According to Hoyle

Title: According to Hoyle
Author: Abigail Roux
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Genre: Historical (1880s America) Western/Action/Romance
Length: Novel (244 PDF pages)
Rating: 5+ stars out of 5


A Guest Review by Aunt Lynn

One Sentence Review: By far among the best books I’ve read this year.

THE BLURB

By the close of 1882, the inhabitants of the American West had earned their reputation as untamed and dangerous. The line between heroes and villains is narrow and indistinct. The concept that a man may only kill if backed into a corner is antiquated. Lives are worth less than horses. Treasures are worth killing for. And the law is written in the blood of those who came before. The only men staving off total chaos are the few who take the letter of the law at its word and risk their lives to uphold it. But in the West, the rules aren’t always played according to Hoyle.

US Marshals Eli Flynn and William Henry Washington are escorting two prisoners to New Orleans for trial when they discover there’s more to the infamous shootist Dusty Rose and the enigmatic man known only as Cage than merely being outlaws. When forces beyond the marshals’ control converge on the paddlewheeler they have hired to take them downriver, they must choose between two dangers: playing by the rules at any cost or trusting the very men they are meant to bring to justice.

THE REVIEW

I am a big fan of this author, and just about everything I’ve read from her has been a winner for me. According to Hoyle is not an exception and the extremely well-written novel didn’t disappoint on any level. It’s by far among the best books I’ve read this year and will surely make my Top Ten list in December.

Set in 1882, the story opens with a shady meeting in Denver between three men. Government man Baird is looking to hire the other two for a tricky job involving an Indian artifact, and while mercenary Stringer considers the offer, infamous gunslinger “Dusty” Rose wants no part, and he is able to make an escape from certain deadly consequences of saying “no” during an Act of God. Skip ahead a month to Lincoln, Nebraska, where long-time friends and US Marshals Washington and Flynn are getting ready to escort three prisoners to their next destinations. Among the detainees are the charismatic Rose and an enigmatic mute, Cage, who seem to form a bond on the way to the confusion and perhaps jealousy of Flynn and the seeming delight of Wash.  Flynn seems to have a very low-level attraction to his partner, yet even though such dalliances are not unheard of — and even somewhat common — west of the Mississippi, he doesn’t understand it nor would he ever act upon it. The days of travel are rough, with the five men often at each others’ throats. After delivering one of the prisoners to St. Louis, the four remaining of their party — Flynn, Wash, Cage and Rose — board a paddle/steam boat to New Orleans, only to have the unexpected happen. The situation is perilous and the Marshals must decide if they can trust their charges to help get them through.

While I may be a bit vague in this review as I don’t want to include spoilers, I want to be clear that I loved this book. I was engrossed from the first page and found it difficult to put down when I needed to. This is both character- and plot-driven, wonderfully historically detailed with little  tidbits, sayings and slang of the time, and never once did I question the accuracy.  I can imagine the research Roux had to go through to create this one.

Strong, three-dimensional characters with great dynamics are just one of the reasons I loved this book. The four protags have their own well-developed personalities, and we get to know them quite well via Flynn and Cage’s third-person narration (we also get glimpses into the Baddies’ minds as well along the way). I’d be hard-pressed to decide who was my favorite, I liked them all so much. Patient, compassionate and fair Wash is at times in direct contraction to cynical, stubborn and by-the-book Flynn, but you can see why they’re friends. Mysterious and mute Cage, a man desperately trying to reinvent himself, was interesting to me as we can only get to know him though his thoughts. But the self-deprecating and gentlemanly killer Rose charmed me perhaps more than the others, with his witty and sophisticated personality, dandy appearance, his dichotomous nature and his (self) interest in laying as low as possible.

I especially loved watching the interaction between Flynn and Rose, with much of the comic moments stemming from their discussion, arguments and scuffles. And I really liked watching Flynn work out changing his opinion about Rose, who he can barely stand, but grudgingly self-admits to respecting. Rose ironically challenges him to be a see everything in a different light, especially after they are forced to work together.

