This is the first Western novel I've read in quite awhile because it doesn't seem like there are many novels in this genre, and Kathleen Kent delivers! Set in the state of Texas from Ft. Worth to Houston and continuing to the turn-of-the-century New Orleans, Louisiana, Kent weaves three tales in one.
Lucinda wants to leave the cathouse and create a new start with the love of her life. She knows the many pitfalls of her profession and Madame Landry is cunning, keeping a tight fist over her girls, making sure they have little opportunity to leave. Lucinda takes the only chance she has by planning her getaway and stealing from Landry. Her beau is willing marry her, but she needs to find a respectable job. The opportunity as a teacher comes up in the small community of Middle Bayou, near Houston and while Lucinda may not be a teacher, her life has led her to create a close relationship with numbers, especially geometry. She uses this as a tactic to escape reality and help curb her ailment that has plagued her since childhood and one she is hellbent on hiding. It won't take long for every niche in Lucinda's life to come out....
Nate is a new lawman from Oklahoma who is working for the first time with two famed Rangers, Deerling and Dr. Tom, learning what justice and law truly is in the Old West while still trying to preserve his integrity. His passion is horses, and he landed the job because of his reputation training them. Nate leaves behind a wife and daughter, whom he loves dearly and fights against the perils of his position. His conscience and his position fight and rebel against each other as he sees firsthand how the Rangers work, not quite defying the law, but not quite working within it. Is there room for patience and tolerance in the Texas Ranger brotherhood? He fights against their handling of outlaws and Indians, and this battle between mindsets has caused friction between Nate and the Rangers. But one thing will draw them together. For the Rangers, it's an end to personal injury; for Nate, it's a promise he keeps...
McGill is a psychopathic outlaw who won't let anyone, including women and children, get in the way of his sole pursuit - finding the easy life at whatever price. McGill knows his trail is hot in Texas, but when he finds out about the prospect of a fortune ready for the taking, he takes a chance and goes to find it with two of his henchmen in tow. McGill is not only a psychopath, but a master manipulator, able to charm strangers into overlooking who he truly is to create a chameleon-like personality. His luck and prowess have kept him alive this long thus far....
One gold piece, one tall tale of Jean LaFitte, and the singular and personal drive of all of these characters to do what they set out for will put them on a collision course with fate. The Old West is unforgiving, and it's this emotional landscape that molds the people who lived it. Kathleen Kent writes a fast-paced novel rich with history and description of not only the setting, but the characters and themes as well. Separated into chapters, she knows when to switch voices, leaving the reader wanting to know more about the previous story while slowly beginning to see the threads that knit everything together. More than that, Kent creates drama and surprise not only for the characters but also the reader. She bookends this novel with a beautifully crafted foreword and afterword. This novel can definitely be added to both adult and young adult shelves.
Highly recommended for secondary collections
Ages 14 and up 978-0316206129 336 pages
Recommended by: Naomi Bates, Librarian, Texas USA
See more of her recommendations: http://www.naomibates.blogspot.com
Editor's Note: BAD GIRLS by Jane Yolen and Heidi E.Y. Stemple is a non-fiction title that pairs well with this title....suggested by Naomi Bates.
Bad Girls by Jane Yolen
Lone Star Lawmen: the second century of the Texas Rangers by Robert M. Utley
Photo by Brady by Jennifer Armstrong
If you like this, then you'll like:
Stephen King's Dark Tower series
Rapunzel's Revenge by Shannon Hale