Monday, August 11, 2014

ARC Review: Grace and the Guiltless by Erin Johnson

Title: Grace and the Guiltless
Series: Wanted #1
Author: Erin Johnson
Punlished: July 1, 2014 by Switch Press (Capstone)
Amazon Goodreads 

 Synopsis: Grace Milton's peaceful life with her family on a horse ranch outside Tombstone, Arizona is shattered in one devastating night. Her family is brutally murdered by the notorious Guiltless Gang, leaving Grace the only survivor. Trekking into the wilderness on her stallion, Grace falls ill from the elements. A young man named Joe saves her life by taking her to an Apache camp where she learns about their way of life and begins to fall for Joe. When Grace encounters one of the Guiltless Gang, her strength will be tested. Can she survive as a bounty hunter, or will she fall into darkness again? This Western revenge epic will captivate teen readers with its ruthless spirit of suspense and adventure and a powerful central romance.

**** I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley for an honest view in return. This fact has not swayed my opinion****

Also fair warning, this is going to be a really ranty review!

I could not have been more excited about reading this book. It seems like forever ago now but there was once a Top Ten Tuesday where we had to discuss our bookish wishlists. One of my wishes was more books set in the Old West. Well I actually think it was books set on the Oregon Trail, but you get the idea. I love historical fiction and this is a fascinating period. The struggle for survival, the desire to start a new life, the adventure. But maybe it just sounds good on paper and not in execution because this is the second Western I have read and both of them disappointed me (the first was a DNF).

Despite some deficiencies Grace and the Guiltless did have some good moments. First was the beginning. This book started with a literal bang and I was instantly hooked. The author does a fantastic job of setting the tone of the novel by getting the reader emotionally invested in the success of the book's heroine. When Grace began her search for revenge I was right there with her. The first few chapters were full of action, adventure, and emotional turmoil. It was so good that I had high hopes for the rest of the book but things really fizzled. The author did bring things back up for a thrilling bit of action for the climax but the vast majority of the book was incredibly lacking in plot development for me. The book was a sandwich where you the most phenomenal bread but the meat inside is the boring part. The middle portion was this poorly plotted and quickly advanced through section of nothing but training montages and travel montages (which you know that I hate).

One of my biggest frustrations about this book was the ending. This is the first book in a series and if that wasn't clear before hand it absolutely was by the end of the book. It felt like the worst kind of culprit of First Book Syndrome. The climax of the novel was fantastic and trilling but when the falling action occurred, it fell, and it fell hard! It ended on a cliffhanger but not the kind of cliffhanger that makes you want to keep reading. The kind of cliffhanger where it just stops. Nothing really felt resolved and it even took this drastic turn at the end of the book that only served to set things up for the rest of the series. It was like you are running on a track towards the finish line and when you're almost to the end you switch lanes so you can run around around a second time. This was extremely frustrating for me as the reader.

I did however enjoy many of the characters in the book. Grace was a realistic and complex character that I found as a good protagonist for this story. She is brave and determined to achieve the task she has set out to do (seek revenge) but it is constantly clouding her judgement. She is fixated on this fact and her main character flaw is this need for vengeance and retribution. But her determination cannot overcome the fact that she is not at all prepared to achieve these ends and is always putting herself in harms way. Throughout the book she has the most cliche Hero's Journey imaginable and despite the fact that it was a little forced I do still really like Grace. I also really like many of the other secondary characters she encounters throughout the book. Many of them are tropes from traditional Westerns but they were still entertaining.

But what didn't entertain me was the romance. That was without a doubt my least favorite part of this book. Even just thinking about it now makes me roll my eyes. So much about this book seemed forced but nothing more so than the romance. Joe is one of those Western tropes, he's a white man who has basically been raised by Native Americans and knows their ways and culture. He decides to teach Grace how to hunt and track so that she will give up her vengeful ways and I instantly knew that this was going to turn romantic. And it didn't quite get there which made it all even worse. It was just constant flirting and references to how Grace thought he was attractive and how she wanted to kiss him. To me it felt like there were little moments thrown in at inopportune times so that it would lead to the endgame of a relationship, but I wasn't quite sold on the idea. I'm not sure I would call it instalove, it was more just out of left field and didn't quite fit with the tone of the story.

Grace and the Guiltless was a fast read that may appeal to fans of Westerns. It did do a pretty good job of establishing the tone of the historical period. I absolutely felt the idea of the lawlessness of the Old West and the struggle for survival that many of the people at the time must have felt. I also really felt the feeling of conflict between the Native Americans and the Settlers and the book did a great job of showing both sides of that story. Unfortunately the world-building could overcome my disappointment in the plot.

I give Grace and the Guiltless by Erin Johnson a 6 out of 10 stars.

Have you read Grace and the Guiltless? What were your thoughts? Do you enjoy Westerns? Any recommendations? I really would like to find one that I enjoyed. One with lots of action or good world-building and a solid plot. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

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