Painted Horses: My Review

Painted Horses Book CoverPainted Horses by Malcolm Brooks is a beautifully written novel that is at once homage to the vanishing American West, a window into history, social commentary on the clash between big business and progress versus cultural heritage and land preservation, and an enduring love story.

“And so out of yearning and cunning sprang tales of their own dimly recalled beginning, songs musing of the struggle of existence and the gods of the land and whatever eternity owned the glittering stars, legends of children birthed during astral events, under tailing comets or while red-and-green mists glowed weirdly in the northern sky, and the tales and the songs would pass down and pass down again and inspire ceremonies and rituals to ensure the arrival of migrating animals, the arrival of offspring, or to predict the lengthening of days into summer, and the rites would in turn compel one of them gifted with an impulse not unlike his own to create with his hand, his magical hand, images of the world in which he dwelled, a world and the beasts that occupied it now utterly gone save a single remnant etched in stone, deep in the heart of a canyon.”

Set in 1950’s Montana, it is the story of a young idealistic female archaeologist given the task of surveying a future dam site to ensure that no historical artifacts are lost, the Crow Indians on the Reservation desperately in need of economic development but torn between progress and preservation of their sacred traditions and rituals, and a veteran of World War II’s last mounted campaign in Italy on the lam from the authorities after refusing orders to execute the horses when their utility to the Army has ended.

All the characters and their back stories are richly drawn:

Catherine Lemay finds her love of archaeology while studying abroad. Trained as a classical pianist, she abandons her music studies at Cambridge after becoming entranced with the excavation of ancient ruins in post-Blitz London. Recognized for her archaeological work, she is asked to take on a survey back in the United States in Montana. Catherine soon realizes, however, that she is out of her depth. She faces daunting challenges from the rugged terrain and corporate America’s ruthless pursuit of wealth and power.

John H is a former “mustanger” whose skill with horses is a lost art that is no longer required or appreciated. He’s a loner out of necessity, living off the land, avoiding the encroachment of civilization and the law while still pursuing and painting the wild horses that are descended from thoroughbred Spanish blood lines.

Miriam is a young Crow Indian girl hired to assist Catherine look for ancient artifacts on land sacred to her tribe. With one foot in the past and one in the future, coming of age, becoming a woman, and unsure of what she really wants for herself or her people, she’ll be mislead into betraying both.

Jack Allen is another horseman who now slaughters wild mustangs for the money. Hired by Harris Power and Light to be Catherine’s guide as she conducts her survey, he is crude, deceptive, and dangerous. He’s really in the employ of businessman Dub Harris, who will not allow anything or anyone to impede or stop plans for the dam’s construction.

There is a timeless feel to Painted Horses. The lyrical style in which the story unfolds recalls works by Cormac McCarthy. You can visualize the land. You can relate to the characters. You can understand the conflict between the need for social progress and the fight to preserve the past.

Western, historical novel, drama, romance, or social commentary? Painted Horses doesn’t easily fit into any one category or genre, but Malcolm Brooks has crafted a book that is at once unique, mesmerizing, and haunting.

The Black Midnight: Lone Star Book Blog Tour – Guest Post

Kathleen Y’Barbo

Genre: Fiction / Historical Mystery / True Crime 
Publisher: Barbour Books
Publication Date: August 1, 2020
Number of Pages: 257
 Scroll down for the giveaway!

Two killers, two detectives, and a menace called The Black Midnight may be the death of both of them.
Three years before Jack the Ripper began his murderous spree on the streets of London, a killer struck fear into the hearts of the citizens of Austin, Texas. Some believe one man is responsible for both, while others lay the blame at the feet of someone close to the queen herself. With suspicion falling on Her Majesty’s family and Scotland Yard at a loss as to who the Ripper might be, Queen Victoria summons her great-granddaughter, Alice Anne von Wettin, a former Pinkerton agent who worked the unsolved Austin murders case, and orders her to discreetly form a team to look into the London matter. One man is essential to her team, and she doesn’t want to consider taking on this challenge without his expertise. Unfortunately, he’s back in Texas, with a bad attitude and a new profession. 

The prospect of a second chance at catching the man who terrorized Austin three years ago just might entice Isaiah Joplin out of his comfortable life as an Austin lawyer, even if it does mean working with the Queen’s great-granddaughter again. If his theories are right, they’ll find the Midnight Assassin and, by default, the Ripper. If they’re wrong, he and Annie are in a bigger mess than the one the lady detective left behind when she departed Austin under cover of darkness three years ago. 
Can the unlikely pair find the truth of who is behind the murders before they are drawn into the killer’s deadly game? From Texas to London, the story navigates the fine line between truth and fiction as Annie and Isaiah ultimately find the hunters have become the hunted.

