3 out of 4 stars
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Ty Jones fought with the South in the Civil War, but he's done his time and is ready to move on. He's heading west and planning on starting his own ranch. Likewise, Jack Donaldson was in the Northern army. After seeing his two best friends die and being injured himself, he's leaving the army. He, also, wants to head west. When the two meet on the trail, they realize they have more in common than not and vow to join together to start their ranch. The West is still wild, though, and it's not going to be easy.
Flat Top Mountain Ranch: The Beginning by James E. Doucette is a historical fiction. There's some language and violence; therefore, I would recommend it only to high school age and older. In all other aspects, it's a light-hearted story that still manages to discuss some weightier topics like the uselessness of war and the plight of the Indians. Considering this, it could make for some good discussion.
The story was told in the third person, which was a good way to get multiple perspectives. It was always clear as to who was speaking, and I appreciated the well-organized narrative. In addition, this was one of the best edited books I've read in a while, as I found only one mistake in the book's entirety.
I most liked the historicity of the book. The battles are detailed without too much gore, and you can learn more about this time period in an interesting way. Real people and places are mentioned in the book, and it's clear that the author has done his research. Anyone curious about the Civil War and Indian resettlement should pick up this novel for a different viewpoint.
While the book was enjoyable to read, there was a depth that was lacking. Characters fell in love immediately without any development in the relationship. I felt little to no emotion when the war experiences were discussed. As mentioned above, the author clearly has a view on the Indian relocation, but it's not detailed in such a way as to make an impact. It was such a sad time in our history that I felt like this was a misstep by Mr. Doucette. Yet, it added to the lighter feel of the novel. It's a balancing act, but the author erred too much on the side of caution.
All in all, I'm appreciative of the opportunity to read the novel, but it fell flat in places. This is why I rate Flat Top Mountain Ranch: The Beginning 3 out of 4 stars. It's an interesting read that I would recommend to those that enjoy lighter historical fiction. According to the end of the book, it does look like we'll see more of Ty and Jack in a future novel. However, the book does stand alone, so there's not a need to worry about being forced to read a series. I am interested in seeing how Mr. Doucette continues to improve as a writer in the future.
Flat Top Mountain Ranch -- the beginning
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