Mac’s Way by Reg Quist ~ Review

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Mac’s Way by Reg Quist

Like many of the other books I reviewed for this author, this is a historical fiction Western. Because of the author’s background and family history, and the family lore he grew up with, much of what he writes is authentic and true to history. His books are a great read for their historical content. They are clean but realistic in their form. His stories do not focus on sensational events, crooked people or gore.

In this story we meet Mac. His actual name is Walker Samuel McTavish, born and raised on a small Missouri farm before the War Between the States. He was the eldest son of a hard-working family. Frustrated with his life and seeing nothing profitable in his future he set out to make something of himself. He experienced the life of a mule driver for a freight company which took him all over the country. He was involved in the Civil War. After the war, he worked with other men in Texas to drive cattle to northern markets for cash. This book is filled with his adventures on some of those drives.

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What I liked best in this particular book is the character development of Mac, as he was called during the war. His character was forged through tough times, making him a man I would be proud to call my ancestor. Through these rough times, he gained leadership abilities, gathered around him lifetime friendships and loyalty, and lead them straight on to success.

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In the end, it was fitting that he found not only a piece of land to call his own, but had collected his own herd, a large group of friends, including his family members and leads them to a fertile valley out West with enough land for them to spread out and begin their own lives over. Of this author’s books, this one is my favorite so far.

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Hang Your Heart on Christmas: A Western Romance Novella by Heather Blanton ~ Review

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Hang your Heart on Christmas: A Historical Western Christian Romance (The Brides of Evergreen Bk. 1) by Heather Blanton

You can enjoy this short, historical novella in just a few short hours. This is a story that only involves Christmas incidentally. Instead, it is a book about struggling within ourselves with our short-comings. Two people are hurting badly. One comes from innocence imposed upon. The other from a thirst for vengeance until life contains no meaning at all. Both are trying to escape their realities. Both hurting parties meet in the most peaceful town in the old West. Will they help each other heal their wounds? Or will those wounds drive the other away?

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Robert “Dent” Hernandez was the son of a US Marshall gunned down by a bad guy. Dent determines he will find his father’s killer and get vengeance for his loss. That sets him on the trail for 8 years, becoming a US Marshall himself, hunting down criminals and bringing them to justice while he searched. In the last leg of his journey, he ended up in his home town of Evergreen, Wyoming when tragedy strikes. The man who had become a substitute father to him, Sheriff Ben Hayes, was shot to death by a low life in Dent’s charge. During the investigation of the sheriff’s death, the judge placed Dent as interim sheriff. He doesn’t want to stay, but he has no choice.

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Amy Tate had come from the East, sent by her doctor to Evergreen. He assured her that she was heading to the West’s most peaceful town where there were more churches than saloons. She was put in old Doc Woodruff’s care for awhile because she was recovering from what we would call PTSD today. And she was to become the town’s new schoolteacher. Unfortunately, the first moment she stepped off the train, she was grabbed by the man who shot the sheriff and fainted dead away. That was not a reassuring beginning to her new life in this small town. And at the center of the trouble was the man called “Dent”.

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This is a fairly quick paced story of the old wild west. It begins with the death of the main character’s old friend in his home town. Dent was beginning to unravel. His story includes a mystery, lots of self searching, a light romance, some old friends, and a ranch Dent didn’t want to settle on. Amy too was going through a transition in her life as she recovers from an attack back East. Both are encouraged and aided by an older couple, the Doctor and Mrs. Woodruff.

Amy has faith in God that He will help her heal. In the meantime, she feels drawn to also help the interim sheriff in his quest for meaning in life. She believes God could help him heal his wounded spirit if only he would let Him. Their romance is the light touch in the book. It pretty much takes a back seat to the main issue of inner healing that Dent needs to move on with life. Overall, this is a great short story with enough action to move it along nicely. The romance is not overpowering, while the spiritual applications are light but significant to the story line. I highly recommend this book if you are looking for a short, powerful holiday read.

 

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Hamilton Robb by Reg Quist ~ Review

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Hamilton Robb by Reg Quist

The best description of this book I can think of is a Western Plus. What I mean by that is that there is a strong element of historical fiction, focusing on the period where much of the West was still pre-state territories–around the mid-1800’s. If I could tack on a subtitle to this book it might be ‘The Making of a Man.’

Still, that tagline doesn’t quite fit. There are actually two men who come face to face, and the contrast is stark. One is pompous and proud, unfriendly to a fault, arrogant, a cattle rancher from Texas. His name says it all, Big Bob Stanton. His life theme seems to be: trample or be trampled. The main character is from Arizona, a former deputy sheriff, a talented gunman who hung up his belt, invested in a small ranch and lived a life of a good neighbor, helping others handle the hardships of life, hard-working, tough as steel and yet humble and friendly.

