Review of Murder at the Rocking R by Catt Ford

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Rating: 4 stars

While pursuing investigations into cattle rustling in Oklahoma Territory, Ranger Tell Hadley came upon a hanged man, dead cattle, and two men left dying in the dust around them.  Now he is on the trail of the survivor to find out what happened back on the Rocking R ranch and blood marks show him that man is injured.

Noel Ivory is a man on the run.  His best friend Jack Rogers has been murdered, his cattle killed, and he aims to avenge his friend.  But he is injured and being trailed by a stranger.  When Tell Hadley catches up with Noel, he is surprised to find that the man he has been tracking is a young reporter from back East with a story of water rights, murder and the involvement of a prominent local family to tell him.

Noel is not sure who he can trust and Tell knows that Noel is hiding something from him.  Can the two men learn to trust each other in time to bring the murderers to justice or will Noel be the next victim?

Catt Ford had me at the name Tell.  That name alone brought back a rush of memories and affection for one of my all time favorite characters in western fiction, William “Tell” Sackett of Louis L’Amour’s novels. I have every one of his books, passed down to me by my dad, a die hard L’Amour fan. And with her opening sentence she dropped me back into the wide ranges populated with trail savvy fighters of the genre I love.

Ranger Tell Hadley follows in the boot steps of other solitary men of honor westerns are so fond of.  Able to track a man where others fail, borne by a half wild Mustang as savvy as himself, I loved Tell from the beginning.  Cautious and fair, I find that he is the heart of the story and not the character of Noel Ivory as Catt Ford may have intended.  Noel Ivory presents some challenges here as a character in a western.  While it is true the typical “Easterner” is found throughout western fiction, Noel ended up presenting me with more questions than answers about his character.  He is a reporter from Philadelphia who ventured out west with his best friend yet our canny Ranger has some trouble tracking him as Noel appears to know tricks that only the wiliest of trackers  would know. How Noel obtained that knowledge is never explained as his friend only passed the rudiments of riding and tracking to him. Plus Noel has an equally smart steed in Smokey who appears on his way to character status and then disappears.

Another irritation here is the “instant love” between Noel and Tell.  Noel is injured and grieving over the loss of his best friend while trying to bring to justice the men who murdered him.  Tell is trying to get Noel to trust him while carrying out his duties as a Ranger,  So how is it that their gaydar goes off, they have sex and declare their love for each other? I would have found it much easier to believe in a longer story. I just found it hard to believe in 58 pages.

I think Catt Ford could have solved most of these issues by extending the length of the story.  This is a very short story with the feel of a much larger one. She has done an excellent job here with her location,  demonstrating a nice touch for the territory and small cattle towns.  I loved her descriptions of the trail, the land around it and the men and horses who move through it. And her alternating POV between Noel and Tell worked well to bring each character closer to the reader.  Everything works here, we just need a little more time to get to know Noel and watch a relationship grow between the two men. These two characters deserve that degree of reader satisfaction and realism. And that would have turned a lovely short story into a great novella.

Cover:  Cover art by Catt Ford, cover design by Mara McKinnon.  I like the cover, especially the dark blue background.  The title would have been easier to see in a light color but overall nice job.

Pork Florentine and the Week Ahead

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This is going to be a great week ahead with some exciting books to be reviewed, including Who We Are by TJ Klune and the first book in a great new fantasy series by Megan Derr.  A Mary Calmes book is reviewed as is the latest book from a new author for me, AR Moler.  Happy Mother’s Day all.  Have a great Sunday!  It’s picture perfect weather here and I am going outside to enjoy it!

Monday:                           Review of Bear, Otter and The Kid by TJ Klune in preparation for its sequel

Tuesday:                           Review of Who We Are by TJ Klune, sequel to BOATK

Wednesday:                     Review of Treasure (Lost Gods #1) by Megan Derr – a real treat for all you fantasy lovers

Thursday:                         Review of Frog by Mary Calmes

Friday:                               Review of How We Operate by A.R. Moler

 

Today is all about the great dinner I fixed last night – a perfect for Mother’s Day or any day at all.  Trust me, you will serve this over and over again.

Rolled Pork Florentine

Serves: 4            Prep time: 3o min  Total Cooking Time: 1 hr 10 min   Total Time: 1 hr 40 min

Ingredients:

1 pork loin, about 2 pounds
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
7 ounces spinach
2 slices bacon, cut into lardons or small pieces about 1/4 inch
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
4 tablespoons breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon oil, for frying
1/2 cup white wine

Directions:

Heat the oven to 375 degrees F. Set the pork on a cutting board and imagine you’re going to cut an upside-down letter T into it: in other words, slice half-way through, lengthwise, then half-way through to the left and the right. Open out the meat. Lay plastic wrap over it, and pound flat with a mallet. Season with salt and pepper, and set aside.

Rinse the spinach and spin dry, allowing a little water to remain clinging to the leaves. Put it in a saute pan, cover, and wilt, about 5 minutes. Lay the spinach on a clean tea or kitchen towel and squeeze dry. Chop, and set aside.

Wipe out the pan and put if back on the stove. Fry the bacon until cooked, remove to drain. Pour off all but a tablespoon or 2 of the fat and fry the onion until golden. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute. Stir through the bread crumbs and spinach. Season with salt and pepper.

Pat the stuffing over the meat, leaving a 1-inch border. Roll and tie the pork at 2-inch intervals. Wipe out the saute pan and heat the oil in it. Brown the meat on all sides, pour in the wine, and then transfer to the oven and roast until done, about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and let the meat rest 10 minutes. Wrap for later, or slice and serve with the pan juices poured over.