Book Review: Rio Ruidoso by Preston Lewis

Sometimes a good book carries you right where you didn’t know you should be going. It’s ironic, the journeys we can take alongside our characters. I savored Rio Ruidoso, over the past month, while also dealing with some real life struggles. As I’ve been forced to regroup and double down in my work, I craved escape. Not that I knew I needed an escape…until I did. 

Books heal, whether through teaching us to think in new and challenging ways, or as in the case of Rio Ruidoso—carry us away to a different time and place. Grounded in surprising realism, and colored with the beauty of the New Mexico landscape, here is the sprawling epic that brings themes of Once Upon a Time in the West to mind. It’s an old tale, but told with refreshing simplicity.

It was exactly the escape I needed to recharge and be ready to face my own figurative Horrell gang. So keep reading and don’t forget to enter the big giveaway below. First, though, a little about the book.


Three Rivers Trilogy, 1


Genre: Historical Western

Publisher: Five Star Publishing

Date of Publication: February 19, 2020

Number of Pages: 299

2017 Elmer Kelton Award from the West Texas Historical Association:

Best Creative Work on West Texas

Scroll down for Giveaway!


Rio Ruidoso offers a gripping blend of history and story as two-time Spur Award-winner Preston Lewis explores the violent years before the famed Lincoln County War in New Mexico Territory. Seamlessly weaving fact with fiction, the author details the county’s corruption, racism, and violence through the eyes of protagonist Wes Bracken, newly arrived in the region to start a horse ranch with his alcoholic brother. 

Bracken’s dreams for the Mirror B Ranch are threatened by his brother’s drunkenness, the corruption of economic kingpin Lawrence G. Murphy, and the murderous rampages of the racist Horrell Brothers. To bring tranquility to Lincoln County, Bracken must defeat those threats and stand his ground against the ever-changing alliances that complicate life and prosperity in multi-racial Lincoln County.


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5 of 5 Stars

I’ve been bedazzled by Westerns since I watched reruns of the old shows Paladin, Gunsmoke, and Bonanza. I don’t know if the younger generation is aware of just how much this time period sparked the American imagination. In a more modern age when people were increasingly relying on the ease technology brought their lives, our culture craved a simpler time. Of course, it wasn’t all guns and roses in the Old West. Something author Preston Lewis continues to portray in his latest novel, Rio Ruidoso.

As a former art student, I pay attention to a book’s cover, and I love the simple excellence of Rio Ruidoso. Everything about this cover is perfect for this genre, from the simple font to a boldly Illustrated scene depicting a wild cowboy shootout. The abundance of red and the peek at the subject matter let you know this isn’t a fanciful story. This isn’t the feel-good West we may still envision from classic television and Hollywood. Then again, once you dig into the research behind the events which inspired Rio Ruidoso, as Lewis has done, you discover it really is larger than life. 

Set in the Old West in the 1870s after America is still recovering from the Civil War, folks are desperate for a better life. Such is the case for brothers and veterans, Wes and Luther Bracken. We begin with Wes finally nearing the end of his journey to Lincoln County, New Mexico Territory, and the spread his big brother Luther has found for them on the Rio Ruidoso. It’s a chance to start over and put bad memories behind them. Only the west wasn’t empty when ranchers and farmers like the Bracken’s decided to resettle it. Lincoln County is also home to a deeply seeded racism experienced by Wes first-hand as he quickly steps in to save Sarafina and her family from the Horrell brothers. He may also be influenced by Sarafina’s beauty. Trouble follows as Wes learns Luther has gambled away most of their livelihood before his arrival. It won’t be easy to bring their dream back to life, but Wes is determined to do anything to try. No one, not his brother, the Horrell’s, or Lawrence Murphy will chase them out. As Wes fantastically declares and will be forced to prove, “I’m a survivor.” 

Lewis’s strength clearly lies with his ability to paint a complete picture with few words, in the way of a master storyteller. A few well-chosen words fully bring his compelling characters and dialogue to life. We are gifted with peeks into the lives of people and the way they lived, and so Lewis allows us to live among them. The author draws the reader in between patches of Wes riding beneath open skies, Luther’s rare joy saving the life of a newborn foal, even something so simple Sarafina cooking tortillas on the adobe heart. Through seemingly insignificant details, Lewis gives us a deeper connection, and brings Rio Ruidoso beyond “just another Western.” 

Let’s not forget the scene painted on the cover. I’m always pulled most into stories that lean heavily on character development, but Preston Lewis offers some of the best shoot-out action sequences I’ve read within Rio Ruidoso. In an almost surreal time of lawlessness, men and women are faced with difficult choices: survive or die. The question remains, what are they willing to do and sacrifice along the way? I was pleasantly surprised by how wonderfully written and moving this story was, and look forward to reading the sequels. Timeless and sweepingly epic, Rio Ruidoso is the first in a new historical saga you didn’t know you should be reading.

**I was provided with a copy of Rio Ruidoso by the publisher and this is my voluntary and honest review.**


Preston Lewis is the Spur Award-winning author of thirty novels. In addition to his two Western Writers of America Spurs, he received the 2018 Will Rogers Gold Medallion for Western Humor for Bluster’s Last Stand, the fourth volume in his comic western series The Memoirs of H. H. Lomax. Two other books in that series were Spur finalists. His comic western The Fleecing of Fort Griffin received the Elmer Kelton Award from the West Texas Historical Association for best creative work on the region.



1ST PRIZE: Signed Copies of Rio Ruidoso Bluster’s Last Stand
2ND PRIZE: Signed Copy of Rio Ruidoso

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4 thoughts on “Book Review: Rio Ruidoso by Preston Lewis

  1. Thanks, Jennifer, for taking time to read/review Rio Ruidoso and for offering so many kind words. I am humbled by your wonderful reviews. Best wishes. –Preston

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, Preston, thanks so much for giving us the opportunity to read your book. I’m happy to say I genuinely meant every word in my post 🙂 Your work is top-notch and was a pleasure to read. Looking forward to the next book in your Rivers series 🙂


    1. Thank you so much Kristine! I’m standing on the shoulders of some past great bloggers. Some of my favorites are the ones who dig a bit more personally with each of their posts, so I try to do the same 🙂 Loved reading and reviewing this book!


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