Sonoran Rage is Book 2 of the Colton Brothers Saga, which might at first squint appear to be a standard Western action series, of the sort so familiar to those of us who grew up watching TV Westerns and reading pulp Westerns; post Civil War, on the far frontier, and something to do with cows and cowboys, occasional brushes with Indians, soldiers in Army blue and town sheriffs wearing a silver star. The Colton Brothers saga skews the familiar tradition of the Western, but not so far that a serious fan might be put off. (I reviewed Book 3 here, some months ago.)
First, it is set just immediately before the Civil War, and in the deserts of New Mexico, on the stage-coach line between the town of Mesilla and points west. Mesilla is a major stop on that trail, just about the largest and most well-established town in a thousand miles of Apache-haunted deserts between Texas and California. The two oldest Colton brothers, Trace and James work for the Butterfield Line â€“ Trace as a driver and James as guard. James is about to be married to his best girl, Lila Belle Simmons, who waits in Mesilla for them to return from a regular run to Tucson. The coaches, pulled by three teams of mules or horses move at a cracking pace, day and night, moving passengers and mail between the east and settlements in California, but as the story opens, war threatens from two directions. The secession of the southern states is about to halt traffic for the Butterfield Line entirely, but thatâ€™s not the worst of Trace and Jamesâ€™ problems â€“ the great Apache warrior chief Cochise has been provoked into a bloody uprising by the unconsidered actions of a US Army officer. Captured by Cochiseâ€™s war party, Trace and James are faced with an ultimatum; Trace will be sent as a messenger, to bargain for the release of Cochiseâ€™s brother, who has been taken captiveâ€¦ and James will remain as a hostage. Every day that Trace remains away seeking help, James will be beaten brutally with Traceâ€™s own coach-driverâ€™s whip.
The story unfolds swiftly, and all the more interesting for being based on historical events. I was most particularly struck by the vivid descriptions of the southwestern desert; a harsh but beautiful place. At first glance, seen from the windows of a speeding car, or a hundred years ago, from the window of a stagecoach, it seems hardly credible that people could live there, would want to live there. But they did and still do, and this series is a good introduction to why.
Sgt. Mom is a free-lance writer and member of the Independent Authors Guild who lives in San Antonio and blogs at The Daily Brief. Her current book â€œTo Truckeeâ€™s Trailâ€ is available here. Her next work, the Adelsverein Trilogy will be available in December, 2008. More about her books is at her website www.celiahayes.com.