How Much of a Line Existed Between Outlaws and Lawmen?


A rough outlaw town…A man seeking redemption…A hunted woman with no place to turn except agree to be outlaw Clay Colby’s wife.

This is the scenario in The Outlaw’s Mail Order Bride. In case you haven’t heard, this new series is a bleed over from my Men of Legend and Clay Colby (whom you met in The Heart of a Texas Cowboy) is tired of running. He’s determined to make a stand on the last bit of mostly unsettled Texas land in the panhandle. He yearns to settle down with a wife and have a family. To be normal. So he starts building a town on the site of an old hideout called Devil’s Crossing. While he builds, he writes to Tally Shannon and Luke Legend carries the letters back and forth. She and a group of women are hiding out in a canyon, hunted in order to be returned to the Creedmore Asylum for the Insane.

Tally and these women first made an appearance at the end of Men of Legend Book 1 – To Love a Texas Ranger when outlaw Luke Legend began providing food, clothing, and medicine.

But Tally has grown weary of living in the shadows and wants more for herself and her band of fugitives. For once she wants to know what it’s like to have someone care for her—to have strong arms around her, to be safe, protected. Although afraid to trust, she agrees to marry Clay.

“What drew Clay most was the defiance on her face, and the determined glint in her eyes. Hard eyes, that had seen too much pain. Tally wouldn’t back down easily—from anything. The Colt strapped around her waist bore witness to that.”

I’ve often thought about the line drawn between outlaws and lawmen on the American Frontier and find that at times it became so blurred it was almost invisible. A man could be a sheriff or U.S. Marshal one day and a fugitive outlaw the next, depending on the circumstances. Or vice versa.

Millions upon millions of acres of raw land comprised the American Frontier, stretching from the Missouri River all the way to the Pacific Ocean. There were no laws, no courts, and little or no government. The few lawmen that existed had to cover huge areas and there was no way they could.

Often, the only law was what a man found for himself. The gun determined the outcome.

To get an idea of what I’m talking about, consider this: A man is minding his own business and taking care of his family when someone rides up and shoots his wife and children. He catches the murderer and kills him. That makes him an outlaw and he’d be on the run.

Then maybe one of the railroad or cattle towns needed to curb their lawlessness so they would hire the outlaw and pin a badge on his chest. There are plenty of examples in history.

Many such men straddled the fence, being whatever anyone wanted. Wild Bill Hickok, Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, Virgil Earp, Bat Masterson, and Pat Garrett to name a few. You might say they were the good “bad” guys.

That’s what Clay and his friends are. Sure, they’ve killed but they only see it as administering justice. They were the law where there was none and now they’re ready to give up their role.

But will others let them?

If you’ve read the book, tell me your favorite part or favorite character. Or talk about outlaws. What is your view? Were they good? Or bad?

Leave a comment to be entered in a drawing for one of three copies of the book. Or if you already have it, to win a $10 Amazon gift card.

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Here in the Texas Panhandle, we do love our cowboys. There's just something about a man in a Stetson and jeans that makes my heart beat faster. I'm not much of a cook but I love to do genealogy and I'm a bit of a rock hound. I'm also a NY Times & USA Today bestselling author of historical western romance. You can contact me through my website and I'd love to connect with you on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and more. HAPPY READING!

63 thoughts on “How Much of a Line Existed Between Outlaws and Lawmen?”

  1. Outlaws of the old west are easily heroes to many. There being so few lawmen, outlaw justice was necessary.
    Your research keeps the history on point. The stories are engaging and alive.
    Love the characters.

    • Good morning, Jerri……Wow, so happy to see you. You’re right about outlaws being hailed heroes in many cases. My dad found a hero in Clyde Barrow and I think it was because Clyde was doing what my dad wanted to do. We were so poor and I think many times my dad did whatever was necessary to get us food. Some might not’ve been perfectly legal. Poor people always looked up to outlaws. Thank you for the kind words. I’m so grateful that you and other readers like the books I write. Get well soon.

      Love you, lady!

