Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Date Published: September 1st 2015
Genres: 19th Century, Action & Adventure, Farm & Ranch Life, Historical, Historical Fiction, JUVENILE FICTION, Love & Romance, Westerns, Young Adult
Description: When Kate Thompson's father is killed by the notorious Red Rose Gang for a mysterious journal that reveals the secret location of a gold mine, the eighteen-year-old disguises herself as a boy and takes to the gritty plains looking for answers and justice. What she finds are devious strangers, dust storms, and a pair of brothers who refuse to quit riding in her shadow. But as Kate gets closer to the secrets about her family, she gets closer to the truth about herself and must decide if there's room for love in a heart so full of hate. In the spirit of True Grit, the cutthroat days of the Wild West come to life for a new generation.
She’s on a literal vengeance road, searching for the murderous gang who killed her pa. But, the thing is, she’s disguised herself as a boy. For obvious reasons. A girl can’t go off by herself to avenge her father. Even if she can shoot better than most of the men around her. She’s also contemplating disregarding her father’s wishes that if anything ever happened to him, she was to “go see Abe in Wickenburg”. Kate decides that as Wickenburg is between her home and where the gang is headed, she’ll stop through and see Abe. Because it’s what her father would have wanted. When she gets to Wickenburg, though, she discovers that Abe is dead. And that his sons are running his homestead. And that Abe had told his children, that if ever someone should come looking for him, and speak the name Henry Thompson, Abe’s children were to take the young Thompson in, and hand over a letter that Abe was keeping safe. This is where we meet Jesse and Will Colton.
And yes – this is Armie Hammer, who looks nothing like Jesse or Will. And sorry, not sorry, for using this to represent a cowboy.
Jesse and Will agree to help Kate find the killers. In exchange for the gold that is at the end of the hunt. Thinking the whole time that Kate is a boy named Nate. But then, Kate gets shot. And the secret is out. And really, I was glad. The whole ruse of pretending to be a boy was boring. And predictable.
One of the aspects of Vengeance Road that stands out is the colloquial language. I have no idea if books published in the 1890’s used “proper” or colloquial English. But, I sometimes found that reading this was distracting. (I can’t even imagine what the audio is like.) It pulled me out of the action of the story. Probably because it’s not something I’m used to reading and my brain had to process the language more slowly. Quotes like this really stood out.
I ain’t killed before, and it shouldn’t’ve been so easy.
I can’t bear the thought of being alone again. I know I’s kept the Coltons at a distance, built a wall ‘gainst anyone trying to get close.
I found the characters interesting. Kate is a strong female lead, not looking for a man to take care of her. This is unusal for the setting of the book. And I appreciated the difference. Jesse has gold fever, something he likely contracted from his father. And Will is along for the ride, to simply go along his brother. And to meet up with his favorite prostitute along the way. He’s calm, casual attitude is refreshing. Kate and the Colton boys also meet up with an Apache scout, Liluye, or Lil for short. Kate saves Lil from a fire, and thus, Lil owes Kate a life-debt. The members of the Rose gang don’t get much in the way of description. But we do learn that the leader, Waylan Rose, is a nasty piece of work, killing anyone and everyone who gets in his way, including his own men.
The plot was mainly a long journey story (so Julie should probably just skip this) interrupted by the occasional shoot-out or camp discussion. The journey does lead the plot along. And helps the reader to understand the motivation of the characters. As for romance, it was very chaste, and limited to “feeling flighty and skittish” and a few kisses towards the end. If you are looking for a hot and steamy love scene, this is not the place. Though, I did believe that the slow development of the feelings between Kate and Jesse was true to the characters.
Overall, I liked Vengeance Road. And if you can get past the language, I’d recommend it to fans of historical fiction.