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There is a face off, staged by one of the worst blizzards in 1888. In history, this blizzard was known as the Children’s Blizzard or the Schoolhouse Blizzard, because it came on in mild January temperatures while children were just being released from schools across the territory. Winds kicked up 50-foot mountains of drifts and temperatures dropped suddenly to 40 below zero F with nearly no visibility during the high winds. Hundreds died, many of them children on the walk home, with heroic stories of teachers saving some of their children.

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The horrors of this storm is the pivotal point of the story. It’s where the focus is on the character development of two men and their people. This is where the story becomes riveting. While the outcome of this showdown is fairly obvious from the beginning, it’s how it is fleshed out that makes the story worth experiencing while reading. The author is meticulous enough in the details of ranch living in the Old West to make this read fascinating without becoming as dry as sawdust. Those are signs to me of a great storyteller, a great writer.

On top of those characteristics, the story is chuckle worthy. It’s not a funny tale, because the hardships of living in that time period keep out such ill-timed humor, but the book was filled with moments I could chuckle over. Tongue in cheek statements, moments of the ridiculous, sarcastic observations are all appreciated with a bit of dry wit.

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This is a man’s western, written from a man’s point of view and with an intended audience of men who enjoy a good historical fiction. I’m not a man, but I enjoyed this book anyway. There were plenty of serious moments and even tragedies, but it has a great ending, filled with hope for the future, the satisfaction of overcoming a huge obstacle. I think women can enjoy this book too. There is even a hint at a romance.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from CKN Christian Publishing on behalf of the author. I was not required to write a review, positive or otherwise. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Stuck Together (Trouble in Texas Bk 3) by Mary Connealy ~ Review ~

Stuck Together (Trouble in Texas Bk.3) by Mary Connealy

Stuck Together

Although this book is the third one of a series, it reads independently very well. By the time I finished Stuck Together, I knew enough about the back story of the supporting characters to realize I wanted to read their stories too. This author is new to me, but I enjoy her writing style enough that I look forward to finding the first two books in this series to catch up.

The reader opens up chapter one and jumps in with both feet into a hilarious account of a skirmish outside the town’s saloon. The account may just make you reminisce about a Laurel and Hardy comedy routine. And to think it was all started by the diminutive Tina as she picketed outside the bar in protest of the liquor sold there.

From that point on, the pace does not slacken as we read about the little town of Broken Wheel, Texas. Just a few years after the Civil War, four men who had fought together and suffered together as prisoners of war settled in the dusty desert town located deep in Indian Territory where they didn’t belong. But they were tolerated by the local Kiowa tribe. Their adventures and efforts to settle the area encompasses the scope of The Trouble in Texas series.

Vince Yates, known among his buddies as Invincible Vince during the war, was the town’s lawyer and sheriff. Ever since his friend Jonas’ sister arrived to stay, he had been fighting his attraction to her. He was hesitant to marry because of his family background. He believed he had the potential for the cruel rage he experienced from his father’s hand as a young boy. Even worse, there was the possibility of inheriting a trait from his mother’s side of the family: dementia. That would make him a burden to a family, and he was dead set against doing that to anyone.

Tina Cahill may be tiny in stature, but is definitely mighty in spirit. She had been raised by her maiden aunt after her parents’ death. The aunt was not thrilled but she performed her duty readily though not lovingly. Tina did not know what it was like to be loved. But she was feisty and determined to do what she considered her mission in life, hence the protests outside the saloon doors. There in the tiny town, she discovered the love of family through acceptance of Jonas’ friends. She was especially drawn to the sheriff. When circumstances kept throwing Vince and Tina together, both silently fought their demons to keep an emotional distance. But it seemed God had other plans for them.

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I thoroughly enjoyed the humorous undertones all throughout the book. The author used it to bring balance to some of the serious issues Vince and Tina had to deal with. One moment we are laughing over some witty conversation, while the next Vince is feeling the pain of a mother who had forgotten who he was.

Besides the humor, there are other things I liked about this story. First, I enjoy a good historical fiction that’s set in the old west. It affords the reader a good adventure tale, with plenty of action, conflict and resolution. The author uses these conflicts to demonstrate character traits that the reader can appreciate, such as courage, initiative, intelligence, problem solving, kindness, and determination. And the circumstances also serve to improve a person’s inner character as they work their way through their problems. This is true in Vince’s case, since he needed to resolve within himself just who he was in God’s eyes.

