Riverbend Reunion

Riverbend ReunionAuthor: Henry McLaughlin

Series: Riverbend Saga #3

Publisher: CreateSpace

Release Date: December 14, 2016

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

The third book in the Riverbend Saga brings Michael Archer back to what he has been running from for years and is the best in the series!

Michael Archer feels like the luckiest man in the world. He has just married, Rachel, the woman he is madly in love with, and they have a bright future to look forward to.  He has finally decided to settle down after running from his past for years.  But when he receives a cryptic telegram from his sister Ellie telling him to come home, he feels led to go.  He is hesitant to go because the last time he was home he was saving his sister from their father, who he then stabbed with a pitchfork.  Thinking he had killed his father he runs and doesn’t look back.  Going back might just be the hardest thing he has ever had to do.

After reading all three books in the Riverbend Saga, I can easily say that Riverbend Reunion is the best.  The first two focus on Michael and all he goes through.  With the third, it starts with his sister Ellie and what led to Michael leaving home.  The story then continues for almost a third of the book with Ellie before switching back to Michael. I thought this was an interesting approach, keeping the main character from the first two books mostly absent till a third of the way through, but it worked.  I enjoyed getting the story of Ellie and how she handled all she went through before going back to Michael.  His story in Riverbend was fleshed out enough that it was easy for him to leave and go home to deal with the family issues he had been harboring for years.  I can tell that McLaughlin is growing and improving as a writer with each new book.  The characters are relatable and the story itself is much more tight with the suspense in just the right places.  I’m not sure if there is going to be another in the series, not only do I see potential with a few of the characters being delved into a little further, but also feel it has been wrapped up well if this is the end.  The nice thing about this book was there were no spots were the story came to a stop and I felt like I wanted to be done, I was invested and wanted to see what happened with the characters.  Overall it was very well written and I will be recommending this to readers that enjoy a good western tale with a lot of suspense and redemption throughout.

Riverbend Justice

Riverbend JusticeAuthor: Henry McLaughlin

Series: Riverbend Saga #2

Publisher: CreateSpace

Release Date: January 6, 2016

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

With more action and suspense than the first, this new installment is sure to be a hit with readers.

Michael Archer is having a hard time getting over the guilt of having taken a life, even if it was to try and save another. Before dying, Sam Carstairs asked Michael to clear the name of his son Ben, the original reason for Michael coming to Riverbend.  After dealing with his demons, he and a few new friends head to try and clear Ben’s name.  It is going to be harder than they could have imagined, records are missing and more bodies keep turning up.  It takes Michael being shot and beaten up, a young girl kidnapped, and hurting the girl he is falling in love with to make him put aside all his pain and fears to get to the bottom of what is going on.

Henry McLaughlin has followed up his hit debut novel with an even better, more suspenseful sequel, Riverbend Justice.  At first, I got a little tired of Michael and his attitude of self-pity; luckily, it quickly changed and he became the man he should be.  The mystery of what Michael was trying to solve was even more interesting here than the first.  The characters flowed well with each other and the entire story.  There is a faith message throughout, but also a lot of action.  I do feel this book is more developed than the first in several ways.  Even though it is independently published instead of with a publishing house, the story touches a nerve and keeps you into the story because of the feelings and emotions it brings up.  McLaughlin does a great job bringing you back to the old west with the language he uses to set up the scenes and the characters.  Michael and Rachel are right for each other, that is obvious from the first book. In Riverbend Justice, I found myself connecting more and more with Rachel; she has had a hard past but has turned herself into a strong, independent woman that is not only capable of taking care of herself but also helping to take care of those around her, my kind of lady.  Overall this was a very enjoyable read that I will recommend to lovers of western romances with a nice dose of suspense thrown in for good measure.

Journey to Riverbend

Journey to RiverbendAuthor: Henry McLaughlin

Series: Riverbend Saga #1

Publisher: Tyndale

Release Date: January 24, 2011

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A Christian western with a lot of gunslingers, kidnappings and much more to enjoy.

After unsuccessfully trying to stop the hanging of a man, Michael Archer has a mission. He promised Ben Carstairs that he would find his father for him and try to reconcile with him, even though he is being hung for a crime he didn’t commit.  Michael tried to stop it but couldn’t get the evidence he needed.  Now Michael must travel to the town of Riverbend to find Sam Carstairs, a ruthless business man that kicked his son Ben out and isn’t likely to give Michael the time of day.  As he arrives in Riverbend, Michael meets and quickly finds himself attracted to Rachel Stone who is running from her past and is hesitant to start any kind of relationship.  Sam Carstairs isn’t in town and Michael waits for him.  Soon word gets to town that Sam has been kidnapped on his way home and Michael feels led to join the search party to find Sam and bring the news of his son.  It is a dangerous road ahead and not everyone will make it home alive.

This was the winner of the Christian Writing Guild’s Operation First Novel contest. The writing is well done and the characters are very relatable.  I did feel that it had some unneeded content, especially in the last third where the action needed to pick up speed and instead stalled.  There were a lot of characters, that is a hard thing to pull off and I think it could have helped to cut out about half of them, especially with the search party scenes.  The overall concept of the novel was good, having the characters consider the actions they take and the consequences to their choices.  Even though this is a historical novel, these concepts can be applied to everyday life and we can all learn from the characters and how they deal with their actions and the consequences.  As a debut novel, this was very well done and I recommend it to lovers of historical fiction with a good message.

Trusting Grace

Trusting GraceAuthor: Maggie Brendan

Series: Virtues and Vices of the Old West #3

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: May 2, 2017

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Even the unlikeliest of characters have a chance at true love.

Robert Frasier feels scammed. He just lost his wife after a few short months of marriage and has now learned that she has three kids after his late wife’s sister drops them off at his door.  To make matters worse, he has lost the family farm to debt and must now find a job to make ends meet.  Wandering from town to town, Robert searches for a place to work.  He finds work at a farm in Montana in the employment of Grace Bidwell.  Hopefully Robert can work the farms to keep himself and his bedraggled children fed and clothed.

Grace Bidwell has always longed to be a wife and mother. But after her husband passed way before they had children, it seems that is an unlikely dream.  She is now taking care of her widowed father whose health continues to get worse.  Her new farm hand Robert is very unapproachable, almost as if he has something against her, but sometimes she still sees a softness to him.  At least with his help she can manage to keep her farm.

A well written book by Maggie Brendan and my first to read by her. Even so, I don’t feel like I lost any portion of the story by starting with the third is a series.  It just picked right up and took me along for the ride.  I’m not sure if there were any history of the main characters in the previous two stories, but I don’t feel like I need them.  The romance between the main characters was set at the right pace.  Not too fast, but not too slow either.  The relationships between the kids and Robert played out well too.  They had a lot of problems getting started, but worked them out throughout the book and became a trusting family.  Grace was a very strong woman, but still had a time of need for Robert when he managed to rescue her in a bad situation.

If you like western historical fiction with some clean romance, I recommend you give this a try.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.