  2. From what I’ve read back in those days some of the lawmen weren’t far off from being the outlaw. Especially in the lawless West when it was so hard t find lawmen. Outlaws fascinate us from the old west days. Some of the outlaws didn’t want to hurt anyone they just wanted to steal to survive others stole to give to the less fortunate. My oldest son is named Jesse James as I have a fascination with Western historical times as well. My Jesse is a police officer though, not one of the bad guys 🙂

    • Good morning, Deanne…..Love your comment and I totally agree. Outlaws were the original bad boys and we’re drawn to men like that who live on the edge, dive into danger, see injustice and try to fix it regardless what they have to do. Bless you for giving your son the name of an outlaw! Being a police officer is noble work and you can visit him without bars between you. HA! 🙂

      Have a blessed day!

  3. I kind of love the stories of having to be your own law keeper back the . Too many you read or heard about those who don’t play fair. They used their position of power for evil and not good! I love those strong manly characters that will take charge and protect at all cost!

    • Good morning, Cori…….Too many people abuse their power and we do need ones who’ll stand up to them. I love strong, manly people too who aren’t afraid of people in higher positions.

      Have a blessed day and big hugs!

  4. There is for sure a thin Line between outlaws and the Lawmen. It took a special man to be both. I can see where a man who isn’t afraid to ride and kill could become a lawman, because he had to have nerves of steal. That being said, a good man whose has lost everything & everyone he loves can also become an outlaw for revenge. He would need ice water running through his veins in order to survive the hurt and pain of his loss.
    One of my favorite parts of the book is Clay’s tender love for Violet and the walkways he designed for her to manevour through the camp.
    Congrats on such an amazing book Linda.
    Have a great week with Ridge & Adeline. Love you my sweet sister friend.

    • Good morning, Miss Tonya……Nerves of steel does describe men who are unafraid to stand up for what’s right and find some measure of justice. History bears witness to many who took up the mantle and fought for justice–outlaws and lawmen both. I admire those men with strong principles and a desire to fight for what’s right.

      I’m so happy that Clay’s love for a little blind girl touched you. He is such a strong character and I’m having so much fun writing about him and the other outlaws who live in the town.

      Love you dearly!

  5. Some became ” Out Laws” because so many bounty hunters, other out laws, law men who shot first then asked questions.

    • Good morning, Yvonne…..Great to see you here so early! The Civil War produced a whole crop of outlaws, men who saw the aftermath of the war as unjust. If the Union side hadn’t taken Jesse James’ parents’ land…if the Pinkertons hadn’t killed his little brother, and then tried to blow up his mother and caused her to lose an arm, I wonder if he’d still had so much anger eating at him. I don’t know. I’m glad you enjoyed my post.

      Love and hugs!

  6. Some were good and some were bad. Some wind up on the wrong side because the right side did not do as they should or they were not there.

    • Good morning, Debra……Thanks for coming. There were indeed good and bad and outlaws who became killers because they loved killing. Some were just really messed up in the head. Then there were the good “bad” ones. Those are the ones I love writing about. Their sense of justice and the rules they laid down for themselves make them men of honor.

      Love and hugs!

  7. In the time period this book takes place, especially in the west, the outlaw turned lawman was unfortunately very needed. I sure would have wanted one in my neck of the woods! Tally is my favorite character, I guess because its too hard to choose, her strength is astounding. As far as lawmen ending up as outlaws on the run I can picture that happening very easily for the time period too. Hopefully in this scenario the man is able to prove he only did what was necessary at the time or that the world is a safer place with the victim gone. It took a man that didn’t have a problem with killing to be a lawman however that man also had to be able to draw a line so he didn’t just use his badge as justification for killing. It definitely took a special kind of man to be a lawman in the west. A favorite part of this book is too hard to choose but I’ll tell you something I’d love to see down the road is for Tally and Clay’s daughter to grow up doing great things and having her happily ever after! Great blog!!

