Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Western Fictioneers Book Reviews

The Apprenticeship of Nigel Blackthorne 

by Frank Kelso

I found The Apprenticeship of Nigel Blackthorne a difficult read, bordering on boring with very little conflict, internal or external, and a lot of repetition. It was primarily a 'tell' book with almost no 'show', much like a memoir or diary. I also found the protagonist uninteresting and hard to like. 

It was also irritating that the author chose to use modern dialogue including contractions rather than the historically more correct  formal Victorian style prevalent in the west until after the Civil War.

The saving grace of the novel was the interesting facts of the coming of age of the protagonist when he lived with the Cheyenne, including the social mores and societal structure of the tribe...They referred to themselves as The People. The ascension and learning of tribal, survival, and battle skills of the young men earning their way into full warrior status was fascinating and the author should be commended on his research and knowledge. It earned the novel a four star rating from me instead of a three based on the story, character creation, and dialogue, in my opinion. 

It was well edited with very few typos and grammatical errors. 
Ken Farmer - Author of The Nations Series

Lew Eden 1: Bugles and Blood

by Ben Bridges and Brent Towns

Lew Eden, an Indian scout for the US Army, wears the label of half-breed, being the son of a freedman and Seminole woman.  He lost both parents violently at an early age, and perhaps in some way it is their horrible and early deaths that contribute to his inbred sense of right from wrong. Unlike many flat western heroes, Eden’s character is round and dynamic.  Readers are always on the edge of their seat waiting to see HOW Eden will do the right thing.

I rarely read any book that describes battles in detail--be it the Civil War, the Indian wars, or World War II, but I did read the authors’ account of the Battles of the Rosebud and was fascinated with it.  The vivid imagery of the battles, the logistics of the troops, the strategies used by the Cavalry and the Indians, and the description of the dead and dying were riveting.

Immersed in this captivating story, I was disappointed to discover that the story did not reach a satisfactory conclusion. I suggest that this entire collection of Lew Edin be one, long novel instead of a series of short stories. This reader demands more of a good thing.

—Jesse J Elliot - Author of Death at Gran Quivera

River Whiskey By J. L. Guin  

In a fiery accident, Eli Jenkins believes he has murdered Morton Crenshaw, the father of the girl he loves. When his friend, Whit, suggests they leave for California now, Eli is ready to go. The two young men “borrow” clothing and gear from the dry goods store where Whit has worked for many years, and light out on the run. 

But their lives take a different turn when they become involved with seasoned traders, mountain men, Indians, and outlaws. Somewhere along the journey, the two tenderfoot greenhorns become men to be reckoned with—and, in their own right, respected. 

When they return to Independence for Eli to own up to killing Angela’s father, Fate steps in again and turns their lives around. Will Eli claim Angela Crenshaw for his bride? Or will Whit and Eli head back on the rough-and-tumble trail West to chase their dreams of selling RIVER WHISKEY?

Set in the early 1850’s, Whit and Eli are friends and after Eli thinks he’s killed the love of his life’s father in a knock-down, drag-out fight that ends in a fiery blaze, he figures the only option left open to him is to run. 

That’s what the two friends do. Run for California.

But to get there, they hire on with a trading outfit and that is just the beginning of their adventures.

J.L. Guin brings a broad cast of characters to life in this fantastic story of friendship and adventure. 

Traders, Indians, mountain men. They’re all there, some good and some bad. 

The friends are tested to their limits and in the process, somewhere along the line, they become men. And with it, Eli makes the decision that he will return and face the consequences of his actions, no matter what.

The story is a well written, exciting adventure, told in such a way you can see it all play out in your mind’s eye.

The pages seem to turn themselves as the reader blazes his own trail through them in search of what happens next.

This is my first book by Guin, and after the experience, I shall be looking for more by this author, for it was a great romp through the American West.  
—Brent Towns Author of Lightning Strike!

Do-Si-Do by Dorothy Bell

Gabe Buxton, a successful veterinarian in Portland, engaged to the very proper Edditha Millcan, receives a letter from his brother telling him to "get home before all hell breaks loose." He lets his plans slip to his fiancée, and she and her mother decide to accompany Gabe to Hoyt's Hot Spring, the source of everything Gabe has been trying to forget. And one of those things is Birdie-Alice Bollo, the pesky tag-along who has blossomed into a fiery woman who ignites Gabe's passions. Exactly what is about to break loose at the hot springs, and can Gabe help his father and brother get everything under control without losing his own? And what is his fiancee going to think when she meets Birdie-Alice, her exact opposite?

