Wednesday, 19 February 2020

Have Brides, Will Travel

By William W. Johnstone and J.A. Johnstone
Pinnacle paperback, October 2019
Kensington hardcover, April 2019

Bo Creel and Scratch Morton are lifelong drifters who keep one eye on the horizon, one finger on the trigger, and one foot out the door. Roaming the West is what keeps them young, or so Scratch tells Bo. But when they save the life of Cyrus Keegan – the owner of a matrimonial agency – they receive an unexpected proposal that’s hard to resist. Keegan needs to deliver five mail order brides to a mining town in New Mexico Territory. All Scratch and Bo have to do is get these gals to the church on time – and alive, if possible . . . 

The job seems easy enough – and the brides-to-be are even easier on the eyes. Cecilia, Beth, Luella, Rose, and Jean all need good husbands. But their prospects look bad when the journey to the alter includes Mexican banditos, scheming silver robbers, and one overbearing rancher who won’t take no for an answer. Bo and Scratch promised to keep the ladies safe – and keep their hands to themselves – but it could be the last vow they’ll ever make . . . 

This book is billed as the first in a new series but the two main characters, Bo and Scratch have starred in another Johnstone series, Sidewinders that ran from 2008 until 2014, and it is great to see them back. They aren’t the only characters making a return, fans of the Johnstone books may well recognize Cyrus Keegan too as he appeared in Ride the Savage Land, book four in the Those Jensen Boys! series. 

Bo and Scratch are a very likeable pair of old-timers, whose long friendship and background is explained briefly during the opening chapters of this story. Escorting the brides-to-be offers plenty of opportunity for danger and humour. There’s plenty for these ladies to learn, such as the art of firing a handgun and a rifle. It’s during these lessons that the author really brings out each ladies’ personality. 

After a violent clash with bandits, the small group finally reach their destination – the boomtown of Silverhill, and it’s here that the first twist to the tale takes place. Many more characters are introduced as the plot gets more complex as different groups of outlaws and individuals use the arrival of the brides as a distraction as they put their own plans into motion, one of which involves kidnapping one of those young ladies. 

The author builds his story extremely well to the last desperate battles in the streets of Silverhill and the descriptions of the action scenes are very visual. The author has another surprise waiting for the final scenes with the arrival of someone who further complicates matters. The conclusion of this book does bring an end to most of the story-threads but a couple are left hanging. Maybe they’ll be continued in book two of the series, Shotgun Wedding, and I for one am very much looking forward to reading that.

Available in hardback, paperback,
ebook and audio CD.

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