In addition to adventure and action, this is a good clean romance without the foul language we sometimes see in romances today. The men are rugged but decent. The women are hard working individuals who are not shy about pitching in, yet refined enough to be feminine. The few children in the story were not holy terrors. As unrealistic as some may think this is, it is written well and feels just right. I highly recommend this book.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Bethany House Publisher’s review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Caught in the Middle (Ladies of Caldwell County Book #3) by Regina Jennings ~Review~

Caught in the Middle by Regina Jennings

Caught in the Middle

Annie Oakley, move over to make room for Dead-Eye Anne. In this historical western, Anne grew up in the woods of Ohio without a mother, with a father who at best paid little attention to his daughter besides providing her a roof over her head. After a short abusive marriage, she’s shunned any suspicious attention from men, working in Indian Territory as a buffalo hunter and wearing the rough clothing of a man to disguise her figure. She has trusted no one but herself; she’s callous, tough, hard as nails, and vulnerable.

When the hunt group’s cook ran away, Anne was sent to Garber to bring her back or hire another cook. One of the train’s male passengers attempted a foolish rescue of one of the young ladies during a hold-up and got a gun aimed at his head for his efforts. When the leader ordered him killed, Anne had no choice but to rescue him using her considerable sharp-shooting skills. Nicholas Lovelace was in her debt.

In a series of wacky turn of events, the cook Anne sought ran off leaving her baby for Anne to take care of. No one could have been more ill-suited for that task than she. Anne knew the baby’s father and set out to track him down and make him take responsibility for the baby himself. But that was easier said than done.

Nicholas Lovelace lived in Garber, TX as transportation expert. He supplied the lumber to the local railroad magnate. Nick was not who Anne expected. Even though she knew of him in the past through her friendship with his sister, Molly, Anne had him pegged as a dandy and pencil pusher. But his heroism during the train robbery surprised her. And he kept surprising her the more she was around him. Once Tessa, the baby’s mom, disappeared, Nick helped Anne find a suitable place to stay in Garber and provided her with employment to pay for her lodging.

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I have to admit that this is one of the most unusual westerns I have ever read. The author keeps the reader guessing just how this story could possibly end, especially when Anne becomes attached to little Sammy. Nick and Anne make an odd couple, even when they are working together to take care of the baby. In the end, however, the author makes it all work out. The two adults are like iron against iron, and they grow as individuals, even in their relationship to God. I enjoyed reading this story. If you like non-stop action, western historical fiction and light romance, then you’ll enjoy this book.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from The Book Club Network on behalf of Bethany House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Journey to Riverbend: A Novel by Henry McLaughlin ~ Review ~

Journey to Riverbend: A Novel by Henry McLaughlin

Journey to Riverbend

Journey to Riverbend is one of those books that is a stand alone, yet with potential for much more. This first time author writes such magnetic characters with unique living and breathing voices that I have had the desire to move to Riverbend to get to know its people better. Even the unsavory residents add to the town’s charm and vitality. The action is so driving that I couldn’t put the book down once I started reading.

The opening scene is the hanging of a gangly young man whom the main character, Michael Archer, is convinced is innocent. Young Ben’s final request was to ask Michael to visit his estranged father, Sam Carstairs, to deliver some letters, an item Ben cherished of his mother’s, and attempt a postmortem reconciliation of some sort.

Michael Archer brought along a letter of recommendation from his friend Sheriff Gideon Parsons to take to Riverbend’s Sheriff to elicit his assistance in his efforts. Sheriff Caleb Davis was as good as Parsons in reading character, and this lean and tough young man didn’t appear to be the typical kind for ministerial duties. It made him curious to know Michael’s life story. He knew this task would be difficult because although Sam Carstairs was the town’s benefactor, he was ruthless and hard as nails.

In the meantime, Sam Carstairs had traveled to San Francisco for business, an annual event. On the return trip, he received two disturbing threatening notes. Then in the last leg of his journey he was abducted. As soon as news of the kidnapping reached Riverbend, Sheriff Davis organized a search posse and included Michael Archer.

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This is one of the best books I have read set in the Old Wild West. The author’s descriptive language is powerful. The setting as well as the characters came alive as we follow Michael along his personal, spiritual, and physical journey. The reader realizes that the title of the book is multi-dimensional as the story picks up on Sam Carstairs own harrowing experiences and the baffling behavior of his abductors.

The book is full of the gritty elements of life in the Old Wild West. Evil is honestly portrayed for what it is and well written in contrast to the good seen in the lives of several of the members of the posse and village. Michael is a strong Christian with a mission in mind, but even he has his demons to deal with. I would rate this book at PG13 because of the multiple incidences where evil triumphs momentarily. Yet while this is true, the Gospel message is strong without being preachy. The author manages to balance the two contrasting characteristics in such a manner that neither is overwhelming. If the author were to write 100 more of this type of book, I would read and recommend all.

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However, I can’t emphasize enough to parents of teens and pre-teens to exercise caution. There is nothing in the book to compromise the Judeo-Christian values, yet some incidences may be upsetting to those sensitive to brutality. This is a book written for adults, not for children.

There are several supporting characters in this book just begging for a story of their own, or at least for a bit more resolution. This includes the love interest of the main character, Rachel Stone. I sincerely hope this means the author intends to write more.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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