Retribution Rails: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

“Secrets are like bullets.”

cover art for Retribution Rails by Erin BowmanReece Murphy never wanted to become the notorious Rose Kid. But he hardly had a choice

Five years ago Luther Rose rode in and killed the entire family Reece had been working for. Thanks to a mysterious gold coin, Reece has a different fate. If he can identify the man who gave him the gold piece, Reece can walk away. Until then he has to be part of the Rose Rides–something he can hardly escape thanks to his horrible deeds and even worse reputation as the Rose Kid.

Charlotte Vaughn and her mother are still grieving Charlotte’s father when her uncle begins moving to claim their estate and holdings for himself. Charlotte hopes that following a lead on a big story will help jump start her career as a journalist and bring her one step closer toward self-sufficiency and thwarting her uncle.

Both Reece and Charlotte’s plans are derailed when they cross paths on opposite sides of a botched train robbery. Charlotte could be Reece’s chance for freedom while Reece offers Charlotte the story of a lifetime. Charlotte and Reece know better than to trust each other but they both hope that with a little luck and a lot of grit they can use each other to get exactly what they need in Retribution Rails (2017) by Erin Bowman.

Retribution Rails is a companion novel set ten years after the events of Vengeance Road. While this novel works as a standalone it does reference previous events  throughout.

Written in dual first person narration this novel follows both Charlotte and Reece as they chase dreams and futures they are not sure they’ll ever manage to claim. The contrasts between these two helps to play with their changing perceptions of each other while also highlighting their similarities–particularly in terms of how single-mindedly they pursue their goals.

Reece and Charlotte are often difficult characters–Reece with the past he tries to forget and Charlotte with a surprisingly vindictive personality–and sometimes make the wrong choices. But those stumbles only add to their resiliency and growth throughout the novel. Their chemistry–even when they’re fighting–adds another dimension to this gripping story.

Readers familiar with Bowman’s work will find everything they loved about her first western in Retribution Rails along with a tighter plot which acknowledges the privileges and costs inherent to westward expansion and, in particular, the movement towards rail travel. Retribution Rails is a clever and fast-paced novel filled with adventure, redemption, and just a hint of romance. Highly recommended.

Possible Pairings: Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson, These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly, Scarlet by A. C. Gaughen, Speak Easy, Speak Love by McKelle George, Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee

Author Interview: Erin Bowman on Vengeance Road

Erin Bowman author photoErin Bowman is here today to talk about her latest novel Vengeance Road–a historical Western about lost gold, murder, and one girl’s quest for revenge.

Miss Print (MP): What was the inspiration for Vengeance Road?

Erin Bowman (EB): Vengeance Road is inspired by the legend of the Lost Dutchman, which is a gold mine supposedly hidden in the Superstition Mountains, east of Phoenix, Arizona. My husband (who has family in the area) was telling me about the legend one night and my muse exploded. I saw a girl out for revenge; so driven and stubborn in her need for vengeance that she willingly entangles herself in a gang’s quest for gold. (And yes, you guessed it: that gold lies deep within the Superstitions.)

MP: This book is set in 1877 in the Arizona territory. How did you choose this historical era? How did you find historical details and choose which ones to include in your story?

EB: Much of Lost Dutchman lore is tied to Jacob Waltz, a German immigrant who died in 1891 and supposedly provided maps to the mine to his caregiver. After his passing, knowledge of the mine became more public and the number of people entering the Superstitions in search of it increased. I wanted to set Kate’s story prior to this, mainly so that I could have her cross paths with Waltz, and in turn, become another “what if” piece of the Lost Dutchman legend.

I did a lot of research for this book, reading everything from books on cowboy culture and mining, to scouring historical atlases. Online archives available through museums, historical societies, and the US Historical Archives were also extremely helpful. As for what made it into Vengeance Road? Simply put, only the details that needed to be there and felt natural to Kate’s story. In a lot of ways, I think writing historical fiction is like writing fantasy. The writer needs to know All The Details in order to be sure the world makes sense and is fully realized, but if all those details went on the page, the reader would be bored and overwhelmed.

