Publisher: Five Star Publishing
Pub Date: August 18, 2021
Pages: 336 pages
With Lincoln County teetering on the edge of lawless turmoil, small rancher Wes Bracken avoids taking sides, but his goal is complicated by his devotion to what he sees as justice and by his friendship with William H. Bonney, who’s developing a reputation as Billy the Kid.
As Lincoln County devolves into explosive violence, Bracken must skirt the edge of the law to guarantee the survival of his family, his spread, and his dream. But dangers abound from both factions for a man refusing to take sides. Before the Lincoln County War culminates on the banks of the Rio Bonito during a five-day shootout in Lincoln, Bracken is accused of being both a vigilante and a rustler. As the law stands idly by, Bracken’s ranch is torched, and his wife is assaulted by the notorious outlaw Jesse Evans. Survival trumps vengeance, though, as Bracken tries to outlast the dueling factions aimed at destroying him.
At every turn Bracken must counter the devious ploys of both factions and fight against lawmen and a court system skewed to protect the powerful and politically connected. Against overwhelming odds, Bracken challenges the wicked forces arrayed against him in hopes of a better life for himself, for his family, and for New Mexico Territory. And throughout it all, Bracken stands in the growing shadow of his sometime pal, Billy the Kid.
Clueless Gent’s Rating for Rio Bonito
Rio Bonito is a very enjoyable and entertaining read. The characters and their relationships push this story beyond the summit where similar stories end. The story is set in the mid-1800s, but the corruption it identifies is as much a part of our country’s story as the Civil War, the Gold Rush, and similar events.
The story follows our protagonist, Wes Bracken, as he tries to take care of his family, manage his ranch, and at the same time try to remain neutral in the corruption of Lincoln County, in the New Mexico Territory. Wes is usually accompanied by his right-hand man, Jace Cousins.
To add a little more meaning to this premise, Lincoln County is quickly becoming the most corrupt county in the nation, and Wes Bracken is known by many as the most honest man in the county.
I admit, corruption and lawlessness in the Old West is nothing new, but the premise is where any stereotype ends, in my opinion. I found the characters in this story, both good and bad, to be unique. However, the relationships between the characters is really what drew me into this story.
Wes and Jace appear in almost every scene, so by the end of the story the reader is pretty familiar with them. Although they are not kin, it is obvious that they are very close. The story does not identify how they met – or if it does I don’t remember it – but that may be covered in the first book of the trilogy. That being said, I also want to point out that this story is fully inclusive. I do not feel like I didn’t get enough information from this story to thoroughly enjoy it. I did.
The best way that I can describe the relationship between Wes and Jace is to compare it to the relationship between the characters of Charles Ingalls and Isaiah Edwards in the television series Little House on the Prairie. Indeed, it is a very special relationship, and it greatly contributed to my enjoyment of the story.
I thought the author had a remarkable was of keeping his description fresh. This is how Preston Lewis described one of the characters:
“A tall, lean man, he sat easy in the saddle with a carefree demeanor, though his brown eyes broached no nonsense and his lips had a peculiar curl at the corners as if he was always smiling. His cleft chin matched the gap between his two front teeth when he smiled.”
There are a number of characters that I encourage you to read about. Among them, William Bonney has more than just a minor role. In history, William is better known as Billy the Kid. I was very intrigued by Billy. I don’t know how much of his personality quirks were true, but they were sure entertaining.
My only criticism of the story is the ending. Although there was definitely a climax, I thought the ending was soft. However, it certainly paved the way for the third book in the trilogy. I will definitely have to read that one so I can find out how the Lincoln County saga really ends.
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