Grace and the Guiltless by Erin Johnson

Thank you to the publisher, Capstone, who provided me a free copy through Netgalley for an honest review. Grace and the Guiltless is available August 1st.

Grace Milton’s peaceful life with her family on a horse ranch outside Tombstone, Arizona is shattered in one devastating night. Her family is brutally murdered by the notorious Guiltless Gang, leaving Grace the only survivor. Trekking into the wilderness on her stallion, Grace falls ill from the elements. A young man name Joe saves her life by taking her to an Apache camp where she learns about their way of life and begins to fall for Joe. When Grace encounters one of the Guiltless Gang, her strength will be tested. Can she survive as a bounty hunter, or will she fall into darkness again? This Western revenge epic will captivate teen readers with its ruthless spirit of suspense and adventure and a powerful central romance.

My review:

What I’d Pay: $3 (~1 star)

As you can tell from my rating, this book was a huge disappointment for me.

I thought this book was poorly executed. There were so many inconsistencies and abrupt, random occurrences in the plot that nothing really made much sense. The book was also extremely short – I finished it in just a few hours. The short length may explain why things jumped around and changed direction without warning. In the very first chapter, within the first few pages actually, the main character’s entire family is introduced and brutally murdered by a gang that has apparently been harassing them. It all happens so fast and is so violent that I was definitely taken aback. The heroine manages to pull herself together enough to bury them, but doesn’t really show any signs of the shock or devastation that should accompany that kind of incredibly traumatizing, dramatic event. In fact, she recovers so rapidly she is on her way to town to see the sheriff in the morning. In town she discovers the sheriff is crooked, not exactly a surprise plot twist in a classic western, and a stranger in town takes pity on her by giving her some money for food and shelter. Once it’s clear that no one in town will help her catch her families’ killers, she decides to hunt them down herself and literally takes off into the desert with her horse and no food or water. This is where I really lost hope in the main character’s ability to do anything. Even though she supposedly grew up on a ranch in the desert, she didn’t even know basic survival skills like taking food and water with her on a long journey – that was just too hard to believe.  Conveniently, she is saved by a passing preacher who gives her some water and unwanted advice about forgiveness. Revived, she continues her journey into the desert, but her stupidity almost does her in again when she eats poisonous berries. But no need to fear, she is rescued, once again, by the same cute guy who gave her money in town. She is taken to a nearby Apache tribe who nurses her back to health despite her ungrateful attitude and prejudice towards them. The rest of the story focuses on her learning to survive and fight from the cute white guy who saved her, who was also saved and raised by the tribe when his family was killed – what a coincidence. There’s also a very awkward romance that is not believable in the slightest.

One thing that got on my nerves, other than the lame plot, was that everyone in the book kept telling the main character to forgive and forget what happened to her family. While I understand that this is supposed to be a healthy message, saying this to a young girl the day after her family was brutally murdered in front of her is not realistic. That’s not something you jut get over in a few days. Plus, the fact that a violent gang of men is roaming around the countryside killing entire families is something that should be stopped for everyone’s safety, not just personal vengeance. It started to grate on me every time someone new started lecturing the main character on that topic, which happened often. The characters were very two-dimensional – I didn’t feel any real emotion reading this book. I was not emotionally attached to any character, the plot didn’t make much sense at times, and the writing style was very simplistic. At first, I thought that it was written for a younger audience because of the simplistic writing style and characters, but the scenes of brutal violence and adult content (including attempted rape, prostitution, and murder) are clearly not appropriate for a younger audience.

Bottomline: This book was short and choppy, with awkward dialogue, simplistic characters, and some brutally violent scenes. There was no real progression to the only clear plot goal: hunting down the killers. It read like a lot of filler with no real character growth or progress. The main character was an extreme disappointment because she is not very intelligent and can’t actually take care of herself. She has to be rescued multiple times from the brink of death after her own unintelligent actions put her in dangerous situations. It is an extremely fast read because it is short and the writing is simple, but is not really appropriate for a younger audience because of the violent content. Unfortunately, I don’t recommend this book and I’m not even sure what audience might enjoy it.



    1. I don’t usually get any direct comments back from the publishers once I give them my review, however I do give them the review in advance so they know what to expect. It’s always disappointing when I don’t really like a book for review, but rarely do I dislike one quite this much. 😦

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