Jake and h, Annie as individuals (Annie was my favorite though lol), overall I thought they lacked the correct kind of chemistry or intensity a couple should have. Lemme elaborate in my review.
Annie is an orphan. Her family died a long time ago. Her background is a little vague but it was an accident that took her parents and older sister’s life. Annie was very young, and Doc Mundy saved her life. He took her in, he and his wife took care of her when she was recovering. She grew up with them and playing with Pete, Doc Mundy’s son. Annie also learned some doctoring from the man and can do some basic patching up. It came handy when Pete, the boisterous troublemaker began to form a gang of his own. He was ambitious, in love and needed money and so, after the Doc and his wife passed away, Pete formed a gang and started doing small ‘businesses’. You can easily guess the kind of business his gang ran. Annie saw it, but she never liked it. Pete was stubborn and never heeded her words. Annie liked Pete a lot, cared for him but I never quite understood their relationship, whatever little was narrated in the story. It certainly didn’t feel like brother-sister affection, yet it never did go beyond. But Pete always protected her from harm (you can only guess what kind), which was showed in Annie’s musings. So, Annie did what she could to patch the boys of the gang up after one of their ‘business’. She also grew up to be tomboy-ish, preferring shirts and pants rather than lady-like dresses and behavior. Let’s just say, Annie had no education or mother figure to teach her comport. When Mundy gang, as people called Pete’s little group later, started doing big businesses, like robbing banks and coaches, but never gotten caught, they become a sort of legend. Annie would sometimes ride with them, but she didn’t help them in their work. But somehow, she became a part of the legend as the Outlaw Annie. This would play such a big role in her life later that sometimes your heart would break for her. Soon tragedy struck. Pete and his whole gang die by the hands of policeman in trap set by them. Annie watches it all, and becomes slightly traumatized. She already had this thing about not letting men touch her, but this was her nightmare. Annie hated to be reminded of that gory day when she watched hidden how Pete and the other members, some of whom were very good to her, were killed so mercilessly.
But before this, the Mundy gang ran a big bank robbery, for which they were hunted down. Annie was caught by the police soon enough. A mock justice was served and she was condemned to hang. Of course Pete never did tell her where he hidden the money, so Annie couldn’t tell the policemen. I must say there, that even being with a gang for all her life, Annie had this refreshing quality of innocence that caught me every time. She knew how to handle her gun or ride a horse superbly, and yet she was so guileless about other areas of reality that I felt a lot of affection for her. She was practical, yet not hardened by the gruesome facts of life. She saw blood and killing, and yet she could dream about chasing a rainbow of dreams till the end. That part of the story was an emotional journey for her, as much as it was for me.
The story begins with a narrative of how a man feels when he’s being hanged. It was morbid, to say the least. Jake, our hero, watched just like many other town folks, only they were cheering the hanging while he was contemplating his own hanging, if he can’t prove something. A man was killed just after a gambling match with him, where he won, and now, the condemnation is on Jake’s head. Jake is a lifelong traveler, a devilishly good-looking man with the charms to go with it. He’s a gambler in every sense of the word. He loves gambling with his life. So far, this life suited Jake just fine; traveling, finding new places for gambling, new and unknown women and a lot of money because luck always seemed to smile upon him on the gambling tables. But after this murder, he’s on the run. Jake needs to prove his innocence and fast, and he has heard that a member of the Mundy gang is being hanged. Jake needed information, which the sheriff of this town couldn’t provide. The boy has been mostly unresponsive. But no one told Jake that this was no boy when after the hanging, his hair came lose. Jake couldn’t believe the sheriff, whom he actually respected, was hanging a woman! But the sheriff could do nothing since the town demanded a hanging for the gang’s criminal activities. Any hanging will for them. I kept thinking how cruel people were back in those days who would come to watch a hanging as if it’s a carnival of some sort!