This is an enjoyable read, though the action falters somewhat in the middle before picking back up. There's a mysterious villain and suspicious happenings, a kidnapping and a show-down between the forces of good and evil. There's also a lot of romance and some sex, if you happen to like that sort of thing. Seems like there might be something in the waters of those hot springs, because even the snooty son of their wealthy neighbor is falling fo someone. 

I especially liked the characterization of the women in the story. Each of them has an individual personality and is spunky and capable. My favorite is the fiancee's mother, Adella, who has her own reasons for tagging along with her future son-in-law's homecoming.

Although I'd have liked to have the action and tension remain at a consistent high throughout the story, it still rates a solid 4 out of 5 for characterization and originality. If you like romance with a bit of mystery and action, try Do-Si-Do on for size.
—J.E.S. Hays Author of Devon Day and the Sweetwater Kid: Down the Owlhoot Trail

Applejack/Bat Masterson Trinidad’s Law by Charlie Steel

I loved this story, it read like a fairytale. I know that’s silly, because this is a gritty western and there is nothing fairytale about a true gritty western. Ah, but there is. If you look at this story from afar and place it back in the days of noble, brave, hard living knights.

Once upon a time, a highly principled pauper left his poor, squatty home in search of a better way. The pauper soon learns life is very hard when one is young and unused to the cruelty of others. Because he is a humanitarian at heart, he aids a severely wounded fellow traveler, a bandit of high renown. In turn for saving the bandits life, favor for favor, the bandit bestows upon the pauper a skill, a skill remarkably deadly and accurate. With the skill the bandit bestowed upon him, the pauper once again saves a life, this time the life of a famous knight, a powerful knight who maintains law and order in a small hamlet. The infamous knight makes of the highly principled and clean living pauper, his page. The Page proves himself over and over to the other knights and is made a knight, but maintains his principles and clean way of living, which the other knights deride as unnatural. The young knight is a reluctant knight in that killing sours his soul, and whenever possible he tries to avoid it, opting for wounding rather than death.

A kindly priest befriends the troubled young knight and sets out to broaden the young man’s mind. The young knight reveals to the priest his dream of becoming a land owner. He longs for the hand of a fair maid, but her cruel and ruthless father guards her well and forbids his approach.

The kindly priest, with ambitions of his own, and the infamous, powerful knight form an alliance, vowing to reward the young knight for his bravery and valor by seeing to it his dreams come true. They bestow upon the young knight a piece of property, a beautiful valley with plentiful water and crops to support it.

The opportunity to win the fair maid arrives when the maiden’s cruel, heartless father is taken by cattle thieves into the mountains. The fair maid rides to beg the young knight help her rescue her father from certain death and to retrieve the cattle. The infamous knight calls upon the other knights and they ride into a blizzard to save the ungrateful father. The young knight, singlehandedly saves the cruel father. Because the ungrateful, dastardly father owes the young knight for saving his life, he must relinquish the hand of his daughter to him. And we shall assume they live happily ever after or in relative peace and prosperity. The End.
I give this story a thumbs up. And I tip my hat to the author, delightful tale.

Dorothy A. Bell Author of Dance Hall Road Do-si-do



  1. WOW! All excellent reviews and I'm sure looking forward to reading the ones on this list I have not already read! Thanks so much to the reviewers who took the time to read these books and write such good reviews for these stories.

  2. Dorothy A. Bell,

    Thank you for the very accurate telling of my story. Never thought of it as tale from the days of Knights, Swords, & Maidens, but the unfolding of it is EXACTLY as it occurs. Thank you for the positive REVIEW!

    Cheryl Pierson & Livia Washburn/Reasoner

    Thank you for inventing and placing Western Fictioneers Book Reviews out there for all readers and writers to see and learn about the latest releases!

    A great idea and a great kindness!

  3. River Whiskey By J. L. Guin and Applejack/Bat Masterson Trinidad’s Law by Charlie Steel are my first choices to read of this group. Some interesting plot lines here.
    Patricia B.

  4. Many thanks to The Western Fictioneers for showcasing its members latest work. I really appreciate it and have also learned of some new stories that I intend to read.
    Jerry Guin

  5. Nice job on the reviews! Congrats to the authors and the reviewers, and thanks to WF for starting this feature on the blog.