Let Go the Reins


Fiction - Western
338 Pages
Reviewed on 10/24/2019
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Viga Boland for Readers' Favorite

When Jim Taggart, sheriff of Palisade, sees Daniel Lind standing over the bloodied body of his wife, Meg, on the floor of her home, with no witnesses to prove otherwise, all the evidence points to Daniel and/or his brother, Clay. The brothers are known for their drunkenness and trouble-making, though neither has ever killed a person. Clay is cleared by a neighbor; Daniel insists he’s guilty and is prepared to pay, by death, if the courts so decide. He is sentenced to 10 years in prison. But there is one other victim of this crime: Daniel’s 7-year-old daughter, Allie, who is now homeless with one parent dead, another imprisoned, and grandparents who refuse to take Allie into their lives. Taggart takes it upon himself to find Allie a home when he can’t stomach the thought of her living in an orphanage. He succeeds in finding her a safe place to grow up for the next 10 years, during which her imprisoned father dreams of finding Allie and begging her forgiveness, and Allie, in turn, grows into an angry woman bent on avenging her mom’s murder by killing Daniel once he’s released.

A novel based on the Old West is far from what I would normally choose to read. I associate books like that with the old TV Westerns, complete with gunslingers, sheriffs' deputies, posses in pursuit and hangings. But something about the description of Let Go the Reins by John D. Hughes spiked my interest so I dove in...and am I glad I did: this is one beautiful story so beautifully told it’s hard to believe this is the author’s first novel. As readers follow the next ten years in Allie's and Daniel’s lives, along with those of Taggart, his estranged sister, Becky, Clay and a sinister, scar-faced killer named Keen, the demons of each character’s past surface. Evil is as evil does, but is the real evil the obvious one? John D. Hughes has readers turning the pages fast as 10 years go by, keeping us in suspense right up until the tension-filled climax close to the end of the novel. But as much as this story is plot-driven, the characters and the emotions they evoke in readers is the real take-away from Let Go the Reins. In the end, for those who aren’t into western fiction, it matters little that this book was set in the Old West. I, for one, am glad that I let go the reins on my thinking about western novels. If I hadn’t, I would have missed out on one of my best reads of 2019. If this is what John. D. Hughes can do with his first novel, I can’t wait to see what he does next. An enriching and fulfilling read.

Trudi LoPreto

In Let Go the Reins, we are taken back to 1878 to a small railroad town in Palisade, Nevada and quickly become a fan of young Allie Lind, a seven-year-old girl whose mother has just been murdered. Jim Taggart, the town sheriff, is determined to punish the killer and protect Allie as best he can. Daniel Lind is Allie’s drunken, mean father and has confessed to the killing of his wife and Allie’s mother, Meg. Taggart puts Daniel in jail and takes Allie to San Francisco and the only orphanage he can find. He is saddened by what he sees and instead brings Allie to his sister Becky’s house to live. Allie becomes part of Becky’s family but deep down inside she has angry thoughts of her father for taking away her beloved mother and forcing her to leave the only home she had ever known. The story spans many years and follows both Allie and Daniel, along with Uncle Clay.

Let Go the Reins is a moving wild west story that was hard to put down. If you are a fan of the old wild west cowboy genre, then Let Go the Reins is a book you do not want to pass up. Author John D. Hughes has written a book with very real characters facing happiness, sadness, death, life, prison, family ties, and friendships. I am hoping that there is a second book that follows Allie all grown up to see what her future holds. Let Go the Reins has it all – the enjoyment of an old-time cowboy western, a story that plays on your emotions and a really good plot. Don’t pass this one up – it is a five star plus western novel!

Rabia Tanveer

Let Go the Reins by John D. Hughes is the story of a young girl who lost her mother at a very tender age, lost her father to jail but got a father figure who would do anything to keep her safe. Allie was just a little girl when her mother was killed and her father was convicted of her murder. With her mother dead and her father in jail, it was the local Sheriff Jim Taggart who saved her from a life of misery. He took her in, cared for her and provided her with the best life he could so that she would not have to live as a broken mess. But now she is older, smarter and ready to find answers that she never really got in the past. So she decides to go back to the place where it all started and find out what and why it all happened. However, she has no idea that she is trying to stir up a story that should have been kept buried. It is now once again up to Taggart to keep her safe and out of harm’s way. Can he do it?

