A true western makes you feel the landscape, and Not Just Any Man, by Loretta Miles Tollefson does just that. Tollefson’s use of present tense narration and vivid visual imagry don’t just help readers see the scene in their mind, but actually puts you there. Woven into true events in New Mexico’s history, Tollefson portray’s the landscape as it was, with a storyline and fictional characters which could have been, and for as long as it takes to read the book, maybe they were.
Gerald Locke is not just any man. He’s a man of mixed race, trying to find a place for himself and acceptance from his fellow man, which he believes might be found in the frontiers of what is today, New Mexico. In Gerald’s time, it is a vast land filled with open spaces and wildlife, plentiful with opportunity, and Gerald has hopes of finding a spot where he can settle down and live comfortably, but first, he must raise the funds to embark on such an endeavor. He hasn’t planned on sharing his dream, but when he makes the acquaintance of Suzanna Peabody, new dreams in which she is by his side begin to foster as he makes his way following the rugged life of a trapper. Upon his return to Taos, he finds his dreams haven’t changed but his doubts have grown. He’s not the same man he was when he set out. Will Suzanna have him when she learns just who he really is?
Tollefson’s masterful use of third person present tense and her vivid descriptions make this book seem like a journey into the past. I give Not Just Any Man five quills.
The Pain and the Sorrow is a western which takes a true historic tale and crafts the details to the in a way that makes Loretta Miles Tollefson’s rendering not only plausible, but probable. Her background as a journalist is evident in every historic detail included, and in the Author’s Note at the end, she offers up the discrepancies in the reported facts and her reasoning for the choices made as she crafted the details into this heart wrenching New Mexico legend to make it come alive. It gripped me and I didn’t want to put it down. I couldn’t wait for the story to unfold.
From the view point of a young New Mexican girl, the story takes on a feeling of sadness in addition to the unbelievable horror of the originally reported events. Charles Kennedy offered food and lodging to weary travelers in the mountains of New Mexico for a price, but Charles had a temper and a lust for money, and those who stopped there didn’t always leave. Charles was an old west version of a serial killer. So claimed his young wife, Gregoria, when she appeared in a saloon in Etown one night after walking ten miles in the bitter cold to get away from her abusive husband.
A western with a female perspective, attention to the historic details, a story that compels me to keep the pages turning and characters that make me care. What more could this reader want? I give The Pain and the Sorrow five quills.
Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs at no charge. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.