I’m back! Did you miss me? I have SO many books to talk about in the coming weeks, and I’m kicking it off by jumping into a Lone Star Book Blog Tour of BJ Mayo’s western The Sparrows of Montenegro. Read on to discover why this book surprised me and what I loved about it.
I received an advanced copy of the book from the author via Lone Star Lit; all opinions are my own.
THE SPARROWS OF MONTENEGRO by BJ MAYO
Categories: Western / Historical Fiction / Texas
Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing
Date of Publication: February 8, 2022
Number of Pages: 312 pages
Scroll down for Giveaway!
Tree “Bigfoot” Smith and Cedar Jones first meet on the day they join the US Cavalry’s Fourth Cavalry Regiment based out of the Historic Fort Concho in what is now San Angelo, Texas, in 1870.
Their journey takes them into the heart of the dangerous Llano Estacado region known as the Comancheria. The area is ruthlessly defended by a band of Quahadi Comanche and their stoic leader, Lonely Horse. The Troop encounters a large group of Comanches and the gun-running Comancheros at Mushaway Mountain, close to Gail, Texas. A quick battle ensues that leaves eight men dead.
Post Cavalry life finds Tree Smith and Cedar Jones as cowhand and cook on the large Rolling J cattle ranch in South Texas bordering the Rio Grande River. The ranch employs two Vaqueros from the village of Montenegro in Mexico, just across the river, whom Tree befriends.
The quiet life on the Rolling J ranch is brought to an abrupt halt when a local sheriff warns that a band led by the cold-blooded, sadistic killer known as Gato Montes has been preying on the ranches along the Rio Grande. After the sheriff is nearly killed by these men, Tree is tasked with tracking them down, only this time, he is traveling alone and the dangers are greatly multiplied. His epic journey takes him back into the Llano Estacado where he is captured by Lonely Horse and taken to Mushaway Mountain where the Comanche carry out their own form of frontier justice.
Tree’s return journey puts him on the same path as Marco, a Mexican goat herder, who rides with him to the Mexican Village of Montenegro, where Tree meets Julia, who changes his life forever after he becomes involved in and bears witness to the wonderful celebration of Dia de los Muertos.
PRAISE FOR THE BOOK:
“I could not put this one down. Mayo has masterfully written a character-driven page-turner, a compelling tale for the reader who seeks something more than the stereotypical western novel.” —Ron Schwab, author of Goldsmith and the Law Wranglers series "This mild-mannered west Texas rancher has woven a border tapestry using yarns made of unimaginable horror and sweet innocence." —Tumbleweed Smith, author of Under the Chinaberry Tree "A thoroughly enjoyable read—a cowboy's trail you'll want to follow, with a memorable cast of characters, renegades, soldiers, lawmen, and simple folks, and a hero that you'll want more of." —John J. Jacobson, author of All the Cowboys Ain't Gone
WHERE TO BUY:
GRITTY1. showing or having a lot of unpleasant details or features.
2. showing courage and resolve; tough and uncompromising
The dictionary provides several meanings of the word gritty. The former is what typically comes to mind when I picture crime novels and traditional westerns. However, it is the latter that is more suited to The Sparrows of Montenegro, and it is these attributes which made me fall in love with the novel’s main character, Tree Smith.
This book was definitely not what I was expecting, either. (I confess, I’m typically not a reader of westerns, unless they should lean more heavily into historical fiction, which ultimately is where I’d categorize this novel.) I went into it expecting it to be very action driven, given the liner notes on the Cavalry, Comanche Indians, and one evil villain. Instead, I found a very character-driven story, one of self-forgiveness, loyalty, and (as found in the definition of gritty) resolve. BJ Mayo has written an epic story in four parts that quietly weaves characters and connections all while it slowly draws you in.
This is a quiet story (save a few graphic scenes – more on that later – and one epic escape) that unfolds slowly. It took the first chapter or so to really hook me, but once it had, I couldn’t put it down. Tree “Bigfoot” Smith is a reluctant hero at the start of the story, a gentle giant of a man weighed down by equally large remorse. He is a decent man, from taking over the running of the ranch to tracking down downright nasty bad guy, simply because it was asked of him and in his mind, the right thing to do.
This IS a historical fiction set in Texas where violence was a factor in daily life in some parts. The book reflects that in a few (mostly) short violent scenes (several involving the killer Tree is tasked with finding, and one with Lonely Horse, a Quahadi Comanche). The violence is not gratuitous, however, and the scenes are, while brutally vicious, mostly brief and have a place in the narrative.
There is a magic to the connections made in the book, where a glance a half a second too late might have made all the difference in the lives of the characters. Multiple smaller storylines are introduced and run throughout the book, and Mayo ties them together in the end.
If I had any complaints about the book it would be that, at times, the dialogue is very formal, particularly for cowboys with a rough background. While both Tree and his good friend Cedar Jones find love, Cedar’s story is allowed to develop, and so is more believable; I would have loved to see Tree’s romance have a little more time to flourish for me to fully buy in.
All in all, this was a gorgeous book with a wonderful redemption story.
I’m giving The Sparrows of Montenegro a solid five stars, with a warning for overly sensitive readers of brief scenes of violence.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR, BJ MAYO
BJ Mayo was born in an oil field town in Texas. His career in the energy industry took him to various points in Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Louisiana, Alabama, Bangladesh, Australia, and Angola, West Africa.
He and his wife were high school sweethearts and have been married for forty-six years. They live on a working farm near San Angelo, Texas.
Connect with the author:
Autographed copies of The Sparrows of Montenegro. (US only. Ends 2/19/22)
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|Reading by Moonlight
|Hall Ways Blog
|The Plain-Spoken Pen
|The Book’s Delight
|Momma on the Rocks
|Librariel Book Adventures
|Julia Picks 1
|Rainy Days with Amanda
|The Clueless Gent