Book Review: Ten Shoes Up - Gary L. Stuart

Book: Ten Shoes Up - Gary L. Stuart
Rating: 4/5 stars

I was given the chance to review Gary L. Stuart's foray into fiction with his newest release, "Ten Shoes Up". After perusing Stuart's website, and reading this quote about the book...

"Ten Shoes Up is a first cousin, but not a son or daughter to the classics [dime novels]. It explores the trials and tribulations of the 1880s, particularly along the New Mexico-Colorado border. The characters jawbone the conundrums, and dream about days and nights long gone. By depicting the horses, trails, and rivers, and engaging the men and women who rode them, this book aims to recreate the Old West realistically."

... I knew, chances were, that this book was right up my alley & indeed - I was right.

Stuart's portrayal of the rough and rocky landscape of New Mexico/Colorado paints a visually stunning scene against a backdrop of new-found train lines, bank robbers, town sheriffs & hide-aways in the hills. Right pff the top, we meet the main character - Angus & his trusty, steadfast horse, Tucson, who are being chased across the Ten Shoes Up mountain in New Mexico. Instantly, you want to like Angus, who seems as staunch and true as his good horse, but you are left with questions... The law is hot on the heels of Angus, who they suspect is a train robber guilty for numerous hijackings that have occurred in recent memory. However, IS he the train robber, or is he being falsely accused? Stuart expertly has you second-guessing, and then re-guessing, throughout the first half of the novel as we follow Angus in his journey. All the while though, the reader is left with the taste in their mouth, that even IF Angus is a robber - he is a good soul, but how can that be?

After a jaw-dropping surprise in Chapter 27, the tables turn in the novel, and the reader is taken down a new path with Angus. Throughout the second half, Stuart continues to introduce the reader to  intricate characters that you aren't quite sure if you love, or hate, or perhaps both! To me, this was one of my most favourite aspects of "Ten Shoes Up", Stuart constantly has the reader on their toes from chapter to chapter.

My second favourite piece of "Ten Shoes Up" was the historical side of it. It balanced drama and bravado with the true life of a man on the run at the turn of the century. Stuart paid special attention to detail in the background checks of this story, and it shows, and is received well throughout the novel.

Although Angus is the main character, and strongest voice, throughout the book, certain chapters are taken over by other character's point of views. I felt that this was a nice touch, and that the book maintained an even pace and didn't get lost in various POV's, as some books can.

The only downside to "Ten Shoes Up", was at times, the conversation between characters was so back-and-forth that I found myself lost in the fray, and wondering - really - the point to it all. I felt that various conversations could have been more concise, and cleaned up, to better let the reader in on what was really going on.

Other than that small aspect, I thoroughly enjoyed "Ten Shoes Up". How can you not love a character, that states, "That's the thing about a horse that really knows you - as long as you're close by and giving him comfort, he'll stick out anything you will." 

I highly recommend "Ten Shoes Up", especially if you have an interest in western genres, or fictional pieces set in historical time, it's a fun and captivating read!


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