    • Good morning, Miss Stephanie…….I totally agree. It would’ve taken a man with strong convictions to be either (or both) an outlaw and lawman. And to do it for the right reasons and be honorable. I’m so happy you liked Violet. You’ll watch her grow throughout the series and I think you’ll keep liking her. Thank you so much for taking Clay, Tally, Violet and all the gang into your heart. 🙂 🙂

      Love you, warrior buddy!

    • Good morning, Kim……Exactly! Outlaws with a sense of justice played a huge part in the settlement of the West. They were right there in the thick of it and weeded out the ones who kept striking fear into the settlers and making the land unsafe to live. Have a blessed day.

      Love and hugs!

    • Good morning, Cathy……..Thank you for liking my books. These characters become so real to me and a lot of times I just write what they whisper in my ear.

      Have a blessed day!

  8. Linda, you pose such good “food for thought” in your posts! LOL I agree–the line between outlaws and lawmen was very thin. I always think about that scene in one of the Rooster Cogburn movies where the judge is talking to him about how many men he’s killed. He replies something like “I never killed one that didn’t need killin’!” LOL I’m sure that was true many, many times during those wild days in Indian Territory and Texas.

    • Good morning, Cheryl……I’m happy you liked my post and I agree. When I first wrote Clay into The Heart of a Texas Cowboy, I meant for him to be the real outlaw Clay Allison and gave him that name. But my editor and her assistant loved him so much they wanted me to give him a book of his own so I had to change his name to Colby. Funny that you should mention that line from Rooster Cogburn. Inscribed on Clay Allison’s tombstone are the words, “He never killed anyone who didn’t need killing.” Clay Allison was much feared, especially around Cimarron, NM where he planted something around a dozen in the ground, all of which were horrible men. And he loved to dance! So does the fictional one.

      Love you, filly sister!

  9. I believe there were good outlaws and bad outlaws. a lot were falsely accused or trying to protect a loved one or friend.

    • Good morning, Estella…….Seems we’re on the same page. Often a man had to do whatever he must to protect himself or someone he loved.

      Love and hugs and have a blessed day!

  10. I am like Estella I think there were good outlaws and then there where bad ones and some that were really good but just trying to protect their own. I haven’t read your book yet but I will just give me so time so much is going on right now.

    • Good morning, Quilt Lady……Absolutely. Sometimes there was justification for taking a life. No worry in getting to the book. There’s no expiration date. 🙂

      Love and hugs!

  11. You are right. Men and women did what they felt was best at the time. I agree, there were good and then there was bad. And many times the line was blurred. This sounds like a fascinating book.

  12. I agree sometimes Outlaw justice was necessary. And some outlaws had no other choice. I am very interested in Jesse James. Something about him draws me. ?

    • Good morning, Tonya Cherry…..I’m so happy you came. Jesse James was one of my dad’s heroes. Jesse had more than enough reason to have hate build inside him. The Union side took his parents’ farm. The Pinkerton’s killed his little brother, blew up his mother and made her lose an arm. He struck back however he could and he definitely hurt the establishment financially.

      Love and hugs!

  13. A good example of a real life lawman/outlaw was Wyatt Earp who I think played a little fast and loose with both sides of the law but who nevertheless became a legend in his own right. His brothers played right along with him if I remember rightly.

    Since Tonya mentioned the Younger Gang, my great-grandparents lived in Indian Territory near Belle Starr who provided hideout for that gang (and others), and they all lived on Younger Bend of the Eufaula River. Although my grandfather was orphaned by age 6, he talked about the James-Younger Gang all his life.

    • Hi Eliza…….I’m just so happy you came by! Great to see you. I’m sure your grandfather looked up to those guys. My dad really did and I think it was because they made the government pay for a while. No one disliked the government more than my daddy. I would loved to have lived back then and been friends with the James boys and Youngers. Wyatt Earp left Tombstone because he became a wanted man after taking care of the man who killed his brother. He died an outlaw. Thanks for coming to read my post, dear friend. 🙂

      Love you dearly!

