I’m a big fan of Western Historical Romances and fell in love with Deborah Camp’s writing when I first read one of her books back in 2017. It was a sudden thing. I felt curious and wanted to give it a try. Needless to say, I haven’t looked back ever since. So when I heard that she’s writing a new western historical, of course I had to read it. Honestly, I’m glad that I did!
Ropin’ the Moon is a completely stand alone read so you can read it as such. The story is set a few years after the Civil War in a small town of Kansas called Far Creek. Far Creek wasn’t a bustling town by any stretch of the word but the people here were getting by somehow. They had almost all they needed, including a moderately built hotel to accommodate visitors, a town mercantile, saloons etc. What the town didn’t have, however, was strong law enforcement. Well, there was a Marshall but he didn’t have the courage to stand ground with the owner of the neighboring ranch, the Pullman’s. Junior Pullman, a wealthy rancher, a dictator and an overall a$$hole, viewed Far Creek as one of the his ‘things’ to control and his equally sh!ta$$ ranch-hands would ride the town roughshod whenever it suited them. There was no one to leash them in and make them pay for their misbehavior. No one to say anything to be precise cause the so-called Marshall and most everyone thought that catering to Pullman’s whims was the best way to go, seeing how whoever declined to obey him would more often than not be visited by ‘bad luck’ where their home and livelihood would be completely ruined. Sometimes they paid with their lives as well.
Lacy Tyrell had seen war. She has lost her elder brother and her father to it, then floated from one place to another—as her mother and her older sisters have settled in different states after the war—until she ended up in Far Creek, back to the place from where she began. It’s here she had her home before the war, where they also lost everything. Junior Pullman bought the ranch out as they didn’t have any money left. Lacy came back to visit her old uncle Otis, the above mentioned town Marshall, and maybe visiting her old homestead which stood no longer where it once was. But that was 3 yrs. ago and though she didn’t plan on being here for so long, Lacy was still here. She found a job at the town hotel. The owner, who is a Dutch by birth and goes by Dutch too, had been good to her. Lacy was the hotel manager and cashier both and loved her job. Somehow, even her never having any thought of putting down root in this town, time has passed.
When they all heard of a new Marshall coming to town to take care of the current lawlessness, Lacy wasn’t happy. She knew it meant Uncle Otis will either lose his job or he’ll be demoted...and he was demoted. But then the day came when the new Marshall was supposed to arrive. Lacy stood at the front of the hotel and saw this tall, goodlooking man she had never seen here before. Of course, in a small-town like Far Creek, everyone knew everyone so Lacy would’ve known him too. But he was a newcomer. Their eyes met and it stayed that way for a while. Later Lacy would realize that the way this man was dressed up and held himself confidently, he had to be the new Marshall!
Dalton Moon had also seen war, almost exactly like Lacy but not quite since he’d also fought in the war that made a man out of him in a very short time. Born as the youngest of many brothers and sisters, Dalton had been coddled by his sisters way too much until his father decided he needed to be put to work and learn the ways of the world and toughen up. Dalton had worked on an uncle’s ranch, then fought in the war. He may have returned almost physically unscathed, mentally he still grieved the loss of his comrades and all that he’s witnessed in general. Post war, his restless soul needed to do something and Dalton had thought about working as a wandering Marshall to wherever he gets a job to right the wrongs done. It all began with a bit of curiosity but now Dalton loved his job. In the past years, he’s made a name for himself. He was known for his fast draw and there were rumors aplenty about his ways of marshalling a town. Mostly good but some… well, not so much.
To Dalton, Far Creek was just another town, another job he’s just been hired for. He’s been notified of the Pullmans and immediately knew after meeting his deputy, the former Marshall, that he’s absolutely terrified of Junior Pullman. That put Dalton in a bit of dilemma, could he actually trust Otis to be on his side? To have his back? But then he went about the task of getting to know the people of the town and come to realize that the blonde beauty he’d spied on the first thing when he’d arrived here was Otis’s own niece! That put him in a bigger dilemma. It was certain that the beauty has noticed him and he, despite all his misgivings, have noticed her and was more than interested in her already. Dalton knew he’d have to tread lightly about Otis and see what the coming weeks bring for him.
When Dalton and Lacy formally met, she was more than happy to show her unhappiness about Dalton’s arrival in town. She was being snippy to him most of the times. It seemed like she’d already decided Dalton would be no good to the town anyway since no one, I mean absolutely NO ONE, dares to defy the meanie called Junior Pullman and his bunch since many of them don’t live long to tell the tales. What could a lone Marshall do here? It seemed like some of the rumors of Dalton being ‘trigger happy’ had reached the town and Otis had rather emphasized upon it even without trying to know Dalton in any real sense. And that warped Lacy’s view of Dalton for a while. Besides, of course, like most of the townspeople she was rather worried of backlash coming from the Pullmans.
