Title: Murder at the Rocking R
Author: Catt Ford
Cover artist: Catt Ford
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Amazon: Buy Link Murder at the Rocking R
Genre: Historical / Western / Romance / Mystery-lite
Length: Novella/53 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5
A guest review by Sirius
Summary: This historical novella should have been a much longer story and this was my main source of disappointment with it despite lovely writing.
When Texas Ranger Tell Hadley is sent to investigate rustling in Oklahoma Territory, he finds two dead men and signs of a survivor on the run. Were the killings lynchings or simply frontier justice? Tracking the one man left standing leads him to Noel Ivory, a tenderfoot East Coast journalist who claims his friend Jack Rogers was murdered. Neither man trusts the other, and both have secrets to keep, but if they’re going to solve the murder at the Rocking R, they’re going to have to let down their guards and show their hands.
I really enjoy Catt Ford’s writing and I have not read anything new by her in a while, so I was happy to request this story for review. I really liked the smooth flow of this novella, and I could easily picture the settings in my mind. Additionally both guys were drawn very well and as I would expect from this author, the writing was excellent. But…it was over way too quickly and I cannot say that I was completely satisfied because I thought that this would have been much better as a longer story.
First and foremost, while I really liked both Tell and Noel and enjoyed their interactions, I felt their connection was entirely too fast for me. I have read stories where I could swallow some varieties of Insta!Love, but unfortunately here this was not the case. It is not that I did not like them together; it was just a bit unbelievable for me that they would want to be together basically forever after knowing each other for such short period of time. I would guess the idea was that since they met in extraordinary, life or death circumstances, their senses were stronger, etc, and maybe it was easier to recognize one’s true love, but again if this was the idea, I was not quite convinced. I could easily see them wanting to continue their friendship and relationship, trying to get to know each other better, but without “I will never let you go now that I’ve found you” kind of thing.
I also wanted more depth in both protagonists’ portrayal. They were very likeable characters, but at the end of the story, there was very little that I knew about them besides them wanting to be with each other and that they are both honorable people and would do anything to bring justice for the sake of victim.
Lastly, I am not sure this story should be considered a mystery. When I classify a story as a “mystery”, I usually think of a much more complicated and sophisticated plot than this one, where there is an actual mysterious element that the protagonist(s) try to solve. Here, it is not a great secret who the guilty party is and Tell figures out what happened almost right away, so the only question is how to prove it and I would not consider showing that proof to be the resolution of mystery. I just did not see any mystery in the first place.