But amazingly, the woman doesn’t die. And the sheriff takes a brilliant stance, which only spoke of his shrewdness and experience in handling rowdy crowd. Later Annie is taken to the sheriff’s office. Sheriff wants her to be transported to another county and Jake seems like a fine man to do this. But Jake has no intentions of having a woman hindering his quest for revenge by traveling with him. But he needs information on the gang, which is only why Jake later accedes. Annie shows her usual fiery side, and instantly started disliking and distrusting Jake. His good-looks and charming smiles were not something she felt comfortable with. Those are too tempting and Annie knows that can’t be good. Anyhow, a deal was struck and they were on their way soon. After that, the story was largely spent on their journey. Their interactions were sometimes fun, mostly because Annie was always kind of cutting towards Jake, who it seems, has no short supply of charmingly roguish smile to rebuff that rudeness. And once, an incident of stolen horse and their meager belongings end into Jake seeing more of Annie he cares to see right now, registering the fact that he, indeed, is attracted to her. Even though Annie looks too thin and a bit young for her age, she’s a woman no doubt. This could only add trouble. Oh, Jake’s d*ck was in misery! Lmao
Annie begins trusting Jake little by little. She tells him that she won a big hotel somewhere through gambling. She now wants to stake her claim, become a fine lady and run it. One can only see that it cannot be that easy, even Annie knows it but she’s determined. Jake decides he’d only accompany her to that small town and leave her in her own devices. But he can’t deny the attraction, but Jake is determined not to act upon it. Her innocent and guilelessness draws him totally. He couldn’t believe that being with such a violent gang, Annie could still be a virgin. It’s revealed when she talks about why she doesn’t like to be touched. Even I was concerned and at first, thought about something awful happening to her. It actually was close to my guess but thank God that she was rescued by Pete. A newly recruited man of the gang called Snakeskin Garvey (because he was obsessed with stuff made of snakeskin) was that SOB. Annie never liked him and his leering gaze on her. Her instinct proved her correct. Annie also tells Jake that she saw the whole gang dying in front of her eyes and that she has no idea about the money. But no one seems to believe her words. Not even Jake, though he doesn’t show it. The trust issue is so very palpable that at times, I scared of what might happen when these two inevitably come together.
In the middle, the story became a little slow but soon, we had added incentives; one was this reporter who was trailing them. He seemed harmless, and wanted to make Annie a legend through his cheesy crime stories. Annie didn’t like him and didn’t care for an interview. There was also someone following their trail and once or twice Annie thought she saw someone looking like Pete or his gang. But how can this be? They all died! Annie was the one who started trusting Jake first. Jake, even though sympathetic and affectionate towards Annie, didn’t entirely trust her. Yet he couldn’t contemplate leaving her either. Jake found Annie’s dream of being a high society lady unrealistic, seeing how much training she would really need and yet, he’s help her with her vocabulary (because Jake himself had a good education) and cheer her up when she would feel down and sometimes frustrated. This is why I liked Jake so much
Soon on their journey, they become lovers. Annie is in seventh heaven because something so good never happened to her. I could tell she was more than half-way in love with Jake by this time. She starts daydreaming but knew that her dreams of becoming Jake’s wife will only remain a fantasy. Jake never promised anything and even though he’s nice and caring, no one will marry an outlaw woman like her. It hurts Annie, and it hurt me too because that was the truth. When people pass judgment blindly, they can’t see beyond that blindness. That’s the way the world goes around. Annie, very sadly, gets to test is soon enough. As they come closer to their destination, they stop at another small town. A festivity was held for the Mayor recently becoming a father. Annie definitely wanted to attend and show off her new vocabulary and comportment skills. She has been reading that threadbare guidebook of a gentlewoman’s comportment like there’s nothing else in the world. I already said Annie was determined, but she was naïve. She even buys an unattractive, hand down dress, which costs her too much. Jake sees is but doesn’t say anything when he sees how happy she is with her purchase. See, Annie never had the chance to wear something a little better than the gang’s threadbare throw outs. And so, this dress was like a satin ball gown to her. Can’t tell you how much I felt for her.
When Jake refuses to accompany her in the ball, Annie is inwardly very hurt. But she doesn’t show it; after all, Jake might have other businesses. Why would he bother with her? Annie had her insecurities where her feelings towards Jake were concerned. And I thought it was viable. On the other hand, Jake wanted to accompany her. He loved how the gown transformed her and how she kept her hair down (which he loved BTW). He kept thinking about the men she’ll dance with and becoming increasingly jealous. But Jake had other businesses; one was to talk to his friend who is also a sheriff of this town, another, to make some money of the table. When the sheriff makes inappropriate comments about Annie, as in she’s probably nothing but another of Jake’s unknown Sunday sweethearts, Jake gets very angry. He never saw Annie that way to begin with and he threatens his friend not to speak of her that way again. Somehow they struck a bargain. Jake would have to get some useful information soon enough or else, the sheriff has to arrest him.
