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Refuge, by Mike Shellenbergar

Thoroughly Entertaining

As the book opens, A lone rider on a buckskin horse looks out through army binoculars upon the staked plains and the Pecos River from a high elevation in the Sierra Blanca Mountain Range. We get the sense that we’re about to meet a trail-wise cowboy, only to be introduced to Cinch McCall, a young woman with a tragic backstory.

This is perilous country to travel alone. Fortunately, Cinch has a Colt pistol, a Henry rifle, a good horse, martial arts training, and a knife behind her neck. It was great fun getting to know this hero. She was so well-written.

The villains are as expertly penned as the heroes, and this novel has a rich plot fraught with danger. Cinch is motivated by revenge. Can she find the outlaws who kidnapped and sold her “like a sack of flour” and claim the bounty on their heads? Beyond revenge, as the story goes along, perhaps Cinch would like to settle down and have a ranch. Is it just a dream, or is it within her grasp?

The author sets impressive scenes. For example, when he describes a saloon, you can picture the swinging batwing doors. When he describes a campfire, you can picture the stars twinkling and hear the fire crackle.

There is a trace of potential for a love story. What about this cowhand named Josh Taggart, whose friends call him Quirt? Will anything come of this?

What could have made this book better? First, a little repetition goes a long way. I get that Cinch likes strong coffee (strong enough to float a horseshoe) and a smoke with a meal, but two or three mentions convey that. Twice, the word loop is mistakenly used instead of lope, and three times the word yard is spelled yahrd. Finally, I tried to figure out what year this book is set in. XX Levis are mentioned, and I think they were introduced in 1873. Colorado Territory is mentioned, but Colorado became a state in 1861, so I am confused. I suppose one could refer to the Territory even after the formation of the state.

This book thoroughly entertained me, and I devoured it rapidly, not wanting to walk away from it. I would happily read more from this author.


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