PRAISE for The Black Midnight:
“Warning! Don’t read this historical romantic suspense at night!” DiAnn Mills, Expect an Adventure 
“Impeccably researched with sparkling dialogue and riveting history, Kathleen Y’Barbo’s The Black Midnight puts a pair of star-crossed Pinkerton detectives on the trail of a Texas killer who may also be the notorious Jack the Ripper. Very highly recommended and sure to keep you reading well past your bedtime!!” Colleen Thompson, RITA-nominated author of Deadly Texas Summer 
“You’re in for a wild ride as Kathleen Y’Barbo takes you on a story through some of America and Britain’s grisliest murders and somehow manages to weave in a delicious romance. From Texas to London, the ties that bind may be more linked than you previously believed. Settle in for a novel of suspense and romancejust be sure to look over your shoulder every now and then!” Jaime Jo Wright, 2018 Christy Award-winning author of The House on Foster Hill and 2020 Inspy Award-nominated The Curse of Misty Wayfair



The London-Austin Connections

Guest Post by Kathleen Y’Barbo,
author of The Black Midnight

I am a tenth-generation Texan, but London has held a place in my heart for over ten years. You see, I have a son who has lived there for more than a decade. Thanks to him and his family of three—my granddaughter was born there on New Year’s Eve 2019—the city will always be special to me.

The Black Midnight Image001There is absolutely nothing like walking those streets, with a thousand years of history close enough to touch. It was on a walk with my son through this great city that the stories of nineteenth-century London came alive.

With fog shrouding the rooftops of buildings that were hundreds of years old, and our footsteps echoing on the cobblestones, I could imagine a time when lack of electricity and CCTV would make this place less than charming on a dark night—less than safe. What reminded me of my favorite childhood movie, Mary Poppins, quickly became more reminiscent of Jack the Ripper. And then a story was born.

Only I just had half the story.

The other half came to me several years later when I stumbled across an article, in Texas Monthly magazine, about a serial killer who rampaged through Austin, Texas, in 1884 and 1885 and was never caught. Some surmised this madman, called “The Midnight Assassin” by some, might have been Jack the Ripper, honing his skills before he crossed the Atlantic to begin his famous crime spree in Great Britain.

But Austin?

The Black Midnight Image002Ironically, my other two sons lived in Austin. So while part of my heart was in London, two more parts of that same heart resided in the Texas capital. I thought I knew Austin inside out. Between one of my sons getting not one but two degrees from the University of Texas (This Aggie grad is still proud of him, in spite of what I jokingly call his “burnt orange rebellion.”), and my other son living there and managing a restaurant at the time (And who just graduated from Texas A&M Galveston in May!), I had spent many years in the city. And yet I had never heard of the Midnight Assassin.

Research turned up a tale that sounds so close to fiction I had to write about it. Discovering the theory that the Austin killer might also be the Ripper just added to my interest—neither had been caught. And I like to write about Pinkerton detectives.

From there the story unfolded. If you’ve read any of my historical romances, you know that I love incorporating actual history into my stories. As you’ll see when you read The Black Midnight, this book is no exception. While I will continue writing the historical romances I love to bring to you, I will confess that writing this book has me itching to research another one like it.

What’s next in my foray into true-crime novels? Maybe Houston. You see, I have a daughter who lives there . . .

In the meantime, I hope you’ll enjoy reading The Black Midnight as much as I enjoyed writing it!


Bestselling author Kathleen Y’Barbo is a multiple Carol Award and RITA nominee and author of more than eighty books, with almost two million in print. A tenth-generation Texan and certified paralegal, she has been nominated for a Career Achievement Award as well a Reader’s Choice Award and several Top Picks by Romantic Times magazine.

Kathleen celebrated her fifteenth year as a published author by receiving the Romantic Times Inspirational Romance Book of the Year Award for Sadie’s Secret, a Secret Lives of Will Tucker novel. Her novels celebrate life, love, and the Lord—and whenever she can manage it, her home state of Texas. Recent releases include The Pirate Bride, River of Life, and My Heart Belongs in Galveston, Texas.

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One Winner: Signed copy of The Black Midnight + $20 Amazon gift card
Four Winners: Signed copy of The Black Midnight
AUGUST 6-16, 2020
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