Title: Sunset Over the Rockies
Author: Tom E. Hicklin
Genre: Historical Fiction
In Sunset Over the Rockies, the American West is the setting for one man’s greatest happiness and heartache. Bill Barton survives a violent attack that kills his friend, Horace, and it changes his life forever. When the people who killed Horace return to Denver, Bill makes it his mission to bring the murderer to justice.
Grieving the loss of his friend and tending to permanent physical injuries, Bill abandons the gold fields of Colorado and retreats to the city of Denver to rebuild his life as a lawman. Bill finds himself infatuated with a local prostitute, Rose Dellacqua, and her son Jerome. Bill embraces his softer side through his friendship and care for Jerome. Though his feelings for Rose grow, their romance is unable to blossom because of societal restrictions.
The inclusion of a real-world perspective like Rose’s is refreshing to read. Her experience as a sex worker and how it has shaped her world view and place in society is presented in a raw and unromanticized way. The diverse social roles the characters occupy in the novel add a level of dynamism to the characters and plot that was relatable and oftentimes emotional.
As Bill grows closer to Rose, he finds himself surrounded by even more tragedies. Bill experiences the most drastic character development out of any of the characters. Readers develop a strong bond with his character because they witness how each tragedy changes him and grows him into a stronger, harder version of himself.
The highly anticipated moment for Bill to get his revenge on Horace’s murderers is a bit underwhelming. Squished in between Bill and Rose’s love plot, this moment isn’t given the time or space needed to wrap up such a traumatizing event in a satisfying way. In turn, Horace’s story gets bulldozed by the other tragedies that follow.
Tension builds when readers finally get up-close-and-personal with the novel’s antagonist, a murderous road agent who goes simply by the name, “The Man.” Though the first half of the novel is told strictly in Bill’s perspective, shifting the perspective to “The Man” gives him more depth beyond being just a menacing villainous figure.
Additionally, shifting perspectives to different characters unifies the plot and gives each character a clear, distinctive voice. The book would have benefited from using multiple perspectives throughout the entire book, rather than just the second half, to help pick up the pacing as well.
Hicklin incorporates the American West’s distinct scenery to create an atmosphere that is as harsh as the crime it holds. Readers get to feel the grittiness of the wild west with evocative, sensory descriptions of the dry heat, the clamoring bars, and the fumbling drunk passersby Bill encounters.
In Sunset Over the Rockies, readers will see what it takes to overcome great loss and pain and transmute it into power and justice. Regardless of what we endure, the novel’s characters show us how honesty, bravery, and respect will bring us more than revenge ever could. Sunset Over the Rockies teaches us how to persevere through difficult times, and that you’re never wrong for choosing the high road.
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