Journey to Riverbend is one of those books that is a stand alone with potential for much more. This first time author writes such magnetic characters with unique living and breathing voices that I have had the desire to move to Riverbend to get to know its people better. Even the unsavory residents add to the town's charm and vitality. The action is so driving that I couldn't put the book down once I started reading.
The opening scene is the hanging of a gangly young man whom the main character, Michael Archer, is convinced is innocent. Young Ben's final request was to ask Michael to visit his estranged father, Sam Carstairs, to deliver some letters, an item Ben cherished of his mother's, and attempt a post-mortem reconciliation of some sort.
Michael Archer brought along a letter of recommendation from his friend Sheriff Gideon Parsons to take to Riverbend's Sheriff to elicit his assistance in his efforts. Sheriff Caleb Davis was as good as Parsons in reading character, and this lean and tough young man didn't appear to be the typical kind for ministerial duties. It made him curious to know Michael's life story. He knew this task would be difficult because although Sam Carstairs was the town's benefactor, he was ruthless and hard as nails.
In the meantime, Sam Carstairs had traveled to San Francisco for business, an annual event. On the return trip, he received two disturbing threatening notes. Then in the last leg of his journey he was abducted. As soon as news of the kidnapping reached Riverbend, Sheriff Davis organized a search posse and included Michael Archer.
This is one of the best books I have read set in the Old Wild West. The author's descriptive language is powerful. The setting as well as the characters came alive as we follow Michael along his personal, spiritual, and physical journey. The reader realizes that the title of the book is multi-dimensional as the story picks up on Sam Carstairs own harrowing experiences and the baffling behavior of his abductors.
The book is full of the gritty elements of life in the Old Wild West. Evil is honestly portrayed for what it is and well written in contrast to the good seen in the lives of several of the members of the posse and village. Michael is a strong Christian with a mission in mind, but even he has his demons to deal with. I would rate this book at PG13 because of the multiple incidences where evil triumphs momentarily. Yet while this is true, the Gospel message is strong without being preachy. The author manages to balance the two contrasting characteristics in such a manner that neither is overwhelming. If the author were to write 100 more of this type of book, I would read and recommend all.
However, I can't emphasize enough to parents of teens and pre-teens to exercise caution. There is nothing in the book to compromise the Judeo-Christian values, yet some incidences may be upsetting to those sensitive to brutality. This is a book written for adults, not for children.
There are several supporting characters in this book just begging for a story of their own, or at least for a bit more resolution. This includes the love interest of the main character, Rachel Stone. I sincerely hope this means the author intends to write more.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Michael is at the hanging of an innocent man, Ben Carstairs. Right before his death, Ben asks Michael to find his father and give him a message. Michael begins the journey with only one thought in mind. He'll find Mr. Carstairs, give the message and then go on with his life. But his plans aren't even close to reality. A beautiful woman, a manhunt, and death were not on the agenda. But God can bring beauty out of death and pain.
I just couldn't love this book the I wanted to. The cover kept me from even starting the book, but once I did, it didn't get any better. The characters didn't resonate with me. The plot was slow moving and easily predictable. And the ending was left in such a way that there might be a sequel, but I couldn't find any hint that another book was coming. If you like any loose ends tied up, then you won't like the ending. There wasn't anything at all resolved. My summery would be that this is a Christian western with lots of "preaching", quite a bit of violence, scenes not appropriate for children to read, and a good writing style. I'm giving the book such a low rating because I really didn't like the book and can't honestly recommend it to anyone.
I received this book free of charge from Tyndale in exchange for my honest review.
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Review 3 for Journey to Riverbend - eBook
Date:July 24, 2012
I really enjoyed this story. It showed the struggles of people trusting God to bring them through the muck and mire of their past into a place of forgiveness. Great theme--can't wait for the next book from this author!
I began reading this book knowing nothing of it, and was put off by the detailed accounts of thoughts and actions against women in the context of taking advantage of them. After the first few pages I didn't want to read any more, but I skipped ahead further in the book several times to see if it changed - literally, every page I skipped ahead to throughout the book contained some sort of mention or description of sexual harassment against women.
For me personally, any beneficial message of the book was crowded out by the focus on such ugliness, and particularly the way it's worded in such a fashion that it appears a reader is invited to take pleasure in it even if the overall message is disapproval of such sinful acts.
I'd advise anyone sensitive to the above to avoid reading it. That being said, from the bits I read it does seem the quality of the writing is quite good, so if my review doesn't put you off then chances are this book might end up being a worthwhile read for you.
Henry McLaughlin is an extremely talented writer, weaving a tale so vividly that I feel I could draw a map of the places traveled and could paint each character's portrait. At times it truly seemed that I was using all five senses while reading "Journey to Riverbend."
Now, I'm not going to try and write a synopsis here, since anyone can just go and read the editorial review. Instead I'm going to focus on what made this book an interesting and unique read.
