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Number of Pages: 384
Vendor: Tyndale House
Publication Date: 2011
|Dimensions: 8.25 X 5.50 (inches)|
Availability: Usually ships in 24-48 hours.
Soon after arriving in Riverbend, Michael meets and falls for the stunning Rachel Stone while waiting for Sam to return from a business trip. Beautiful yet guarded, Rachel seems to be running from a past as dark as Michaels.
When word reaches town that Sam has been kidnapped on the stagecoach home, Michael offers to join the search party formed by the local sheriff. With a budding romance behind him and a dangerous rescue ahead of him, he sets out on the trail, determined to complete his journey no matter the cost.
McLaughlin switches back and forth among the views of several characters, concentrating on each person as paths intersect and divide again throughout the novel. In each short chapter, he shares just enough information to keep the reader interested before moving back to the other characters. As he develops the romance between Michael and Rachel, he offers breaks in their emotional tension by switching the viewpoint to Sam, as he is held in captivity and tortured by an old enemy. Although McLaughlin offers too much explanation and back story in the first thirty pages of the novel, he does eventually reach his stride in developing the emotional progression of the characters. He doesn't shy away from the intense emotions experienced by former prostitutes and murderers who have become Christians. Allowing each character to deal with his or her shame, McLaughlin has no magical quick fixes, but truly delves into the conflicts the characters experience within themselves.
The concept of forgiveness pervades the entire novel, as each of the three main characters is trapped in self-doubt and an inability to accept forgiveness. Both Michael and Rachel convince themselves that they don't deserve the other person because of the sins in their pasts. Knowing they have been forgiven by Christ, they still cannot move past the issues and forgive themselves. However, they are more than willing to forgive each other. It's an excellent example of what Jesus described in Luke 7:47, "Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgivenfor she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little." McLaughlin clearly understands that those people who have lived lives steeped in sin and have then been forgiven by Christ are willing to forgive those who sin against them; just as both Rachel and Michael are willing to forgive one another for the multitude of sins in their respective pasts.
Beyond the issues of guilt and shame, McLaughlin also concentrates on how the men and women living in this old western community minister to one another in times of trouble. He presents men of integrity and compassion and a small town that works together to save one of their own. A couple of the Christian men in Riverbend give an excellent testimony to Christ when they are willing to sacrifice their own lives for a man they barely knew and who treated even his own family with hatred and cruelty. The values of bravery, community, and loyalty are demonstrated frequently and powerfully by the men in Michael's posse as they search for the missing Sam and struggle together to return to their families.
Journey to Riverbend definitely targets an audience interested in both romance and western adventures. Though Michael and Rachel do find love through the novel, the primary focus is on the path they follow as they find the strength to accept forgiveness and to move on to the next phase in their lives. For Rachel, she must learn to love and trust men again, while Michael determines to control his penchant for violence even as he strives to protect those he loves. The emotional turmoil experienced by the characters in the book will no doubt connect with readers who have experienced great tragedies or internal struggles in their own relationships and sins. It can be incredibly difficult as Christians to accept that Christ has forgiven completely and to move past all guilt and shame. Henry McLaughlin clearly addresses that concern through his characters as he follows them through their struggles, offering hope to his readers who experience similar situations. Nicole Miller, www.ChristianBookPreviews.com
GazpachoClare, MIAge: 55-65Gender: female5 Stars Out Of 5A unique, exciting Old Wild West DramaMay 6, 2014GazpachoClare, MIAge: 55-65Gender: femaleQuality: 5Value: 5Meets Expectations: 5Journey to Riverbend is one of those books that is a stand alone with potential for much more. This first time author writes such magnetic characters with unique living and breathing voices that I have had the desire to move to Riverbend to get to know its people better. Even the unsavory residents add to the town's charm and vitality. The action is so driving that I couldn't put the book down once I started reading.
The opening scene is the hanging of a gangly young man whom the main character, Michael Archer, is convinced is innocent. Young Ben's final request was to ask Michael to visit his estranged father, Sam Carstairs, to deliver some letters, an item Ben cherished of his mother's, and attempt a post-mortem reconciliation of some sort.
Michael Archer brought along a letter of recommendation from his friend Sheriff Gideon Parsons to take to Riverbend's Sheriff to elicit his assistance in his efforts. Sheriff Caleb Davis was as good as Parsons in reading character, and this lean and tough young man didn't appear to be the typical kind for ministerial duties. It made him curious to know Michael's life story. He knew this task would be difficult because although Sam Carstairs was the town's benefactor, he was ruthless and hard as nails.
In the meantime, Sam Carstairs had traveled to San Francisco for business, an annual event. On the return trip, he received two disturbing threatening notes. Then in the last leg of his journey he was abducted. As soon as news of the kidnapping reached Riverbend, Sheriff Davis organized a search posse and included Michael Archer.
This is one of the best books I have read set in the Old Wild West. The author's descriptive language is powerful. The setting as well as the characters came alive as we follow Michael along his personal, spiritual, and physical journey. The reader realizes that the title of the book is multi-dimensional as the story picks up on Sam Carstairs own harrowing experiences and the baffling behavior of his abductors.
