Retribution Rails (Vengeance Road 2)
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt November 7, 2017
Retribution Rails is a companion novel to last year’s Vengeance Road. It’s not strictly a sequel, and according to Goodreads, you don’t need to have read the first book. So, I forged ahead without reading the first book. It’s true that this isn’t a sequel in the traditional sense, and the main characters are new characters who didn’t appear in the first book, but some characters from the first book appear in Retribution Rails and the book does contain spoilers for Vengeance Road.
It’s 1887 and the American frontier is rapidly changing because of the advent of railroads. In the Arizona Territory, Reece Murphy is an unwilling outlaw. He’s a member of the notorious Rose Riders, but he’s not an outlaw by choice. A few years earlier, the Rose Riders murdered the family Reece worked for, and they only spared his life because he may be able to lead the gang to the man who killed the gang’s former leader. He’s forced into the gang, and he quickly learns that escape attempts are futile and that he’s stuck with the gang until he can lead them to the mysterious cowboy.
Charlotte Vaughn is a young woman in search of trouble. Her father has just passed away, and her uncle is trying to steal the family business from her and her mother. He plans to force her mother to marry him. Charlotte runs away, thinking she can find some way to stop her uncle. Her life’s ambition is to become a journalist. It’s a lofty ambition for a teenage girl in 1887, but the pioneering Nellie Bly was working at this time, so the possibility was there, even if rather remote. Charlotte and Reece’s paths cross when the Rose Riders hold up the train she’s traveling on. Reece spares her life, and their lives quickly become entwined, something neither of them particularly wants.
I really enjoyed this book. It was fast-paced and exciting, and the story felt very true to the time period. I feel like the author did her homework (and the author’s note gives details about her research). There’s some exploration of what it means to be a woman at this time. Charlotte is smart and determined, but that may not be enough in a society where men have all the power.
Reece and Charlotte are both very interesting characters. Reece may be an outlaw, but he’s not really suited to the life. He wrestles constantly with the things he’s forced to do to stay alive. Charlotte is in many ways a proper young lady, but she’s also quite ruthless and thoughtless, much more so than the supposed criminal, Reece.
I loved the interplay between the two characters. She thinks he’s a worthless criminal at first, and he basically feels the same way about himself. But as their paths keep crossing and they end up having to work together, and their mutual dislike eventually turns into grudging mutual admiration. There’s none of the dreaded insta-love here. A connection does grow between them, but it’s not the main focus of the story.
Retribution Rails is a great read, and I will be checking out the first book soon.
I received an ARC from Amazon Vine.