The Standoff
by Andrew C. Watzek
Trafford Publishing

"I heard there are three sisters,and that they lost their folks sometime back. I heard they run their ranch on their own, and folks say they're tough as boot leather."

Violence and struggle have a habit of changing people. The McCullough sisters, the book’s protagonists, have been altered by these over time. The iron of their character is now hard steel after the various conflicts of two previous adventures. This book is the concluding chapter of the Eric Hoffer Award-winning Western trilogy centered around sisters Sara, Julie, and Angela. For the past two novels, the sisters’ lives have been consumed by gun battles and cattle drives. But after all of these previous events, the main goal of the McCullough sisters has finally been realized: they have a profitable ranch.

The author's book begins with the girls finally settling into a quiet, peaceful life. All of them are still pained by the personal losses and challenges through which they have survived. The book is littered with reflective, quiet moments as the sisters silently grieve while still pushing forward. Peace has finally entered their lives at the start of the tale, and its a welcome relief to our exhausted protagonists. Yet their well-earned comforts are on less solid ground then they think. A troubling glimpse at the ranch’s creek leads to an exhilarating final chapter of sisterly love, rigorous living, and violence.

Watzek's novel features a solid narrative that weaves themes of passion and aggression. The prose reads like The Shootist and has the making of a great modern Western. The character development from each book is richly rewarding to fans of the series, and all the primary characters are fully formed individuals. The author’s skillfully constructed literary characters are wonderfully vivid to the reader. The book itself is filled with a comfortable sense of confidence in Watzek’s writing. Judging from the quality exhibited in this work, even newcomers to the series should quickly realize this isn’t the author’s first rodeo.

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