      • Thank you for answering. I think Wyatt got into a lot of trouble after his wife died too, before he became a lawman, so his career was colorful to say the least. I read recently that John Wayne met Wyatt when John was a young actor and it had a big effect on him, including his walk and drawl. Imagine! Here is a short clip about it:

        I can’t remember if I told you or not but my g-grandfather Jim testified at a Belle and Sam Starr trial in Fort Smith before Hanging Judge Parker for horse theft. All the neighbors testified that Sam had measles so he couldn’t have stolen the horse. The Starrs went to jail for theft anyway, and my g-grandfather’s name and where he lived, etc., is all in the court trial records.

        I have to confess that we always took my grandfather’s stories with a grain of salt because they seemed so far out, but oh how I’m hoping he’s looking down to know that we all later learned what he had told us was true. I have pictures of both my grandfather and his daddy in their adult cowboy gear, and my great-grandfather with his black mustache sure looks like the real deal—and no one to fool around with. That said, he died not long after his wife was kicked by a horse and killed instantly, and the story goes he died of a broken heart. Sorry if I told you this before, but thanks for letting me share it. My son and I are the last of our line now but I hope to see them all one day. Thanks for listening.

        I love you to piece too. 🙂

      • Hi Eliza….I always love hearing your colorful stories. How exciting that your g-grandfather’s name and address are in the history books. Who knows? He may have ridden with the Starrs a few time in their adventures. I wish I could get past this brick wall in my genealogy research! I want to know about my people! But I’m stuck with my g-grandfather. Can find no birth or death records. Oh well, maybe one of these days. Take care of you and your son. 🙂

    • Hi Sharon……They certainly did. It took everyone to get this land settled. Even when lawmen were nearby in an area, the outlaws could be in places where the law couldn’t go.

      Have a blessed day!

  14. Redeeming love … Clay’s love for Tally, Josie’s love for Luke, Violet’s love for Tally and then for Clay, Violet and Montana’s sweet relationship, the dog Bullet being devoted to those who cared for him, warrior angel a term so strongly defined throughout the book, passion, trust, caring, etc. I loved this book. The way the Texas panhandle is described with beautiful sunrises and sunsets was inviting. Seeing and feeling the freedom from the abuse at Creedmore was nail biting. Amazing book. Thank you for the way you completely develop your characters. Humor is present as well. The Goat Lady … awe those Goats! Even they brought healing to Violet and provided milk and nourishment. I can’t see you ever writing a contemporary western romance because this era you write about lives in your heart. Looking forward to another new story in the near future.

    Carry on Linda Broday …

    • Hi Kathy R……Bless you for liking this book so much. Clay and Tally and the people of Hope’s Crossing will always live in my heart as I know they will in yours. You’re right, it’s not all darkness. There’s a great deal of humor, especially with Montana, Rebel, and Bullet the dog. I still laugh how that dog got in the line of men waiting outside the tent where Rebel was attempting to be a doctor – in her red satin dress no less. I cannot ever see myself writing contemporary. Nope. My heart lives in the 1800s. Thank you for coming.

      Love and hugs!

  15. hmmm, this would be a good book, im sure of it, all the books by you have been great, so i know I will enjoy this one,

    p.s. my 20 year old son, won’t admit he reads your books, but i have caught him, when he is out of books he reads one of mine.

    • Hi Elaine…..I’m very flattered that your son reads my books. I wish he didn’t feel ashamed. I hope you get a chance to read this one. It has a lot of action and good romance.

      Have a blessed day!

  16. You forgot to mention people with money and power -and not necessarily any morals- versus people who had neither money nor power.

    • Hi Minna….You’re right. I did forget that. Thanks for pointing it out. I hope you’re doing well over there and that your winter hasn’t been too bad.

      Love you!

  17. Hi Linda, this book sou d’s like a wonderful read for me & I definitely will be reading it. I believe a lot of the outlaws back then we’re what they would call the good bad ones. For Clay to avenge the death of his wife and children actually makes him a hero to me. The grief he must have felt had to be overwhelming. There were many who would kill just for the ability to kill but I think a lot of outlaws weren’t without reason. Enjoyed your post today Linda. Thank you.