In that ball, Annie wasn’t having a good time. In fact it was horrible, awful, mean, rude, scathing… just plain horrible. I actually cried for her when people started ignoring her or being pain mean to her. The words of she being the Outlaw Annie were already in the air and it doesn’t take much for the townspeople to get rough with her or speak behind her. Even the mayor asks Annie to leave when she, very wobbly and on the verge of tears, tries to congratulate his wife. It was plain horrible!!! Then some ruffian thought she was a fair game and rough handles her… One thing leads to another and the place is caught on fire. When Jake hears of it, he instantly panics for Annie. Upon the hearing everyone tries to make Annie look guilty, even the sheriff seemed convince once they were in his office but Jake didn’t believe, for once, that she’d do it on purpose. He defends Annie and leaves. At night, they have hot hot sex, and yet, the next day, something happens that shakes Jake’s trust on Annie. It was bad and I thought Jake was a moron of the first order. He finds a note of someone in her bag that indicated that Annie probably is in contact with the gang, when she denied it the last night after the sheriff’s accusation. Jake is mad at her, not bothering to ask her anything. When Annie comes out, she was so very happy to see Jake but then seeing his cold, detached expression, her happiness washes away. They leave the town soon for Annie’s destination, which was their next stop.
The story picks up a lot when they reach their destination. Annie was scared of losing Jake. He has been very cold to her since that morning. It was eating her up, but she didn’t know what she did wrong. And then as they find the hotel she bought, Annie thought her world just crashed. It was obvious that she had been cheated by that nasty guy. This was not the kind of hotel that the old flyer showed. Well, it might’ve been something fancy once upon a time but not anymore. This place is now a shabby, rundown whorehouse. Annie feels what a stupid she was to believe she can do something. Chase the rainbow of her dreams and finally find some stance in the society. I felt SO sad for her, because Jake was also being mean to her. He was still detached and cold, as if the shattering of her dreams meant nothing to him, when it was far from the truth. He cared but didn’t trust her enough to act on it. Annie doesn’t know what she’s gonna do because she has no other choice but to make something out of this. Before she gives into the urge of keeling down in misery and bawl like a baby, Annie soldiers herself on to talk to the few equally shabby prostitutes who reside this building.
I totally found Annie’s strong personality commendable. The way she convinces the prostitutes to give up their profession for an honest living was amazing. And I can say that these prostitutes were also some of the good hearted women we see in the story, certainly so for Annie. Whereas the so-called good society pushed her away, to say it mildly, these women put their trust on her and gave her a chance. I respected them a lot. Jake, meanwhile, decides to stay. Even though he shows he’s just helping out for the time being, Jake wanted to stay with Annie. He was also looking for more information, now his focus to find if Annie is involved or not. Soon enough he’s proven wrong. Annie throws herself wholeheartedly to the hotel’s washing and painting, making things better for the travelers and townspeople. She knew it’d be a challenge but Annie never backs down for one. The only heartbreak in this whole thing for her was Jake detachment from her. But she decides that maybe he’s grown bored and not interested in her anymore. When many of us would take this personally (and I did find it hard to believe being in such close proximity, they didn’t show one hint of that intensity but that of good friends), Annie let it rest and makes the hotel her life.
As the hotel begins to prosper, and people starts coming in, little troubles begin to rear their heads as well. Some weren’t as little because one slip would’ve injured someone or took a life. Annie thinks those are from some mean folks who wants to run them out of the town and probably angry because their means to entertainment (aka the whorehouse) is now closed. The women are stronger now and would shoot at any drunkard who would come calling. Sometimes the narratives were funny as to how they tackled such a problem. But the issue of the gang still remains a mystery (Jake by now knows there is a gang since the news of robbery come to them). Jake knows from his vigilance that she’s not involved with them, yet he’s not entirely sure what to think. Then there is their feelings for each-other; hidden away, eating at them. It was a very emotional read, this part of the story. I didn’t like Jake being so suspicious of Annie even after everything. It pissed me off. Irrational as it may sound but I wanted him to trust her unconditionally and love her the way she deserves to be loved. So their detachment (no sex, even though Jake didn’t stray) was also very frustrating for me. Till the end, Jake kept on distrusting her and I just wanted to smack him on the head.
The ending was equally as heart-wrenching as it was heart-warming. Jake finally had the ‘proof’ that he wanted, which acquitted him of the condemnation and the real mastermind behind it all was captured. The epilogue, SIGH... VL’s epilogues always make me so happy, warm and then, a watering pot too. It was sweeeeeeeet!! Annie a mother, who knew? But of course Jake saw to that. *heehee*
You can guess what they renamed the hotel later on... that’s right, ‘The Rainbows End’. I still remember it without even peeking at my copy of the book. 4 stars.