The Killing Land
by Jacqueline Seewald
Review by Mel Jacob
Five Star Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781432831196
Date: 20 January 2016 List Price $25.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Bandits, range wars, murder, and love as Arizona cattlemen fight homesteaders and sheepherders in the 1880s are the focuses of Jacqueline Seewald's latest novel, The Killing Land. Headstrong homesteader Mary MacGregor refuses to be cowed by the handsome rancher, Cal Davis, who claims the land her uncle is farming. Then she finds her own life at stake when she offends another rancher.
However, when bandits kill her uncle and rape her aunt, she has no choice except seek Cal's help. Unfortunately, the bandits, well-known to the Marshall, are long gone. Mary is left to cope with her poor aunt, her cousins, and the farm. Farming semi-dessert lands is not for the weak, but Mary is determined to overcome all obstacles and build life for herself and her uncle's family.
Finding herself attracted to Cal, she struggles to avoid any entanglements. Cal provides one of his cowboys to help out with the farm, but that has no effect on Mary's feeling. Billy Travers, the young cowpoke, is a good farmer and also is attracted to Rebecca, Mary's cousin.
Sporadic incidents occur between the sheepherders and the cattle ranchers. When Cal learns his foreman has been killing sheep, he fires him. The foreman, who is sweet on Mary, goes to work for the violent rancher and is involved in a shootout with the sheepherders. Mary blames his death on Cal.
After surviving and Apache attack in a lonely cabin with Cal, Mary returns home to find the farm in ruins from the Apache. While trying to clean up, three men approach and demand entrance. She recognizes them as the bandits who killed her uncle and tries to defend herself. The men take her captive and ride off.
Mary is an unusual woman for her times. Educated and independent, she sees no need for a man to protect her. However, being a captive starts to change her mind. When she learns the bandits intend to take her and Billy to the violent rancher who wants to hang them both, her only hope lies in escape and the hope someone will come after her.
Seewald is the author of 15 novels and several short stories. Her mystery series featuring Kim Reynolds garnered critical praise. After the initial settling in, the novel takes off with the aftermath of the bandit attack. The sheep killing scenes are especially dramatic.