    • Hi Carol……I’m glad you enjoyed my post. But I think you misunderstood me. Clay was never married until he took Tally for a bride. I was speaking hypothetically in an attempt to point out how easily a man could become an outlaw. I hope you get a chance to read this story. I based Clay Colby’s character on the real outlaw Clay Allison who was much feared around Cimarron, NM.

      Love and hugs!

  18. Sounds real good and I really want this book but I can’t afford to buy it and thank you for the chance to win one 🙂

  19. I loved meeting so many new characters in the book, and reconnected with my favorites from the Legend series. Jacks character is a perfect example of lawman, now wanted as an outlaw!! Clay and Tally’s story showed what horror the western life held. One of my favorite characters though was Rebel, here was a lady of the night. I can’t give away any spoilers but her story really touched and surprised me . I can’t wait for the next Mail Order Bride book so I can see where life has taken Clay, Tally, and all the outlaws.

    • Hi Rose Ann……So nice to see you! Thanks for coming. I’m really touched that you liked the book and all the people who live in Hope’s Crossing. Clay and Tally will always remain a part of me and I thank them for letting me share their story. Yes, Rebel was special and you’ll be happy to know that she’ll be in a Christmas novella coming out in September anthology – Longing for a Cowboy Christmas. But first you get Jack’s story in April – Saving the Mail Order Bride. This one is a lot more humorous than Clay and Tally’s. In fact, none of the four in this series will be as dark as this first one. I’m having the best time writing these. So much fun!

      Love and hugs!

  20. Years ago, after reading about the individuals you mentioned above – Earp, Hickok, Holliday, etc. – I really wondered why they were and are shown in such a good light. In so many instances they were just thugs. According to several accounts, the Gunfight at the OK corral didn’t go down quite the way it is usually portrayed. As far as many of them becoming lawmen, the old saying “It takes one to know one.” would likely hold true, making them good at the job. Like Clay, I would think many would have preferred to just disappear and live a life without having to constantly worry about being pursued or called out.
    I have two books to finish before I can start THE OUTLAW’S MAIL ORDER BRIDE. It is going to be my Valentine treat to myself.

    • Hi Patricia…….That is so true. The ones we hail as heroes and went down in history that way were really just outlaws. And when towns became too rough, the powers that be turned them into lawmen. They did do their jobs well though and quelled the lawless element that was running roughshod over everyone. I don’t think we’ll ever really know the truth of what happened at the O.K. Corral. And no one seems to recall that Earp left Tombstone in a huge hurry after killing the man who murdered his brother. He lived out his days as an outlaw.

      Anyway, the book isn’t going anywhere. Just take your time and enjoy it when you get to read it.

      Love and hugs!

  21. My friend Tonya Lucas told me about this book a couple weeks ago, and ever since I have seen it EVERYWHERE! I am very much looking forward to reading it! As an army brat, I have a deep understanding in knowing what it means to ‘uphold the law.’ But never had we as military people been taught to take it into our own hands; you always acted and served as what the higher rank ordered. So the idea behind the blurred line between the outlaw and the lawmen is very intriguing!

    • Hi Hanna….Thank you so much for coming by. I’m very happy to see you and thank you for reading my post. When the West was being settled things were so much different. Adequately supplying law and order took a long time so men like Clay, outlaws who took it on themselves to fill in, were common. Still it was wrong and they knew it but to them, the end result was all that counted. And their efforts paved for the way for safe settlement. Good luck in the drawing. Come back again sometime. Have a blessed day.

  22. Linda I so much enjoyed Clay and Tally’s story. This book to me had so much emotion I think it was your best yet but of course Brett’s book will always hold the deepest spot in my heart for it was my first ever book I read of yours. I love you so dearly as an author but most of all as a dear precious friend!!! I thank Jesus for letting our life paths cross!!! you will never know just how much of a blessing you are to me!!!

    • Oh, Glenda, you are just a joy in my life. That God put us on the same path through books thrills my heart. We were supposed to know each other for a reason. I believe that. I feel very blessed and humbled that you like what I write. Brett’s book was special for a lot of reasons but mostly for bringing us together. I love you dearly.

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