I said this is not a typical Christian historical fiction novel because its not filled with the fluff that so many of them are. "Journey to Riverbend" deals with the true, nitty gritty, and sometimes just plain horrendous parts of life, especially life in the "Old Wild West." The protagonists and heroes are flawed, dealing with their own pasts of lawlessness and sin, and are still plagued with their former lives, quite like reality. However, the truth of God's Gospel is just as, or perhaps even more relevant and life-changing, and the message of His grace and redemption is woven throughout.
One aspect of the book that was quite impressive to me, was McLaughlin's ability to create evil and despicable characters and yet show their humanity and the broken parts of their souls that made them who they were, enabling the reader to actually feel understanding and perhaps even sympathy for them.
*possible spoiler alert* In conclusion, if you're looking for a story that is all sunshine and lollipops, with everything coming together at the end in a nice little package, without pain, heartache and sadness, this is NOT the book for you! I really appreciated Mr. McLaughlin's willingness to write out of the box, resisting the pressure to give the reader a "happily ever after", "everything coming up roses" ending that is so common in Christian fiction, but frankly so unrealistic in life and/or history.
Michael Archer rides into Riverbend carrying a note addressed to the Sheriff. Michael has one mission, to deliver a message to a father from his son. The father does not think much of religion and has earned a reputation of being shrewd. Upon arriving in Riverbend Michael meets Rachel Stone, and is mesmerized by her. Rachel is staying at the home of the pastor and his family. Both she and Michael are held captive by their pasts. This unique western novel was a thrill to read and it captured my attention from the first chapter. Action + romance + faith = one fantastic hard to put down book! Lots of twists and turns! Excellent character development and scenic imagry, storyline flowed well. I highly recommend it.
Journey to Riverbend has a good basis for what could have been a great book. McLaughlin has begun the process of creating characters that are interesting and that you could invest yourself in; however, they never developed into a character that you really wanted to know more about. This book felt very surface level, although it was full of mentions of the characters past it never went into enough details or how each character was coping only enough information was given to know about their background. I do not usually read historical fiction, and this would have not been my first choice, this book left a lot of questions and never developed fully. The story follows Michael Archer on his quest to help a son apologize to his father and along the way he meets Rachel Stone, a girl relatively new to Riverbend and trying to move beyond her past. I struggled to really get into this book, the story seemed to leap between events happening within the characters life but never really focused on the people only what was happening around them, some of these events and violence that took place was a little to descriptive and was uncalled for. Journey to Riverbend was an ok book, I would have liked the characters and plot line to be more developed and to really be able to sink into this story.
The American West was a rough place to live. In my Literature of the American West class, I've been reminded that as much as the West has been romanticized as a symbol of freedom and grandeur, the realities of those ideals were often gritty and costly.
In Journey to Riverbend, one thing I really admire is McLaughlin's ability to balance hope and faith with the violence and debauchery that was a part of the time and place he chose as the setting for the book. In that sense, the book is not a light-hearted read. McLaughlin walks a fine line between being too "preachy" for some readers and being too "edgy" for others. Depending on the individual reader's preferences, it's possible that the book might go too far in one direction or the other at various times. But overall, I feel that McLaughlin did a good job both of staying true to his message/beliefs and true to the setting.
This book is a challenging read. As I read the conclusion, I wasn't sure what to think. I was caught up in quite a journey in these pages, and in the end I was left wondering if the destination was worth it. Looking back, I think that the question isn't so much "What was left in the end?" but rather "What did this journey teach me?"
My impression of the characters is also ambiguous. I really appreciate how McLaughlin gives multiple points of view throughout the story and shows that each character has his/her good points and bad points. None of the characters are seen as perfect, and yet each character has some quality that makes the reader sympathize with him/her, although for some it's still very hard to like them! However, in regards to the characters I confess that the romance, while sweet, is a bit "hard to swallow" because of the shortness of time the two characters have together before they fall in love.
The Journey to Riverbend is a long, painful journey, but also a very rewarding one. With violence and other edgy content, this book might not be for everyone. But for all those who love Westerns and a good, thought-provoking read, I recommend taking the Journey to Riverbend!
*With thanks to Tyndale House Publishers for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.*
Journey to Riverbend by Henry McLaughlin is the most recent winner of the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild Operation First Novel Contest. McLaughlin's debut novel introduces Michael Archer, a reformed man ministering to criminals. Michael's promise to Ben Carstairs, a man sentenced to an unavoidable death, leads him on his journey to Riverbend to meet Ben's ruthless father, Sam. Upon arrival in Riverbend, Michael is drawn to the beautiful, yet allusive Rachel Stone, a woman fighting to establish a promising future in spite of a dark past. News of Sam Carstairs' kidnapping compels Michael to join the posse determined to save Mr. Carstairs and return him safely to Riverbend. Danger abounds on the journey; but in the midst of peril, Michael has numerous opportunities to share his faith and contemplate his future (which he hopes will include Rachel).
Meanwhile in Riverbend, Rachel faces dangers of her own and constant reminders of her past. During Michael's absence, she reflects over her growing feelings for a man she barely knows. Can she find the courage to give her heart away?