Dalton began methodically, and diligently, working through the mess trying to figure out how best to approach the Pullmans. He knew he’d have to introduce himself to the snake himself to gauge the situation. He does that and came away with the impression that he’s got quite an impressive adversary to tackle here. Who also happens to think he’s invincible and what he says is THE law. It’d be a tough challenge to try and instill law and order in such a situation but Dalton was up for the challenge. Soon he sent his first notice to Pullman by arresting one of his no-good ranchers who came to the town by locking him up. Even though that piece of trash escaped thanks to Pullman’s cronies and Otis’s idiocy, Dalton tracked and found him. And this time, this man saw the trial for the wrongs he’d done and got thrown in jail for good. Pullman, of course, retaliated by having one of key the witnesses of the trial murdered, as typical of him.
This went on for better part of the story. Truth be told, I thought the story dragged on for the first few chapters and there wasn’t much happening that caught my interest. Plus Lacy and Dalton’s attraction seemed purely physical, based on their good-looks, rather than anything of substance. Lacy was known to be the belle of that area and other bachelors always were after her. Dalton caught on the fever like the rest. Of course Dalton himself was good-looking, a rather mysterious stranger who’d taken up the challenge to challenge the Pullmans. There was a lot to appeal Lacy about that even if she, at first, tried to dismiss him as nobody interesting. All seemed rather too convenient for my liking.
I also wondered how in the world Lacy survived 3 years without ANY harassment from the Pullman peeps, especially from Junior’s only son Trey, who was being groomed as an exact image of his father? It didn’t add up since Lacy was said to have been such a beauty! :/ It’s true, Lacy wasn’t showy or tried to flaunt or use her beauty for any gain but that didn’t matter, did it? Thankfully, Lacy took everything in stride including every compliment coming from her beaus and it never went to her head. That was one of the things I liked about her. Dalton was your typical honest, hard-working bloke who believed that there’s only right or wrong, and he needed to fix the wrongs if it was within his power to do so. The war had drummed a lot of things into him, and this was one of those things.
In a few chapters though, after reading about how ruthless the Pullmans were and how a tyrannical figure like that can affect a small-town like Far Creek, at last I felt that this story was going somewhere. I felt glued to the pages because I needed to know what’s coming next and how the hell Dalton was gonna fix this mess! Come to think of it, the whole situation was actually rather chilling; that you can’t do anything on your own in fear of angering someone, then bringing down disaster on you and your family! There was nowhere to hide in a place like Far Creek. Junior was wealthy enough to have all the power and influence on his side as well. He did seem invincible at times, but of course, no one is invincible as we find out at the end of the story.
I was also appreciating Dalton and Lacy’s budding relationship at this point. Their interactions finally seemed genuine enough for me to believe in their feelings for one-another. Even though for a long time Lacy was influenced by the general apprehension about the Pullmans, some incidents finally made her realize that Dalton’s ways may have seemed rash and dangerous at that time, when he said that this town needed to stand up to Pullman to show him they didn’t fear him instead of catering to him, he was absolutely right. You can’t tackle an enemy like Pullman without courting danger every step of the way and Dalton was man enough to do it. Otis, despite his intentions of less bloodshed and trouble, wouldn’t really have done much for the town and eventually, Pullman’s ways would’ve made things even worse for Far Creek’s inhabitants. If this town was to thrive, Pullman and his poison needed to go.
I’d say that the ending was rather surprising. Surprisingly easy. I was gearing up for a big showdown but, in essence, that didn’t happen. Don’t get me wrong, I’m rather relieved that it ended the way it did but seeing how things were between Pullman, his gang and Dalton, I expected a big...something. Something has been brewing ever since Dalton walked into Far Creek and people have lost lives to prove that things may have been going downhill fast. Frankly, I wasn’t sure what to expect but I also wasn’t that disappointed in the ending. The only thing that disappointed (or more precisely, surprised) me that there was no love scene between Lacy and Dalton. After all the passionate kisses it seemed inevitable at one point. I wish there were a few more chapters with their life together.
In conclusion, all aside, I really did enjoy Ropin’ the Moon. Shouldn’t have doubted the author’s ability to turn the story into something thrilling in the first place. 4 stars and recommended!
Review published as a part of Ropin' the Moon book blast, October 11, 2019 hosted by Goddess Fish Promotions. I received an ARC, thanks to the author and Goddess Fish.