The book is full of the gritty elements of life in the Old Wild West. Evil is honestly portrayed for what it is and well written in contrast to the good seen in the lives of several of the members of the posse and village. Michael is a strong Christian with a mission in mind, but even he has his demons to deal with. I would rate this book at PG13 because of the multiple incidences where evil triumphs momentarily. Yet while this is true, the Gospel message is strong without being preachy. The author manages to balance the two contrasting characteristics in such a manner that neither is overwhelming. If the author were to write 100 more of this type of book, I would read and recommend all.
However, I can't emphasize enough to parents of teens and pre-teens to exercise caution. There is nothing in the book to compromise the Judeo-Christian values, yet some incidences may be upsetting to those sensitive to brutality. This is a book written for adults, not for children.
There are several supporting characters in this book just begging for a story of their own, or at least for a bit more resolution. This includes the love interest of the main character, Rachel Stone. I sincerely hope this means the author intends to write more.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed 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."
tmurrellTNAge: 35-44Gender: female1 Stars Out Of 5Not my style, too graphic for younger readersMay 15, 2013tmurrellTNAge: 35-44Gender: femaleQuality: 1Value: 1Meets Expectations: 1Michael is at the hanging of an innocent man, Ben Carstairs. Right before his death, Ben asks Michael to find his father and give him a message. Michael begins the journey with only one thought in mind. He'll find Mr. Carstairs, give the message and then go on with his life. But his plans aren't even close to reality. A beautiful woman, a manhunt, and death were not on the agenda. But God can bring beauty out of death and pain.
I just couldn't love this book the I wanted to. The cover kept me from even starting the book, but once I did, it didn't get any better. The characters didn't resonate with me. The plot was slow moving and easily predictable. And the ending was left in such a way that there might be a sequel, but I couldn't find any hint that another book was coming. If you like any loose ends tied up, then you won't like the ending. There wasn't anything at all resolved. My summery would be that this is a Christian western with lots of "preaching", quite a bit of violence, scenes not appropriate for children to read, and a good writing style. I'm giving the book such a low rating because I really didn't like the book and can't honestly recommend it to anyone.
I received this book free of charge from Tyndale in exchange for my honest review.
tandersonTexasAge: 35-44Gender: female5 Stars Out Of 5Great storyJuly 24, 2012tandersonTexasAge: 35-44Gender: femaleQuality: 5Value: 5Meets Expectations: 5I really enjoyed this story. It showed the struggles of people trusting God to bring them through the muck and mire of their past into a place of forgiveness. Great theme--can't wait for the next book from this author!
RoseAge: 18-24Gender: female2 Stars Out Of 5Details a lot of evil against womenJuly 16, 2012RoseAge: 18-24Gender: femaleQuality: 4Value: 3Meets Expectations: 1I began reading this book knowing nothing of it, and was put off by the detailed accounts of thoughts and actions against women in the context of taking advantage of them. After the first few pages I didn't want to read any more, but I skipped ahead further in the book several times to see if it changed - literally, every page I skipped ahead to throughout the book contained some sort of mention or description of sexual harassment against women.
For me personally, any beneficial message of the book was crowded out by the focus on such ugliness, and particularly the way it's worded in such a fashion that it appears a reader is invited to take pleasure in it even if the overall message is disapproval of such sinful acts.
I'd advise anyone sensitive to the above to avoid reading it. That being said, from the bits I read it does seem the quality of the writing is quite good, so if my review doesn't put you off then chances are this book might end up being a worthwhile read for you.
aklinslowAnchorage, AKAge: 18-24Gender: female4 Stars Out Of 5NOT your typical Christian historical romance! :-)July 21, 2011aklinslowAnchorage, AKAge: 18-24Gender: femaleQuality: 5Value: 4Meets Expectations: 4Henry McLaughlin is an extremely talented writer, weaving a tale so vividly that I feel I could draw a map of the places traveled and could paint each character's portrait. At times it truly seemed that I was using all five senses while reading "Journey to Riverbend."
Now, I'm not going to try and write a synopsis here, since anyone can just go and read the editorial review. Instead I'm going to focus on what made this book an interesting and unique read.
I said this is not a typical Christian historical fiction novel because its not filled with the fluff that so many of them are. "Journey to Riverbend" deals with the true, nitty gritty, and sometimes just plain horrendous parts of life, especially life in the "Old Wild West." The protagonists and heroes are flawed, dealing with their own pasts of lawlessness and sin, and are still plagued with their former lives, quite like reality. However, the truth of God's Gospel is just as, or perhaps even more relevant and life-changing, and the message of His grace and redemption is woven throughout.
One aspect of the book that was quite impressive to me, was McLaughlin's ability to create evil and despicable characters and yet show their humanity and the broken parts of their souls that made them who they were, enabling the reader to actually feel understanding and perhaps even sympathy for them.
*possible spoiler alert*
In conclusion, if you're looking for a story that is all sunshine and lollipops, with everything coming together at the end in a nice little package, without pain, heartache and sadness, this is NOT the book for you! I really appreciated Mr. McLaughlin's willingness to write out of the box, resisting the pressure to give the reader a "happily ever after", "everything coming up roses" ending that is so common in Christian fiction, but frankly so unrealistic in life and/or history.