Journey to Riverbend is a well-written novel, which combines Western-style action with faith and a dash of romance. The novel begins as a romance between Michael and Rachel, who are quickly attracted to one another, but held apart by circumstances and Rachel's reservations. After Mr. Carstairs disappears and the search begins, the novel transitions into a western. A significant portion of the plot focuses on Sam's and the posse's time on the trail, with occasional glimpses of Rachel and life in Riverbend. The ever-present danger that the posse faces and the overt cruelty of the outlaws who kidnapped Mr. Carstairs help to move the plot along, but after a while, the trail grows old. I would have enjoyed more interaction between Rachel and Michael and a little less time on the trail, but I am partial to love stories and watching love gradually grow between two characters.
The conclusion of Journey to Riverbend left me wondering if there will be a sequel. There is an opportunity for Michael and Rachel's story to continue and develop more fully. The end of Michael's journey to find Sam Carstairs alludes to the beginning of a new quest to satisfy another man's wish, perhaps there will be enough adventures to fill the pages of another novel.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Tyndale through their book review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed above are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
I am reading "Henry McLaughlin's Journey to Riverbend" a new author for me and is an Award Winner of Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild. It is a wonderful book that I have not been able to put down. I expect to see Henry McLaughlin's award winning books a favorite for all Christian book readers. This is a book that should go on your must read list as you will truly enjoy the wonderful story that is filled with action, faith and love. This is one the best book I have read and I look forward to reading future books by Henry McLaughlin.
Journey to Riverbend is a good book that weaves the truth of God's love and redemption throughout. I loved everything about the story, except I longed to read a better ending. The ending showed a promise of what to come, but not the actual fullfillment. That is the only thing I would have added! Michael Archer travels to Riverbend to fulfill the dying wish of Ben Carstairs, a young man that was wrongly convicted of a crime and put to death. Ben longed to make amends with his father, Sam, but was not able to before he was killed. Michael, who ministered to Ben, promised to go see Sam Carstairs in his place. Michael meets a young woman named Rachel when he gets to Riverbend. Even though they both have a troubled past, they have become believers of Jesus and have tried to go on with their lives. They both have feelings for each other, but Rachel is not sure she is ready for love. Soon, it becomes clear that Sam has been kidnapped, so Michael joins a posse to look for him so that he can finish his mission. During his absence from Riverbend, Michael and Rachel both realized their true feelings for each other. There are many extra characters and plots within the this story that keep it interesting!
I received this book free from the publisher in order to write a review. I was not obligated to write a positive review, only to write my own opinion of the book.
Can a former prostitute and a former thief who have come to know the Lord as savior find forgiveness and acceptance - and maybe love? Rachel Stone and Michael Archer both have pasts they are not proud of - the plot revolves around this theme. Michael made a promise to a dying man to find his father and Rachel is trying to open a dress shop when they meet in Riverbend. I liked: the characters were well developed and real. The story line was fast paced and kept your interest. What I didn't like: The graphic sex and violence (including several murders and an attempted rape) crossed the line for me for a Christian novel. I also was disappointed in the ending - it was too abrupt with too many loose ends.
Journey to Riverbend is not just a story about a physical journey. It’s a story about the journey from sin to redemption and forgiveness, from being lost, then found. Michael Archer begins a journey to the town of Riverbend on behalf of Ben Carstair. Young Ben, who has just been hanged for a crime Michael is sure that he didn’t commit, was thrown off the family ranch years ago. His dying wish was to be reconciled to his father, Sam Carstairs, and Michael is determined to carry out this wish. When Michael gets to Riverbend, he meets the local pastor and his family and their houseguest, Rachel Stone. Like Michael, Rachel has a past that she would like to forget, and like Michael, she has become a believer in Jesus. Thus begins their journey toward each other. Before Michael has a chance to meet with Mr. Carstairs, Sam is kidnapped in retaliation for something he did in the past. Because Sam is a prominent citizen of Riverbend, the town forms a posse and Michael joins in order to fulfill his promise to Ben. If you like historical fiction set in the old west with lots of action and a bit of romance, you will want to read this. It has gunfights, stagecoaches, ranch hands, hangings, sin, grit, good guys, bad guys, tension, suspense, forgiveness, redemption, romance, prayer and reconciliation. Mr. McLaughlin makes the settings and scenery come alive with skillful and artful descriptions. We get to know the characters by McLaughlin allowing us to hear their internal thoughts. This book is appropriate for adult readers but because it can be graphic in some places, I would not recommend it for anyone younger.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. through their book review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed above are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Journey To Riverbend is a Western/Romance with a captivating plot, lots of action, and great characters who are forced beyond their comfortable boundaries--especially those of Michael Archer, Sam Carstairs, and the lovely Rachel Stone. The moral of this story is painfully clear from the front of the book: reconciliation. Michael Archer makes a decision to go through great lengths to save kidnapped Sam Carstairs in order to fulfill his promise to Sam's dead son, even if it means walking away from Rachel, who is just beginning to bloom in his heart. There is a beautiful example of Christ woven within: the Shepherd leaves the ninety-nine to find the lost lamb. This is a worthwhile read that will leave you with the grit of Texas between your teeth and a heart cheering for the love growing between Michael and Rachel.