What does it really mean to be madly in love?  I am not simply talking about attraction or infatuation here.  Indeed, I mean so in love that you would do virtually anything for the object of your affection.  Willing to sacrifice everything you have in order to protect them and ensure their happiness.  All this being done despite whatever consequences may be sure to follow.  Would you be willing to put everything on the line in the name of love?  In the novel The Girl Who Loved Cayo Bradley by author Nina Romano, we are able to witness this very scenario in action.  A beautiful piece of Western Historical Romance which will keep readers riveted until the very end.

The Girl Who Loved Cayo Bradley is a Western Romance which takes place in the harsh ranchlands of New Mexico in 1874.  It follows the lives of the protagonists, Darby McPhee and Cayo Bradley.  Darby is a young woman living on the family ranch with her father and brothers.  Cayo on the other hand is a rugged ranch-hand who was abducted as a child and raised by the Jicarilla Apache Tribe.  Traumatized by tragic events during the initial experience, Cayo is haunted by his past and has surrounded himself with impenetrable walls.  Upon his return to white society he is virtually ostracized and sees no reason to tear down those walls that enclose him.  That is until he meets Darby.  They fall in love and pledge to be with one another forever.  Be that as it may, life often has other plans.  Darby had promised her dying mother that she would get a proper education and she must travel to St. Louis to do so.  Further, Cayo develops some significant complications of his own as his past and present begin to collide.  Will these two lovers from entirely different worlds honor their promise and unite in the end?  Or was their love doomed from the very start and simply not meant to be?

When I read this novel I am reminded of the phrase, “the more things change, the more they remain the same.”  While it is essentially a love story at heart, the author uses her exceptional writing prowess to very effectively explore the themes of bias and division.  The cultural divide between white society and the Jicarilla Tribe is prominent.  Perhaps even more conspicuous is the blatant ignorance they have toward one another.  Something which we can easily draw a parallel to in many areas of the world today.  In the middle of all of this are two individuals who come from entirely different backgrounds and have had every potential obstacle thrown in their way.  Yet they cannot forget one another and are willing to sacrifice anything in order to make their love come to fruition.  This all comes together in a tale which will continuously keep the reader guessing as to what is coming next.  Utterly captivating and engaging!

The engrossing plot of this novel would potentially fall flat if it were not for the assortment of dynamic characters to support it.  There are a number of minor players in the novel such as Aunt Bea and Mary who have their assigned roles and play them very well.  However, as the main characters, both Darby and Cayo develop and grow in the most depth by far.  They are realistic and memorable characters whom the reader is not likely to forget anytime soon.  For instance, Darby shows significant growth as she blossoms from a wide-eyed and innocent young girl into a force all unto her own.  Similarly, Cayo evolves from an aloof and distant enigmatic character, to one whose emotions begin to become crystal clear.  Particularly when it comes to Darby.  By alternating scenes between the two main characters and using a series of flashbacks, the author is clearly able to create compelling and very believable characters.

I would highly recommend this novel to all adult readers.  It is an exciting Western love story which flows beautifully and captures all the required elements needed to keep the reader captivated from beginning to end.

5 out of 5 Western Stars for this one!  *****