|A western… with two romances… character-driven… and a cast of diverse characters all impact The Mavericks. Even with all of that it is just an acceptable reading experience.
Hawk and Zeke Maxwell were two of the twelve boys adopted by Jake and Isabelle Maxwell in Texas. Hawk is a half-breed, always having to fight for his heritage. Zeke is black and has the scars of slavery on his back and in his mind. They bonded together and are brothers in spirit. For years they have traveled the west, first as hunters, bounty men, mercenaries and even cattlemen. Now they have bought a ranch outside Tombstone Arizona where they plan to raise horses and live in peace. They have just purchased several mares from an old friend and are heading back to their ranch, trying to arrive before the mares foal.
A wagon with four women complicates their plans. One of the women is sick and the others are trying to get her home to her family. Another is lovesick for a beau she left behind. Suzette is blond and beautiful, and Hawk is instantly attracted. She is strong of will, but circumstances have caused her to be a showgirl, dancing and singing to make her way. She is trying to save money to send to her younger sister in Quebec. Her stepfather is raising her sister, but Suzette wants her away from him with the ability to marry for love and be a member of society. Josie is a fiery black woman who is as beautiful as any woman has a right to be. Zeke sees her beauty, but senses the strength beneath her grit. She is frightened of men (due to her past) and yet will stand up to any man who gets in her way.
The two men help them fix their wagon, and then decide to travel with them since they are traveling in the same direction and the men feel they can protect the women. The story follows their trail as they battle horse thieves, prejudice and their own insecurities. It is primarily character-driven with the bulk of the story being introspective from each character about their lives and what they want or need. They struggle with their hopes, dreams and the realities they face while trying to decipher how the others fit into their plans. The flight from thieves provides the background, but not much tension.
Josie and Zeke are the most interesting pair of the two, given their history of slavery and abuses. They have the most vulnerability, therefore the most to lose if they guess the other’s feelings incorrectly. Suzette and Hawk are more forward in their romance, admitting their lust and finding their love follows a much easier path, despite their differences.
The villains are obvious, being greedy, nasty and full of prejudicial hate. The two other women are out of the picture early, thus leaving the emphasis on the four main characters. While I generally enjoy character-driven stories, this one plods for many pages as they rehash the same feelings and thoughts. It is a long journey and at times, it feels like the plot is moving about as fast as the mules pulling the wagon. Greenwood draws a clear picture of life on the trail in Arizona and depicts the hardships and the beauty equally well. None of it is enough to push the story to a higher plane, however.
The Mavericks is a western looking for a reader who enjoys inner turmoil and thinking rather than action.