book reviews

4 Great Western Reads from NetGalley

I’ve been addicted to Westerns for a few months now. If you have any favorites, I’d love to hear about them. Here are four more great Western-genre books from NetGalley:

  1. California Bound — two former Civil War soldiers vow to get rich in the California Gold Rush and end up in the middle of a battle with Mexico.
  2. Dangerous Woman — a beaten abused child learns to save herself from anything life throws at her but does that include the kidnapping of her husband
  3. Blood Oath (#2 in the series) — Kindle and Laura, both hunted by lawmen and Pinkerton, try to find a new start in the wildness of the West
  4. Badlands (#3 in the series) — Laura teams up with Kindle’s ex-mistress and the two women try to find a fresh start on life

CALIFORNIA BOUNDCALIFORNIA BOUND

by Frank Kelso

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Frank Kelso’s California Bound (Intellect Publishing 2017) is an authentic old western tale from the characters to the setting to all the twists of the devious and clever plot. Zach and Jeb, two rebel soldiers who escape a Yankees prison after the Civil War, head to Texas to see Jeb’s family–an Aunt and Uncle who raised him and their two young children–with a long term plan of going to California to get rich from the Gold Rush. That all changes when they reach the family homestead only to find it burned to the ground, his relatives dead, all except the fourteen-year-old daughter who’s been kidnapped by a Mexican drug lord and taken across the border to the man’s fortress-like hacienda where he intends to take the blond-haired beauty as his bride. The US law won’t help get her back–they have their hands full with Mexican skirmishes across the border, Indian attacks, and not enough troops thanks to the Civil War. That doesn’t stop Zach and Jeb. They’ll just do it the way they always did during the Civil War:

Make it up as they go.

As if things weren’t complicated enough, they both fall in love with the same woman.

This is a fast-moving story that relies on clever thinking and age old Yankee ingenuity (though Zach and Jeb are Rebs). It’s a lot of fun with humor that’s built-into everything they do:

“The pair eased along using nothing but “good ol’ boy” guile due to Jeb’s way of distracting folks with his chatter.”

“Pshaw. Took it right out of your book—go over that-a-way, make a rumpus, and see what happens.” Zach winked, sending Jeb a crooked grin.”
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“Napoleon said it best—ride to the sound of gunfire,” Zach said. 

It makes for a very satisfying read. If I was looking for a moral to the story, it would be “two men can make a difference and everyone should try”.


A Dangerous Woman from NowhereA Dangerous Woman from Nowhere

by Kris Radish

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

We meet Briar Logan, aka Mika, the protagonist of Kris Radish’s A Dangerous Woman from Nowhere (Amazon Sept. 2017) as she peers out the window of a dark room, watching her husband dragged down the street by armed ruffians. The story is told in present tense so we don’t know if she’s happy or sad about these circumstances, whether she’s a victim in hiding or a savior preparing to ride in on a white horse. We do know she’s come to this 1860’s western town for a reason important to her but now saving her husband will have to go first. She is a self-described ‘dangerous woman’ and as she prepares for battle, collecting a wide variety of deadly weapons, mentally shifting from ranch wife to remoreless killer, we see why. Radish builds the drama relentlessly and effectively by describing Briar first as a victimized child in a hellhole of an orphanage, then as the willing student to the loving Ute couple who teach her to survive anything, and finally as the mature adult who allows herself to believe in love only to have it dashed.

“… she has been determined to treat him, and all the animals on the ranch, with a kindness she has come to realize is deserved by every living creature.”

It’s a character driven story filled with introspection and emotion and unlike any other western you’ve read. I have to admit I fell in love with the book in the first ten pages and was hooked when Briar took time from preparing to save her husband to promise an abused dog that she would free it once she finished this rescue task (no spoilers–you’ll have to read the book to see if she followed through):

“Briar’s husband has told her animals smile, and she sees the dog smile, its lips moving just a tiny bit, the second it smells the bread, and in spite of her present condition and what awaits her, she wants to laugh again. “There,” she says one more time, quietly. “Have the bread, and I promise we’ll come back to save you.”
Overall, a worthy read, one that will entrance you with its emotion and feeling.

Blood Oath (Sawbones #2)Blood Oath

by Melissa Lenhardt

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Melissa Lenhardt’s Blood Oath (Redhook May 2017), second in the Sawbones series, is a story of the post-Civil War West when both Indians and the white conquerors were fair game. The only law was a man’s gun and his wits with a little help from Pinkerton. At this point in the series, Laura is running from the law after escaping from an Indian tribe who has gang-raped her and being accused of murdering one of the white men involved. To help her escape, John Kindle must desert his post in the Army which puts him on every lawman’s radar. They’re on the run, trying to find a desolate place in the lawless West to start their life over, constantly chased by those who want the bounty on their heads.  Laura is not only miles from her successful medical practice in the East but even further from the cultured woman who spent years studying for and then practicing to be a doctor. Kindle had been a captain in the army and life long soldier before he fell in love with this strong independent but desperate woman.

“My [Laura] life back East was like a book read long ago, fondly but vaguely remembered.”

“…to make different decisions so we wouldn’t end up in Indian Country, a degraded woman and a disgraced Army officer.”

As they struggle to create a life that includes happiness and each other, the author delves into difficult moral topics such as righting injustice, forgiving your enemies, and the horror man commits against each other. One important point: The book stops on a cliffhanger so do plan to read book 3 in the series without a break.


Badlands (Sawbones #3)Badlands

by Melissa Lenhardt

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Melissa Lenhardt’s Badlands (Redhook 2017) is the third in the Sawbones series. If you haven’t read the earlier books and don’t want any spoilers, come back to this review after you’ve read them! At this point in time, Kindle and Laura are separated, he in prison and she fleeing from the law with the unlikely assistance of Kindle’s former mistress, Rosemond. Their goal is to make a fresh start out west where Laura can wait for Kindle and Rosemond can leaving her whoring past behind her. The book follows their adventures from the lens of two females traveling alone in a land and a time when that was rarely done. First, they need money and then they need to fulfill a few dreams. How they accomplish these is clever, unique, and completely interesting.

If I have a complaint about this book, it’s that Laura can’t seem to make up her mind about most anything ( I don’t want to be too specific or I might give the plot away). Every time I think we’ve resolved an issue and are moving on, she rethinks it. Once, I wouldn’t mind, but this happened over and over and over. That’s why it got 4/5

View all my reviews

–received free copies of all of these books in return for an honest review


Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, and the thrillers, To Hunt a Sub and  Twenty-four DaysShe is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer,  a columnist for TeachHUB, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning.

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38 thoughts on “4 Great Western Reads from NetGalley

  1. Thanks, Jacqui. I’ve been thinking about Westerns for a while but have not got around reading any, although I’m sure I have some waiting on my Kindle. I couldn’t help but wonder about the surname of the character Sawbones series…;)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Jacqui – there are lots of readers who enjoy these sorts of books and I’m sure I’d enjoy them – trouble is I’d rather be reading something else … but I can they’d make excellent travel books … cheers Hilary

    Liked by 1 person

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