Reviewer’s Bookwatch: April 2012
James A. Cox, Editor-in-Chief
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive, Oregon, WI 53575
The Tombstone Rose
J. Carson Black, writing as Annie McKnight
Breakaway Media (Tucson)
0843946814, $3.99 via download
Some books you just can’t put down. If you are a fan of historical western fiction The Tombstone Rose will be one of them. The story of a young singer in the west of the 1880′s, it is densely packed with accurate historical facts. The story takes more twists and turns than any old-west stagecoach line. You never really know where the stagecoach will stop next, or even which stagecoach you are on.
The story concerns Charlotte Tate, a beautiful, young (18 year old) aspiring singer. She dreams of one day performing in New York City, and San Francisco, and she has the talent to do it. But for now she is stuck in dusty Tombstone. She is also in love with two men. The first is Morgan Earp, brother of Wyatt, and famous for his part in the Shootout at the OK Corral. The second is Jake Cottrell, an ordinary cowboy. Back in those days no respectable woman would date a cowboy, much less marry him.
The book breaks nicely into three sections. The first is a description of what life was like in 1880′s Tombstone. It had been only a wide spot in the road, until silver was discovered there. Then it became a wild-west boom town. At it’s height it had 110 saloons, about 30 houses of ill repute, and only 4 churches. It was not an easy place to live. There were two types of law. There was the town marshal, who really had no power, and the cowboys, who controlled the town and enforced their own law, usually at the point of a gun.
The second part of the book details Charlotte’s attempt to become a known singer. She is hired as an entertainer at a local theater. She assumes this means she will sing. Actually the entertainment she will provide is as a “bar girl” who flirts with the men and keeps them buying drinks for her and themselves. She leaves that job for another theater. That one is essentially a bordello, with live entertainment. She does perform there, but the patrons don’t care or even notice her because they are there for other reasons. At one point she is essentially kidnapped and sold into marriage to a man she has never met. She escapes, and joins a traveling entertainment troupe. She gets some fame, and becomes known as “The Tombstone Rose.”
The third part of the book describes Charlotte’s life after she leaves the theater. She had made a wise investment in a silver mine, and the investment paid off handsomely. She finds herself independently wealthy. She decides to build her own theater, at which she will be the feature performer. But she slowly realizes being a performer is not what she really wanted all along. Plus, she has her love life to figure out. J. Carson Black writes this section with a lot of sensitivity and skill. You will come to know who Charlotte really is very well, and what motivates her.
The Tombstone Rose is the best historical fiction novel I’ve read in a long time. Loaded with facts and descriptions, it is very well researched. The stories of the Gunfight at the OK Corral and the devastating fire of 1883 are correctly told and accurate. The book will appeal to a wide range of readers. For the history buffs, there are plenty of historical details there to consider. For fans of western novels the book gives a very nice description of what life was really like in the “wild west.” But at it’s core the book is a romance novel, so romance fans will find it enjoyable. I’d certainly recommend the book for anyone looking to do a bit of time travel, back to 130 years ago.