Friday, February 21, 2020

Rio Ruidoso ~ Lone Star Book Blog Tours Review & Giveaway!

Three Rivers Trilogy, 1
Genre: Historical Western
Publisher: Five Star Publishing
Date of Publication: February 19, 2020
Number of Pages: 299

2017 Elmer Kelton Award from the West Texas Historical Association:
Best Creative Work on West Texas

Scroll down for the giveaway!

Rio Ruidoso offers a gripping blend of history and story as two-time Spur Award-winner Preston Lewis explores the violent years before the famed Lincoln County War in New Mexico Territory. Seamlessly weaving fact with fiction, the author details the county’s corruption, racism, and violence through the eyes of protagonist Wes Bracken, newly arrived in the region to start a horse ranch with his alcoholic brother.

Bracken’s dreams for the Mirror B Ranch are threatened by his brother’s drunkenness, the corruption of economic kingpin Lawrence G. Murphy, and the murderous rampages of the racist Horrell Brothers. To bring tranquility to Lincoln County, Bracken must defeat those threats and stand his ground against the ever-changing alliances that complicate life and prosperity in multi-racial Lincoln County.

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HALL WAYS REVIEW: Rio Ruidoso is the first pure western I have ever read, and it’s my dad’s fault I hadn't read one until now. (Sorry, Dad.) He loves a good western and had shelves of them when I was growing up (now virtual shelves of them), but HIS westerns didn’t appeal to me. The graphic shoot ‘em up, hang ‘em up, and “he-ing & she-ing” Dad gushes about always solicit an eye-roll. The cowboys seem like cardboard cutouts: loners who are introspective and smarter and more cunning than the average Joe; and the women are doe-eyed, dumb, and good for only one thing. Why bother?

Then, about two years ago, I read Preston Lewis’s The Fleecing of Fort Griffin, which is a western but it’s a caper, reminiscent of The Sting, clever and laugh-out-loud funny at times, and I loved it. For Preston Lewis, I was willing to take a dive into pure western, and I will admit – I hated when the book ended, and I had to crawl out of Rio Ruidoso. Reading it was a totally immersive experience.

“The country was open and honest, not holding secrets from anyone.”

From the very start, Lewis masterfully describes the sweeping views and terrain of Lincoln County, all through the eyes of Wes Bracken. Coming from Arkansas, Wes talks of his relief at getting out of country “where the woods held the secrets and animosities of enemies,” and into country where growth more bush-like than tree “pimpled the slopes.”  Lewis’s rich descriptions coupled with his gift for penning a sentence make reading Rio Ruidoso a real pleasure.

“Thirsty weeds sprouted around it like beggars by a bank.”

By using figurative language and robust descriptions of people and place, readers are drawn into the setting and mind-set of the communities within Lincoln County. The visuals summoned by the words on the page show not only the beauty and bounty of the land, but those words also show the neglect and differences between those who have and those who have-not and the tensions between them.

“Feelings ran high, and emotions didn’t die, just kinfolks.”

Rio Ruidoso combines historical fact and fiction to remind readers of many ugly truths to the period leading up to the Lincoln County War in New Mexico Territory. The characters include John Chisum, Jesse Evans, and Lawrence Murphy – all real men involved in the war – and themes of greed, pride, racism, and revenge, which are all real motives that fueled the feuds. Lewis doesn’t shy away from any of it, and it’s uncomfortable in its honesty. The blatant racism and disregard for lives-other-than-white is embarrassing and hurts my heart and boggles my brain. I wish it were fiction, and I wish it were fully a thing that was only found in history books.

“By hard work a man could earn his dollars back, but he could never regain lost hours.”

An element that is mind boggling in a different way is the work ethic of the people. Regardless of skin color, gender, or purity of heart, everyone had to work to live. Feuds were put aside during planting season or harvest or in preparation for winter. For most, this wasn’t pansy work; the work was backbreaking and physical from dawn to dusk and later. I simply cannot fathom living that way, but thanks to Preston Lewis’s writing, I certainly can envision it. (Side note: this ARC is one of the cleanest I have ever read – another nod to the level of writing readers will enjoy. Top notch.)

While the ending resolves little, it gives readers a much-needed breather and reason to smile after the tension, intensity, and action of the story. And there is a little cameo that’s dropped in that makes me more excited than ever for the next book in the Three Rivers Trilogy. More good stuff’s coming, y’all. (But I am STILL not going to read any of my dad’s westerns.)

Thank you to Lone Star Book Blog Tours and the author for a print ARC in exchange for my honest opinion – the only kind I give.

Preston Lewis is the Spur Award-winning author of thirty novels. In addition to his two Western Writers of America Spurs, he received the 2018 Will Rogers Gold Medallion for Western Humor for Bluster’s Last Stand, the fourth volume in his comic western series The Memoirs of H. H. Lomax. Two other books in that series were Spur finalists. His comic western The Fleecing of Fort Griffin received the Elmer Kelton Award from the West Texas Historical Association for best creative work on the region.

1ST PRIZE: Signed Copies of Rio Ruidoso & Bluster's Last Stand
2ND PRIZE: Signed Copies of Rio Ruidoso
FEBRUARY 18-28, 2020


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  1. Wow, Kristine, at Hall Ways Blog! I'm so flattered that Rio Ruidoso was your first traditional western and my story overcame some of your skepticism. That's as big an honor as as your glowing review. Thanks for your kind words.

    1. Truly a pleasure, Preston! I look forward to the next book.

  2. Loved your review! My family had a similar love for the old Westerns of their youth. While my folks love historical fiction, though, we only owned a handful of books from the genre. So it's been wonderful to find the same elements I love from more familiar genres in Lewis's book! Also completely agreed with you that this was the cleanest ARC I've read. I JUST said that to my husband actually before reading your review lol

    1. I can't wait for the next book and will have to see if I am brave enough to try another author's western... have a feeling the bar is pretty high now! Thanks for stopping by the blog.

    2. Haha, this is the trouble when you read REALLY good books! And agreed on reading more westerns. My mind is definitely more open to trying them from newer authors instead of the established greats :)