A complex plot, a smattering of humor and attention to detail add to the satisfying reading experience. The romance is wonderfully understated and the smexxin nonexistent until the very end, but it all worked for me perfectly. The ending is left wide open for a sequel and I am guessing that mystery of the artifact will be answered then.

Oh, and there is a hilarious little exchange about Billy the Kid that had me snickering.

OVERALL

If you haven’t already done so and are in the mood for a fabulous historical western/action/romance, run on over to Dreamspinner and snatch this one up.

40 comments

  • I bought this book back when this review came out and just now got around to reading it. What a fantastic story and I can’t wait for the sequel!

    Reply
  • Hi, Lynn, I was out of town for Mardi Gras,so I missed this review but I just wanted to say I loved this book! One of the best I’ve read in a long time, too. 🙂

    Reply
    • Hi Val. I saw your review after I posted mine and it seems we were in pretty much total agreement on this one. Fab, fab, fab.

      I was out of town for Mardi Gras…

      Lucky bastard. How was it?

      Reply
      • Hi, Lynn, and thanks also for the link above, and mentioning my review! You and I were in total agreement on this book. It was exactly the kind of book I love, a wonderful escapist experience, and much of that was due to the historical research as you mentioned. And the great characters. I hope we get that sequel soon. 🙂

        The Mardi Gras was great fun! We went to Galveston TX. Beautiful place. I’d like to go back soon!

        Reply
  • Hey, Lynn, I’ve read it and you were right – it was amazing! I’m glad that there will be a sequel and I hope we will then get Wash and Rose’s POWs (and I can only imagine how funny Rose’s musings will be). Oh, Billy the Kid thing was really funny. Flynn wondering if Rose was sarcastic or merely English made me snicker as well. I can hardly wait for more. I want it :asap: 🙂

    Reply
    • Glad you liked it LadyM!

      I can only imagine how funny Rose’s musings will be

      🙂 I completely agree. If what he says is only part of what is going on in that brain of his, we’re in for a treat.

      Reply
  • Lynn,

    What a wonderful review! I had originally shelved this to the maybe section in my mind because though Abigail is an auto-buy author for me, I have to be in a particular mood for historical westerns. But I’ll definitely be reading this now after your glowing review, it sounds absolutely wonderful 🙂

    Abigail: Good for you, Girl! You know what they say, think positively. With all of the beautiful romance you give to the world, you’re surely to find some in return.

    Reply
  • Hee, I actually read this one while west of the Mississippi. 2 word review: Loved it! Thanks Abigail for another great read with wonderful characters.

    A sequel?!! Yayness!! I was hoping, as the final pages hinted strongly of one.

    Hugs to you Abigail.

    Reply
  • I consider myself one of Roux’s biggest fans!!! If its got her name on the book, its an automatic buy for me.
    Seems everything she (and Urban) touch turns to gold. It’s too bad her love life isn’t so lucky.
    I wish her all the luck in the world, although she don’t need it too much with the talent she has.

    Reply
    • You and me (and Wave) both! Abigail rocks. I think I mentioned above that her collaboration with Madeleine makes for the best reading, but she is totally fab solo as well.

      And yes, we hope she gets past this bump in the road of love. (okay, totally hoakie, I know. 🙂 )

      Reply
  • Hi Lynn!
    Thanks for this review! I really like books with some action. And for me Western is action 😉 (because in Germany we never had all this wild west-bad guys thing – it’s like a mystery) I already like this book and the characters. Now I definitely need to read it! :mrgreen:

    Reply
    • Hey Julie. It has a lot of action, especially in the second half. And it does have a whole “wild, wild west” feel to it, even if that second half takes pace on the Mississippi River. Lots of “showdown at noon” (without the noon) and “gotta challenge the big gun” type of thing. 🙂

      Reply

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