This was an emotional drama where you enjoy themes of family, love, bonding, and discovering that family isn’t only made of blood ties. You choose who your family is and blood has nothing to do with it. The relationship between Jim Taggart and Allie is beautiful, they have a strong bond and they just make the story wonderful. This novel is the perfect example of how you don’t need to have romantic interests as the protagonist of the story to make it work. Both of them have their own personalities; they have their own quirks and their flaws, which make them very real and relatable. The story is fast-paced, action-packed and filled with amazing characters that just keep you reading on and on. This was such an emotional story, but at the same time, it was such an entertaining novel.

Ankita Shukla

Let Go the Reins by John D. Hughes is a tapestry of intense emotions that drive people to do insane things. When Meg Lind was found dead in her house, Sheriff Jim Taggart arrested her husband, Daniel Lind, and Daniel's brother, Clay Lind. Considering the past of the Lind brothers, everyone already believed them to be guilty of Meg's death. However, based on the testimony of a woman named Esther Jorgensen, the sheriff had to release Clay. Although evidence pointed towards Daniel, Sheriff Taggart was still not convinced that Daniel was the murderer of his wife. Amidst all the chaos, the sheriff's mind kept going back to seven-year-old Allie Lind, the daughter of Daniel and Meg. He knew that he had to find a place for her far away from all the evil of this town. Allie, on the other hand, was determined to avenge her mother's death one day. Would she be able to find it in her heart to forgive her father for the pain that he had caused to both Meg and Allie over the years?

John D. Hughes has very effectively captured the aftereffects of a drunken selfish lifestyle. Daniel fell in love with Meg, married her, and had a beautiful daughter with her. Nevertheless, he didn't realize how blessed he was until it was too late. When he lost both of them, heavy guilt replaced all the emotions in his heart. Keen is another strong character whose presence evokes fear and uncertainty. In fact, each character manages to give rise to certain feelings, and that is the beauty of the author's writing. Let Go the Reins by John D. Hughes is written descriptively. Everything -- the darkness that prevailed in Palisade, the emotions of its people, the sound of the shuffling of cards -- is described in detail. The question of who murdered Meg lingered until the very end, and it maintained my interest in knowing the truth. The dialogues impart authenticity to the plot. Readers who like a story filled with suspense, drama, and intense emotions will enjoy Let Go the Reins by John D. Hughes immensely.

Kimberlee J Benart

If you enjoy a good western drama, Let Go the Reins by John D. Hughes is for you. Palisade in 1878 is a rough town on the railroad line that crosses northern Nevada. A woman is found dead in her own home and the only suspect is her thieving and often drunk “bad boy” husband, Daniel, whose younger brother finds him standing over her body with a gun in his hand. Claiming at first that he’s innocent, Daniel later pleads guilty to obtain a plea deal rather than a hanging. Daniel’s seven-year-old daughter, Allie, who has no reason to feel any affection for her father anyway, grows to young adulthood filled with hatred towards him and wanting revenge for the loss of her mother.

In Let Go the Reins, Hughes gives us a suspenseful drama set against a vivid historical backdrop. I enjoyed reading it and found myself eager to find out what happens to Allie and her family. The narrative is descriptive and flows at a good pace. The characters are well-drawn. Flashbacks and dialog bring clarity to the foibles and flaws of each protagonist. The emotions of guilt, anger, meanness, and vengeance are juxtaposed against the virtues of forgiveness, generosity, kindness, and justice. In that sense, the drama is a timeless story of the struggle for redemption, and the “wild west” setting with gun-slingers and a sheriff intent on keeping the town safe while fighting his own personal demons lends itself perfectly to the plot. An entertaining read.