Without Words (by Ellen O’Connell)

Western Romance

After gunning down Rufus Petty, Bret finds himself faced with a half starved mute woman burying an old man. His only choice is to take her with him or leave her to die, so with her broken down old horse and half wild dog in tow they set off together.  His plan is to unload her on the first willing person, but it quickly becomes apparent that life isn’t easy for a woman on the frontier and if he wants to ensure her safety he’ll need to keep her with him.  

As they travel the West, searching for bounties, Hassie finds a place with Bret. Despite the limitations of not having a voice, she is smart and recognises bounties that Bret would have missed. Gradually Hassie’s view of Bret changes. She goes from seeing him as a cold blooded killer, to a man of honour who will put himself in harms way to protect those he loves.

Before long she has fallen in love, but Bret plans to return to his wealthy family in Missouri, and they will never accept a woman like her, poor and with an Irish father, so their time is short.

Westerns tend to fall into one of two camps.  There is the idealised version where the good guys wear white hats and the bad guys wear black hats –– where a bad guy gets shot and he dies without shedding any blood; and the gritty, more realistic and usually quite violent version.

What I love about Ellen O’Connell is she takes that more romantic notion of the West but overlays a layer of realism so it is somehow entertaining and realistic but not hard edged.  I’ve read three Ellen O’Connell books and I’ll definitely be reading more. This one is equal to my personal favorite, Beautiful Bad Man. 

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Grace and the Guiltless (by Erin Johnson)

Younger Readers (to Young Adult)

After her entire family is brutally murdered by the Guiltless Gang, Grace travels to Tombstone in search of justice. But what she finds is a sheriff who is being paid to turn a blind eye and a town full of people who would rather cheat her than offer help.

Leaving Tombstone she travels into the mountains on a vendetta to bring the bad guys to justice, dead or alive. But after only a day, she finds herself attacked by a bear and paralysed with violent stomach cramps after eating poisonous berries.

Rescued by Joe, she is taken to a Nde camp (The People…I’m presuming though it isn’t mentioned that they were Navajo), where she is healed and returns to strength, all the while learning skills that will help her in her quest for revenge.

Grace and the Guiltless is book one of what will be a series of Westerns aimed at young readers and possibly young adults –– I really want to give this book to my 10 year old niece because I think she will love it. The story is quite simple, the language is aimed at younger readers but I found myself really enjoying this book.

I guess the one caveat I would offer is there is some violence in this book and it is quite gruesome. It’s important to the story and not gratuitous but parents might want to keep that in mind if they have especially sensitive children.

OK…just have to say, that cover is sublime!!!  I see so many covers that fall short and when I see one that nails it, I just have to say.  Whoever the artist is who put that together is worth more money than they’re getting. 

Screen Shot 2014-02-27 at 9.12.41 pmMany thanks to Capstone for providing me with this ARC

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