MP: Working off the last question, Vengeance Road features a mix of real and imagined (or no longer existing) locations as Kate tries to track down the men who murdered her father. Did any real locations help you envision Kate’s journey and the places she encounters along the way?

EB: Yes! I actually took a trip to Arizona and did some hiking in the Superstitions. I wanted to make sure I was really capturing the ferocity of the land. I had a notebook with me, and spent a lot of the hike jotting down notes about the flora and fauna, the sounds and smells, the oppressive heat, etc.

MP: Did you have a favorite character to write in Vengeance Road? Is there any character you are particularly excited for readers to meet?

EB: I always feel like I’m cheating when I answer questions like this with my main character, but I’m going to do it again! Kate is my favorite. She is so brave and independent (sometimes to a fault), and her character was so much fun to write. I especially love that while she’s just as tough at the end of the novel, she also emerges with a softer side, too. I’m really excited for readers to meet her.

MP: Can you tell us anything about your next project? Will we be seeing more historical fiction from you?

EB: I hope so! I’m currently playing around with an idea for a Vengeance Road companion novel. It’s set ten years after VR, but features new main characters and a different storyline. Nothing’s official yet, but fingers crossed! And I have a bunch of other WIPs on my computer as well, ranging from contemporary to sci-fi!

MP: Do you have any advice to offer aspiring authors?

EB: Dissect everything you read and watch. What do you love? What do you hate? Apply that to your own writing. And then, of course, the age-old advice: Read a lot and write a lot and don’t give up. Every writer faced his/her share of “no”s before getting published, and it only takes one “yes.”

Thanks again to Erin for taking time from her busy schedule to participate in this interview.

You can see more about Erin and her books on her website.

You can also read my review of Vengeance Road here on the blog.

Vengeance Road: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

“If you think you can’t do something, you won’t. If you believe you can, it’s only a matter of time before you will.”

Vengeance Road by Erin BowmanKate Thompson’s father is killed by the treacherous Rose Riders for a journal that reveals the location of a hidden gold mine. Desperate for justice and her own share of revenge, Kate sets out after her father’s murderers.

But the Arizona territory is not hospitable to strangers in 1877, or eighteen-year-old girls, so Kate disguises herself as a boy before following the Rose Riders’ trail. On the road to vengeance she finds deception, betrayal and two brothers she who refuse to let her finish her ride alone.

As Kate gets closer to the Rose Riders and the truth about her father’s murder, she will have to decide if getting her revenge is worth losing herself in Vengeance Road (2015) by Erin Bowman.

Vengeance Road is a fast-paced western adventure that follows Kate as she struggles to get revenge. The novel is written in Kate’s dialect as she narrates the story. Her voice has a twang and verve that immediately brings the old west landscape to life.

Bowman provides evocative descriptions of mining towns, saloons and riding on through the plains to help bring Kate’s journey to vivid life. The addition of real historical figures and an author’s note detailing the inspiration for certain aspects of the story help to flesh out the story even further.

Kate is a tough-talking, no-nonsense heroine. Her singular focus on revenge ensures that Vengeance Road is an action-heavy story with a clear destination. While there is a romance subplot, it is very much secondary to Kate’s quest for justice.

Throughout the novel, Kate spends a lot of time on her. Although she is not the most introspective character, this solitude does give Kate the opportunity to contemplate what getting revenge will entail and what it might cost her in the end.

Unexpected twists and surprising reveals in the final act of this novel make Vengeance Road a page-turning adventure. Kate’s quiet and unique voice make Vengeance Road a novel to ponder and savor.

Possible Pairings: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson, Scarlet by A. C. Gaughen, No Surrender Solider by Christine Kohler, Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee, Twist of Gold by Michael Morpurgo, Daughter of Deep Silence by Carrie Ryan, Montmorency by Eleanor Updale

UPDATE 11/6/2015: While I enjoyed this book, I do want to point everyone to Debbie Reese’s review of Vengeance Road on her site American Indians in Children’s Literature. Debbie looks at the book from a Native perspective and I think it’s important to be aware of the ways in which the book is problematic (or even inaccurate in terms of American Indian experiences) as well.

*A copy this book was acquired from the publisher for review consideration at BEA 2015*