Jim Burnett has written a considerable number of novels set in the Old West, and now he’s published a collection of short stories, also set in the Old West and with a strong theme of faith. When Winter Breaks Softy includes five stories that are simple and straightforward tales of good, evil, and redemption.
In “Blind Love,” a young couple have struggled for years to have a family. When a baby finally does come, their joy is cut short when they learn their little boy is blind. Not helping at all is the young woman’s mother, who’s constantly criticizing and belittling her daughter.
“Fiona’s Redemption” is a kind of Hatfield-McCoy or Romeo and Juliet kind of story. Two families have hated each other for a long time, and one family in particular has more than its fair share of bad men and bullies. Fiona Darcy finds herself attacked and raped by Clay Miller, an attack that leads to the birth of a child. It will be another Miller, however, who will fall in love with Fiona.
In “Fit to be Tied,” the Jackson family has four boys until the birth of their daughter Annabelle. They live on a big ranch in Wyoming, and as Annabelle grows up, she takes special delight in aggravating Danny Elder, the son of the ranch foreman. They always seem at odds, until an abandoned calf changes their lives.
“Maria’s Stubborn Love” is set in Texas. Maria Sanchez and her mother work at the Lazy D Ranch, where they are both the occasional object of ridicule by the ranch hands because of their Mexican heritage. But the son of the ranch owner will discover a very different kind of relationship with the beautiful girl.
“The Man Behind the Hammer” is Jess Slade, who once had been a farmer but had turned to blacksmithing after the accidental deaths of his wife and young son in a wagon crash. He’s never gotten over their deaths, and he seems to take his anger and guilt out on the iron and meatal he’s pounding in the shop. But Sarah Jane Nickels, the daughter of a cattle buyer and entrepreneur, has set her sights on the blacksmith.
The stories of When Winter Breaks Softly seem a bit old-fashioned, but that’s what gives them their charm. Good and evil are clearly drawn, and broken people find redemption and love.