Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman

“Revenge is worth its weight in gold.”

June 6, 1877

Kate Thompson is left with a heart full of vengeance after a group of men kill her father. Two days after her eighteenth birthday, she hears hooping and hollering while she is down by the creek. She arrives back home to find her father hanging from the mesquite tree that her mother is buried under. She sees a group of men fleeing on horseback and the house on fire. Kate is able to get one shot off and a man falls. After burying her father next to her mother, she is surprised to find the man she shot is gone. He isn’t dead but she is able to follow his blood trail into Prescott and finds him sitting in a saloon. She has disguised herself as a man so as not to draw as much notice. Kate follows him to the outhouse where she finds him checking on his wound. She is able to catch him off guard. He laughs at her when he realizes that she doesn’t know about the secrets her father kept. She wants to know how they found him and he reveals that the clerk at Goldwaters’ was very informative. He informs her that she will never catch up to the others. Kate shoots him in the skull before heading to Goldwaters’

At Goldwaters’, it doesn't take Morris the clerk long to recognize Kate. Her father was trying to play matchmaker between the two of them, much to Kate’s chagrin. She inquires if anyone has come in asking about her father. He describes the group of men she saw leaving and asks her if everything is alright. She knows there is no one in a position of authority to help her. Kate loads up on some supplies and leaves before she can shoot Morris for inadvertently revealing her father. Back at home, Kate begins shifting through the remains of their cabin. She notices that her father’s journal is missing from its place by the bed. She assumes that it was destroyed in the fire. Kate does find the remaining bits of gold dust that her father had from his prospecting days. She is dismayed to find a note that her father had left for her. It reads that if anything were to happen to him, Kate is to go see his friend Abe in Wickenberg. She spends the night in the barn before going to find Abe. He may know what secrets her father was keeping from her.

Stopping at a saloon in Walnut Grove, Kate decides to try and find out some information about Abe before arriving in the bustling mining town of Wickenberg. Coy at first, an overweight barmaid/prostitute tells her where she can find him. Kate also asks the bartender if any of her friends came through. Describing the man and stating that he was riding with a group, the bartender pulls a gun on her. He asks her to leave, saying that her kind aren’t welcome. Not really understanding, Kate asks what her kind might be. The Rose Riders, he answers. Kate backs out and mounts her horse. Even with a gun trained on her back, she is thrilled to have discovered some new information on her father’s killers. Making camp for the night, Kate thinks that the Riders might be Waylon Rose’s gang. They were notorious for robbing stagecoaches in New Mexico and came west to Arizona when the gold rush began. Kate falls asleep wondering what brought Rose out of his normal territory to look for her father.

Kate is awoken the next morning by a wild hog but soon hears voices. The men from the saloon are looking to collect the bounty on the Riders since Kate stated that she was a friend. One man goes to stand guard over their horses while the other unties one of Kate’s. He shoves it away before she is able to stop him. Kate pulls her gun on him and tells him to stop. The man says that he cannot let her go and slaughter Abe’s family. With no choice, Kate shoots the man before he can kill her. She scares off the remaining man before packing her horse to leave. Down a horse, she has to leave most of her stuff behind. Kate hopes that Abe will be the effort.

Arriving at Abe’s the next morning after riding all day and night, Kate is surprised by the size of his place and wonders if he runs a ranch now instead of working in the mines. Two boys close to her age are standing outside. After talking it over, the older one comes over and directs Kate to Wickenberg. She lets him know that she is actually looking for Abe. He tells her that her got kicked in the head by a horse two years earlier and died the same day. Kate is desperate until she sees the look of grief flash over the boy’s face and offers her condolences. The boy introduces himself as Jesse Colton, Abe’s son and asks Kate for hers. She blurts out the first thing that comes to her mind, Nate Thompson. Jesse asks what her father’s name was and gets excited to find out that it was Henry. He calls his younger brother Will over and the three of them head towards the farmhouse.Turns out that Abe had something of Henry’s that he was keeping in case his child ever showed up on their doorstep.

In the farmhouse, Nate meets the boys’ sister, Sarah. After breakfast, Jesse gives Nate the letter from her father. In it, he details for Kate how he and her mother came across a dead man with a cache of gold and a leather journal detailing where the mine could be found. Kate realizes that her father’s journal wasn’t burned, but stolen. He details how he changed his name, became friends with Abe and eventually moved to Prescott. Her father writes that not even Abe knows the whole truth. In order for her to be safe, he asks her to stay with Abe. Folding up the letter, Kate hears Sarah and Jesse arguing over Nate. She decides to leave and find her father’s killers before they can find the gold.

Jesse and Will catch up to Kate/Nate as she is leaving Wickenberg. The two boys are on their way to pick up some cattle in Tucson. The three of them traveling together will be safer than splitting up. Kate/Nate reluctantly agrees if the boys will quit constantly talking. She is heading to Phoenix and will spilt from them there. Along the way, the three of them come across a burned out carriage. The driver has been shot, the passengers burned and any money is gone. The dead driver carries the same mark that the Riders left on Kate’s father. She wants to at least burn the man’s body rather than leave it for the vultures. She is touched when Jesse helps her.

As the three travel along, Jesse tries to talk Nate out of his need for vengeance but his advice falls on deaf ears. Kate also knows that it won’t be too long before the Colton brothers figure out that Nate is a girl. After Jesse goes to sleep one night, Will fills Kate/Nate in on why Jesse is the type of person that he is. He has been responsible for the family for a long time and has experienced loss too many times. The next morning, Kate/Nate apologizes to Jesse and attempts to make amends. The three head out looking for a river to water their horses. They first notice the low water level and then Jesse sees that they are not alone. He spies two men through his binoculars and passes them off to Nate. She sees two men along the ridge above and the two of them know something isn’t right. It looks like an ambush. Kate/Nate looks through the binoculars again and notices the symbols carved on the horses’ saddles. It’s the Rose Riders and they are aiming for them.

What happens when Jesse and Will discover that Nate Thompson is actually Kate Thompson? Will she reveal the truth about why her father was killed? Will she uncover her father's secrets? Can she find the Rose Riders and exact her revenge or will Kate learn that vengeance is a road best left untraveled? And will love find it’s way into Kate’s heart?

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