The Hardest Ride is a Western, which is not my expertise in reviewing, however, given that disclaimer, it was a ride I could not put down. True, it took me a few pages to adapt myself to the western twang, but once I sank into the rhythm, I was off at a gallop. No American is oblivious to Westerns, most of us have grown up with them, whether it be movies or TV shows like the Lone Ranger, True Grit, The Magnificent Seven, etcetera. Gordon Rottman has written a thrilling tale that cleaves close to what life must have been like in the West in the 1800's.
I could see the landscape. Felt the cold winds and icy nights. Laughed at the tough talk, and melted for the anti-hero, a young cow punch. I even learned something I never knew, that a cowboy referred to himself as a “punch,” and oh, let’s not forget the frijoles, which by the end of the book, I could taste.
I fell for Bud Eugen, the hero of The Hardest Ride. Bud’s suffered an abusive mother, no father, and managed to retain a sense of humor, a giving heart, and innocence in a world where rough and tough is the name of the game. He’s smart enough to have absorbed his lessons from older cowboys and vaqueros who are more experienced than him and learned to be a damn good tracker and an ace shooter. He’s a survivor who shows true grit when the chips are down. When he rescues a young Mexican girl, a mute, whose family have been killed by Indians the story takes off. Marta is a fiery pistol of a girl. For the life of him, Bud can’t figure her out. He tries every which way of ridding himself of her, but the girl has a will and determination that cannot be broken and she won’t get gone. She’s a strong woman heroine, and it’s impossible not to fall in love with her.
So begins a journey of discovery, of hardship, of memorable characters, of kidnapping, of killing, of escaping, and of falling in love. You better have the stomach for some graphic killing, but this is the wild west, the borderlands of Texas and Mexico where Bandidos reign, and you’re more likely to die today than live until tomorrow.
The Hardest Ride was a great introduction to the Western genre and a must-read. I intend to read more Westerns and perhaps acquire a taste for frijoles.