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23 February, 2007
Book Review: Heart of a Legend by Amy Lignor
Read and Reviewed for Frontstreet Reviews
When Paulita Maxwell started her journey from Texas into the wild New Mexico Territory in 1877, with her brother Pete, her thoughts were on nothing more than being reunited with her family in Fort Sumner. While crossing New Mexico to get to their home, Paulita and Pete were attacked by a lone angry Indian. Help came in the form of a bullet shot by one William H Bonney, the man who world soon be known to the rest of the world as outlaw “Billy the Kid”. Billy’s heroic actions, in saving the Maxwell siblings, are the start of a friendship between him and both Paulita and her brother.
As politics in Lincoln County spiral into an all out land war, Paulita finds her life becoming more and more intertwined with Billy’s She is helplessly in love with the outlaw Billy has become; she believes he is nothing more than the scapegoat.. Paulita is faced with the heartbreak her love will cause her family, as her brother has cast aside his friendship with Billy due to Billy’s criminal behavior. We witness Paulita grow from a young teen fresh out of finishing school into a strong woman in love and wife to an outlaw.
Billy the Kid is one of the Wild West’s legendary outlaws whose life is still hotly debated about in modern times. His past is shrouded in mystery; and people still do not know for sure why he never left New Mexico for any long periods of time. Author Amy Lignor has taken the history of Paulita Maxwell, a women who was named as Billy’s girl in newspapers of the time, and written a story that gives a reason for some of Billy’s actions.
I was excited to receive this book; as the wild-west, full of legendary figures, is a time of American history that I have loved since small. I didn’t think I knew much about Billy the Kid, and was pleasantly surprised at what I found I did know while reading the book. It was easy to see the amount of research that went into this tale even before the extremely helpful afterword provided by the author. Her story includes many of the real men who were involved in the Lincoln County Wars, making this part of history step alive off the pages. The Heart of a Legend is a strong first novel; that shows readers a bit of history that has been glossed over due to the legendary status achieved by Billy the Kid and the Lincoln County land wars.