Review: The Outsider by Penelope Williamson

Format: Paperbacktheoutsider
Read with: Paperback
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Warner Vision
Hero: Johnny Cain
Heroine: Rachel Yoder
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: August 1, 1997
Started On: November 24, 2010
Finished On: November 30, 2010

I came across The Outsider by Penelope Williamson as usual on a discussion forum on Amazon. The lone hero of the gun-slinging variety and the atypical setting of this romance won me over within seconds of reading the book synopsis. Since this book is not available anywhere in e-format *insert incoherent muttering and cursing at publisher here*, I found myself paying up US$ 22.95 *oh the horror!* for this book without any hesitation. It was only when I received this book that I found out that The Outsider had in fact being made into a movie in 2002 starring the hauntingly beautiful Naomi Watts and sinfully handsome Tim Daly. So this review is a first for me such that it comes right after I read and fell head over heels in love with the story and watched the movie right afterwards so this would end up being a sort of a mixed review between the book and the movie.

The first thing that caught my eye, even with the turn of the very first page was the quote at the very beginning, achingly beautiful in the way it was told that I knew that I would end up with a booklet of quotes from the story to include in my review. And I wasn’t far off the mark when I thought that but I have restrained myself to including those scenes that I really had no choice but to share with those who read my reviews because I have this need within myself to share the beauty that  this story is.

34 years old Rachel Yoder belongs to the Plain People of the straight and narrow path, who puts all their affairs in the hands of God and believe that He would take care of all their needs as long as they submit their will to Him. Its the way of the Plain People to support and aide their neighbors, for women to submit to their husbands, to turn away from violence and mayhem and to shun anyone who leaves their faith once they have submitted to it. Beautiful with mahogany hair and solemn gray eyes, Rachel is left widowed with her 9 year old son Benjo who suffers from stuttering (but oh he is so cute!!) when Benjamin Yoder, her husband of 17 years is brutally hanged by the outsiders hired by Fergus Hunter who owns the Circle H ranch and wants to drive away the Plain People with his cattle and beef rearing business going under mostly due to the bad decision making on his part. The outsiders are those who do not belong to the Plain People and follow their way of life and are deemed to be wicked and bring in with them a lifetime of debauchery and sins and consorting with the likes of them frowned upon. And when one cold Sunday morning during the last ragged days of a Montana winter, a tall outsider walks in on Rachel’s property and collapses right before her eyes bleeding all over from a gunshot wound, Rachel with all the goodness in her heart takes him into her home and nurses him back to health.

The outsider, Johnny Cain, with his black-brown hair, high sculptured cheekbones, long narrow nose and wide-spaced eyes with thick long lashes, and armed to the teeth with different types of guns, stirs up a kaleidoscope of feelings in Rachel. In a man that the Plain People see nothing but the very devil lurking inside of him, Rachel sees the beauty in his face, the haunted look in his otherwise cold blue eyes, the yearning that crosses his face for things better left unspoken as the desire to possess and be possessed rages like a wildfire through Rachel. She sees the scars and calluses on his hands, the shackle marks on his ankles with the whip beating marks on his back that hints of the price that Johnny has paid with his skin and blood that stirs the protective instincts inside of her and makes her think of just how much of his soul Johnny has lost in the process.

Regardless of the fact that plain only marry plain, Rachel yearns for her gunslinger Johnny with a fierceness deep within herself that doesn’t surprise her as she is the one who is witness to the complex man that Johnny actually is. With view points of other multifaceted characters thrown into the mix such as Noah Weaver, the man who wants to claim Rachel as his own, Moses Weaver son of Noah who is conflicted in his need to experience life on the wilder side, who at times think that the Plain way of life is not for him and the complex nature of the relationship described between Quentin Hunter, the half-breed son of Fergus Hunter and his wife Alisa Hunter makes this a book that is hard to put down. Though I resented the time spent on descriptions of their lives which meant time away from the heady magic that is Johnny and Rachel, I know that as a novel their character development lent a richer feel to the story in the end.

The movie of course as anyone who reads romances would know, would always fall short of our expectations. Maybe because this time I wasn’t expecting too much out of the movie knowing that a movie would NEVER be able to invoke the myriad of emotions that the story does, I loved the differences as well as the similarities with the book as I watched Tim Daly work his magic on Naomi Watts and her cute, cute son Benjo. The ending was different from the book and I have to say I loved both endings as they give the much needed happily ever after for Johnny Cain, a more tortured soul one would never find.



