Saturday, February 19, 2011

Journey to Riverbend by Henry McLaughlin

Rating: 3 stars

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.”

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