Refuge

Cinch McCall Book 1

Fiction - Western
308 Pages
Reviewed on 06/28/2020
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by K.C. Finn for Readers' Favorite

Refuge is a work of fiction in the action and adventure western sub-genre and was penned by author Mike Shellenbergar. In this unique take on the old West, we find ourselves following a female protagonist, Morgan ‘Cinch’ McCall, who doesn’t conform to anything a woman of the time is told to be. Captured by Comancheros when she was young, Cinch will do anything to take vengeance on them. So when she gets her chance, this sharp-witted heroine takes on the toughest and most enduring quest she’ll ever face. What results is a gritty and action-packed adventure tale with realistic roots planted in history.

Author Mike Shellenbergar celebrates the traditional storytelling of the western genre but has also crafted a modern masterpiece that can be appreciated for any reader seeking a strong female lead. Cinch is a heroine who fully understands the historical position of her gender, and the author cleverly subverts and disguises her so that she can go on her way as an assassin and bounty hunter. The plot points are well-paced to give us plenty of sweeping vistas and gritty atmospheres of the old West in between the action scenes, and when those do come, they’re filled with dynamic prose that snaps us from one thrilling moment to the next. The dialogue was most impressive too, really capturing the expressions and parlance of the period and heightening character details through that. Overall, Refuge is a recommended read for fans of westerns who are also looking for something unique and fresh to enjoy.

Peggy Jo Wipf

Refuge (Cinch McCall Book 1) by Mike Shellenbergar is an intriguing tale of a young woman, Morgan “Cinch” McCall, who has prepared to take down her past captors. As a girl, the Comanche attacked, leaving her family dead, and she was sold as a slave. Four bad Comancheros made her life miserable. Cinch knew she had to stop these men, so she sought out the best bounty hunter to train her in shooting, tracking, and turning in outlaws. She learned martial arts from a Chinese man, which gave her more leverage for fighting up close. Dressing as a cowhand gave Cinch the freedom she needed to travel alone, enter saloons, and avoid harassment from men. As Cinch hunts these men down, she is hunted by an even greater evil. Can she avoid the malevolence that is headed her way?
 
Mike Shellenbergar is known for his extensive study and meticulous writing for the time of his novels. Refuge (Cinch McCall Book 1) is a richly descriptive western with skillfully drawn characters and settings. The author intricately weaves history and fiction together so you feel as if you have stepped into a Wild West scene. I enjoyed how the characters developed with the twists in the plot. I loved the way Cinch handled herself and the friends she collected along the way. Her character wasn’t perfect, but she had integrity and faith she could get the job done. The author ends by giving his readers hope that there will be more to Cinch’s story and that her work is not done yet.

Christian Sia

Refuge by Mike Shellenbergar is a spellbinding opening in the Cinch McCall series, a novel with a strong appeal to fans of Western and historical fiction with a fascinating setting in 1899. Morgan “Cinch” McCall lost her entire family during a Comanche raiding party raid that took her hostage. Sold to the Comancheros, she became a slave and went through untold suffering. Now, she is free, and she has one mission to fulfill: take her revenge on these men. She becomes a trained assassin and a bounty hunter. Follow her journey as she fights to stay alive — she is wanted dead or alive — while hunting her captors.

The wild, wild West isn’t a world for female characters but the author does an impeccable job in writing Cinch McCall. She is no ordinary woman and I enjoyed her intelligence in staying always a step ahead of her enemies. In a world where justice hardly exists and where violence is rampant, a young woman does everything to get her revenge on those who took everything from her. The setting is brilliantly captured with images that reveal what the wild West looked like. The protagonist is an intelligent woman in a world filled with wolves and how she survives is one thing that will entice readers. Refuge by Mike Shellenbergar will appeal to fans of the movie Colombiana. The writing is gorgeous and cinematic and it is easy to root for the protagonist. She is intelligent and I loved how the author writes her motivation. This is a trailblazer; a fast-paced, action-packed novel that had me on the edge of my seat.

Lesley Jones

In Refuge by Mike Shellenbergar, female bounty hunter Cinch McCall has a score to settle. Since losing her entire family at the hands of four violent Comancheros and being sold into slavery as a girl, Cinch has wanted her revenge. Years later she has become a trained assassin and now, after searching for three years, she has one of them in her sights. Cinch must depend on her intellect and warrior skills if she is to survive the hostile terrain of the Old West. One by one she is determined to hunt them down and collect the bounty on their heads as her search takes her to Santa Fe and Mexico. 'Dead or Alive' their wanted poster says and Cinch is steadfast in her belief that her face will be the last they see. Once her mission is over, will Cinch be able to find peace of mind and a place to call home?

The compelling atmospheric narrative of Refuge drew me into Cinch's world immediately. The detailed exquisite writing brought the Old West to life in every sense. Cinch was a remarkable character, she seemed to thrive in situations most men would fear. Although she was an amazing warrior, she was also kind and generous to those she met. She was also quick-witted and some of her dialogue was really funny. Her relationship with Li developed perfectly through the story and I hope this will continue throughout the series. I also loved Josh 'Quirt' Taggart; he supported Cinch whenever he was asked and I feel this relationship has much more to explore. The subplot of Cinch raising funds to secure her ranch gave the story even more of an emotional angle. There are quite a few moments of tension and suspense but Mike Shellenbergar cleverly added some scenes of humor too. I am glad this is the first in a series of novels as I am looking forward to learning more about Cinch and her life journey.

Rabia Tanveer

Refuge is the first book in the Cinch McCall series by Mike Shellenbergar. Packed with action, a shrewd heroine, and vivid descriptions of the old West, Refuge is the tale of a woman who was sold into slavery but now is ready to take her revenge. Cinch McCall is not your average woman. Her destiny changed when her family died and she was sold into slavery by four Comancheros. Now that she is older and much wiser, she has only one plan in mind: find those men and bring them to justice. She leaves behind her life and her mentors who taught her everything she knows in the hopes of finding those men and inflicting as much pain on them as she can. But there is a bigger and bolder enemy that she will face on her journey. A malicious man who will stop at nothing to fulfill his evil plan. It is up to Cinch to end his terror and exact her revenge. Can she do it?

The plot of Refuge is deceptively simple. It lures you in, makes you feel comfortable and then it smacks you with action and adventure when you least expect it. Cinch is feisty, she is a trouble-maker and she is proud of it. However, she is not a senseless revenge seeker who is on a rampage. She plans, strategizes, and then moves forward to claim her “victim.” The setting and the background are richly detailed, the descriptions of the old West and New Mexico are believable and Cinch’s development was incredible. You can tell that the author spent a lot of time sketching the story, developing the characters, and mastering the pace. As for the characters, I hope the future novels in the series have more of Wang and Elijah. I would like to read more about how they trained her, centered her, and brought her the passion she needed to become who she is. This is a stellar start to a series by Mike Shellenbergar. Even the cover is amazing! I enjoyed this action-packed story and I know fans of the old West will love it too.