  1. Johnny Cain. Now ain’t that obvious? *grin* It has been quite sometime since I have read a novel that doesn’t include the hero’s point of view on stuff at some point in the story. The relationship that unfolds between Johnny and Rachel is told mostly from Rachel’s point of view and those who observe the not so subtle connection between them that bursts forth against all odds. I almost wept when I read of his childhood at the hands of humans who are better off being labeled as animals with their savagery that had turned Johnny into the killing machine that he is.
  2. Rachel Yoder. Her  upbringing and way of life certainly makes her one of the most unique heroines that I have read about. From her beautiful nature inside and out to the music that she hears in her surroundings, I loved her gentle yet fierce nature when it comes to those whom she loves. I adored her for being wise and insightful enough to see beyond the facade of ruthlessness that is as much part of Johnny Cain as are the guns that he handles like an extension of his arm. And Rachel sealed the deal in acquiring one more fan when she gave up everything because the love she feels for the outsider causes her no shame and it is a love that is much more fierce than any sense of belonging she feels to the Plain People and their way of life, no matter how much the separation from the latter hurts her.
  3. Benjamin Yoder. As I said before though he is not alive even when the story begins, his character seen through Rachel’s eyes made me fall for him right from the very beginning which is a rare happenstance for me when it comes to a romance novel. I loved Benjamin because he had known what a precious gem that Rachel is and had loved, protected and cherished her in kind.
  4. I was totally captivated by the subtle and not so subtle indications to the attraction between Johnny and Rachel. The yearning that they have for the other which neither could deny especially made sweeter by the fact that Johnny’s desire is shown through his involuntary reactions to Rachel made this a world of sensual delights to sink into though if you are looking for any detailed lovemaking scenes in this one, you aren’t going to find it here.

His gaze riveted to her every move as she spread open Ben’s warranted Perfection razor and stropped the blade, moving it back and forth over the smooth leather. She tested its sharpness with the pad of her thumb, deliberately giving herself a little nick. She pulled a face and sucked on the wound. He swallowed hard.

Lucas (the town doctor) set his bag on an upturned nail keg, found the witch hazel cream, and rubbed it into Cain’s blistered palm. As he gripped the man’s wrist, he could feel that the pulse was fast, too fast.
Lucas looked up to find that Cain’s eyes were riveted on Rachel.


As I mentioned before, though the stories of other characters that enriched the novel in terms of character development, I resented being away from the subtle world of magic that surrounds Johnny and Rachel. I wouldn’t have minded if it had just been them in the story, with just enough about the side characters to move the story along. But then again, I enjoyed The Outsider as it is, but nevertheless I did wish at times that I could just skim through some of the other side stories that picked up along the way.

Favorite Quotes

As she (Rachel) bent down to lower the wick in the lamp. her loose hair brushed over his chest and face. Se felt a tug on her hair and saw that he had tangled his fingers in a thick hank of it. In his eyes was a look of surprised bewilderment, but then his heavy eyelids closed as if against his will. He slid into sleep again, but not before letting go of her hair and wrapping his hand once more around the grip of his gun.

Her hair had been falling into her face all night, when it wasn’t been twisted into knots by the wind. She scolded herself for not pinning it up and covering it properly with a prayer cap. It had been prideful of her – and wicked, because she had done it for him.
Her name, coming at her out of the night and in such a tone of urgency, startled her so that the sheep hook went clattering to the ground.
He had come up close behind her, and as she whirled, her flying braid wrapped around his throat. He reached up, his long fingers tangling in the thick loose plait. His fingers tightened their grip, pulling her closer. His head dipped, and his lips parted slightly as if he would kiss her.
It was as if she had roped him, roped him with her hair.

She (Rachel) settled the sleeping lamb into the empty cracker box. “Those aren’t the sort of feelings I’m very good at inspiring, making him (Benjo) feel like a man.”
His unsettling eyes stared at her across the small space that separated them. His voice, when he spoke, was clotted and rough. “You’re good at it.”
And then time slowed and slowed and … stopped, as his hand came up. His fingers caressed her neck as they followed the length of her thick, loosely woven braid, down over her shoulder, down where the feathery, wispy ends of it curled around her breast. He was loosening and unraveling her hair.
His mouth was hard, so hard. But his fingers combing through her hair were gentle. She felt a strange seizing, deep in her heart – as if it, like the whole rest of the world, had ceased beating.

They stood close together but not too close, and they spoke not in whispers but plain, so anyone could hear. But Rachel’s eyes shone like morning dew. And her mouth smiled quick and sweet. And her whole body seemed to be leaning, straining to span the distance between them, as if all of her was saying to the outsider, Touch me, touch me, touch me.

Somehow they stopped walking and were facing each other. The wind fluttered her cap string. He took one in each hand and pulled them down until they were stretched taut, with his fingers barely brushing her breasts, and yet she felt his touch all the way to her toes.
He surprised her by starting to sing, a lilting song about a girl named Annie Laurie, filling in with la-di-das when he forgot the words, and at some time he had let go of her cap strings to take her hand, and he was now fitting his palm to hers, entwining their fingers, while his other hand had lifted her arm by the wrist and was draping it over his shoulder, and he was sliding his arm around her waist.
And they were dancing.

Recommended for: All fans of romance novels! This is one not to be missed.

Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes&Noble | AbeBooks




  1. I just finished this book for the 2nd time. It had been several years since I first read it, but I had been wanting to return to this world, and once I did, I could not put it down again. I want so much for this book to go on…I want to know more. I wish Penelope had written a sequel, but maybe it would not have lived up to our imaginations. Certain books take a hard hold on me, and this is one that did. I saw the movie first, then had to get the book. I love them both, but the book is my favorite. Not many people understand the way a book can impact you, but after reading your review, I think you do understand. I have written some fan fiction about their wedding night, since the book give us nothing at all, except that it was in a tipi. Where would I post such a thing? Would you like to read it?



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