Reddick MacRae (known as Tiller) left home many years ago with his cousin, attracted by the drifter lifestyle. He travelled with a band of thieves, but didn’t consider himself to be a thief because he was the decoy who ‘befriended’ the potential victim before the others arrive to commit the robbery. After stealing the life savings of an old man, Tiller suddenly develops a conscience and leaves the gang, ending up at the Bell Inn, owned by John Coffee Bell.
Mariah is half-Choctaw Indian, and had promised her dying mother that she will maintain ownership of the Inn that once stood on their tribe’s land. She reasons that no one will permit a half-Indian female to maintain ownership of the property, so she must hide her father’s death until she can marry. Her initial thought is to “find a husband with a strong back and a feeble mind”, but the arrival of Tiller MacRae sends her thoughts in other directions… Tiller agrees to work for room and board, undertaking some necessary improvements to the Inn, but the arrival of the injured Otis Gooch with his God talk disturbs both Mariah and Tiller as their relationship develops despite their secrets.
“Mariah Bell reached the bottom landing, stumbling under the wright of the most precious cross she’d ever had to bear. Balancing her father’s lifeless body …”
Bandit's Hope had an interesting premise and a terrific opening sentence that immediately grabbed me. Unfortunately, the novel went downhill from there, although it did improve towards the end. The writing had occasional flashes of brilliance, the inclusion of the local Indian culture in the plot was original and the characters were well-written and interesting. But overall, while overall Bandit's Hopewas a pleasant enough diversion, it was not a compelling read.
I had a few problems with the book. While most of it focused on Mariah and Tiller at the Inn, at one point it veered off to Tiller’s hometown, where we were introduced to an entire clan of his relatives. These passages could have been eliminated almost entirely, as they were confusing and had little relevance to the main plot. There was one plot device that seemed to have been included to add length rather than depth to the novel. More importantly, the conflict in the plot is based on lies and deceit, which is not a plot device I enjoy, particularly when the characters are supposed to be Christian, as Mariah was. I understood the characters’ reasons for their lies, and the fact that Mariah was not practicing her ‘faith’, but I just don’t enjoy these plots. As a result, I found the novel dragged in places, and it didn’t really hold my interest.
Thanks to NetGalley and Barbour Publishing for providing a free ebook to review.