Book Review and Giveaway: The Sparrows of Montenegro by BJ Mayo | Lone Star Book Blog Tours

THE SPARROWS OF MONTENEGRO

by
BJ MAYO
Categories: Western / Historical Fiction / Texas
Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing
Date of Publication: February 8, 2022
Number of Pages: 312 pages 
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Tree “Bigfoot” Smith and Cedar Jones first meet on the day they join the US Cavalry’s Fourth Cavalry Regiment based out of the Historic Fort Concho in what is now San Angelo, Texas, in 1870.


Their journey takes them into the heart of the dangerous Llano Estacado region known as the Comancheria. The area is ruthlessly defended by a band of Quahadi Comanche and their stoic leader, Lonely Horse. The Troop encounters a large group of Comanches and the gun-running Comancheros at Mushaway Mountain, close to Gail, Texas. A quick battle ensues that leaves eight men dead.


Post-Cavalry life finds Tree Smith and Cedar Jones as cowhand and cook on the large Rolling J cattle ranch in South Texas bordering the Rio Grande River. The ranch employs two Vaqueros from the village of Montenegro in Mexico, just across the river, whom Tree befriends.


The quiet life on the Rolling J ranch is brought to an abrupt halt when a local sheriff warns that a band led by the cold-blooded, sadistic killer known as Gato Montes has been preying on the ranches along the Rio Grande. After the sheriff is nearly killed by these men, Tree is tasked with tracking them down, only this time, he is traveling alone and the dangers are greatly multiplied. His epic journey takes him back into the Llano Estacado where he is captured by Lonely Horse and taken to Mushaway Mountain where the Comanche carry out their own form of frontier justice.


Tree’s return journey puts him on the same path as Marco, a Mexican goat herder, who rides with him to the Mexican village of Montenegro, where Tree meets Julia, who changes his life forever after he becomes involved in and bears witness to the wonderful celebration of Dia de los Muertos.

PRAISE FOR THE BOOK:

“I could not put this one down. Mayo has masterfully written a character-driven page-turner, a compelling tale for the reader who seeks something more than the stereotypical western novel.” —Ron Schwab, author of Goldsmith and the Law Wranglers series

“This mild-mannered west Texas rancher has woven a border tapestry using yarns made of unimaginable horror and sweet innocence.” —Tumbleweed Smith, author of Under the Chinaberry Tree

“A thoroughly enjoyable read—a cowboy’s trail you’ll want to follow, with a memorable cast of characters, renegades, soldiers, lawmen, and simple folks, and a hero that you’ll want more of.” —John J. Jacobson, author of All the Cowboys Ain’t Gone

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The Sparrows of Montenegro is, in short, amazing. The story follows Tree Smith and Cedar Jones from their days in the U.S. Cavalry to the Rolling J Ranch. Tree is a giant of a man, and thinks himself unsightly and undeserving of love due to an unfortunate incident in his past. Cedar has also faced difficulties in his past, but he seems to carry himself through life with a bit more aplomb. The two are an inseparable duo, with a friendship forged in the crucible of battles fought and won.

They end up at the Rolling J Ranch in south Texas, Tree working as a cowhand and Cedar working as the cook. Here Tree befriends a couple of vaqueros who live across the river in the village of Montenegro. They learn of a deadly criminal, Gato Montes, the cat of the mountain, who is stalking the area. Gato Montes kills his victims in a particularly brutal fashion, and after he nearly takes out the sheriff of nearby Rosario, the sheriff asks Tree to go after the killer.

There are some fairly strong descriptions of the violence done by Gato Montes and by the Comanches who capture him and his gang. However, it isn’t gratuitous. It serves as a stark contrast to Tree’s gentleness, to the kindness of the people of Montenegro. It also accurately portrays the times. And while Gato Montes is a brutal murderer, Mayo shows the Comanche to have their own sense of justice. That justice may be harsh, but they give those they find deserving a fair chance. I thought that was one of the most interesting parts of the story. So often Native Americans are portrayed as wild savages who want nothing more than to hurt white people in the nastiest of ways. That wasn’t how the Comanches interacted with Tree. They found something to respect in his actions, and so they gave Tree a chance to survive.

Mayo has, not necessarily a lyrical style of writing, but a style that paints vivid word pictures. I could picture Marco and his goats, Tree, Cedar, the people of the village. Mayo also writes fully realized characters, both good and evil, whose lives clearly illustrate that actions and choices have consequences, and who show us that good can prevail. And faith played a surprisingly strong role in the story. The people of Montenegro speak often of Dios and how His hand may be at work in the events unfolding in and around their town. It’s nice to see characters portrayed as having faith in God and in His plan.

This wasn’t your usual shoot-em-up Western. The Sparrows of Montenegro is a beautiful tale of a reluctant hero, of perseverance through hardship, of finding the good in things, of forgiveness and acceptance, both of others and of yourself. I highly recommend it for anyone who enjoys a well-written story with heart and spirit and beauty.

Five sparrows…er, stars from me.

BJ Mayo was born in an oil field town in Texas. His career in the energy industry took him to various points in Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Louisiana, Alabama, Bangladesh, Australia, and Angola, West Africa.

He and his wife were high school sweethearts and have been married for forty-six years. They live on a working farm near San Angelo, Texas.

LaRae Russell Photography

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5 Responses to Book Review and Giveaway: The Sparrows of Montenegro by BJ Mayo | Lone Star Book Blog Tours

  1. BJ Mayo says:

    I appreciate your in depth review and analysis. Very well written. It is very much appreciated. Thank you.
    Regards
    BJ Mayo

  2. Great review — I am appreciative of your mention of the author’s writing style and how this is not your typical western. Sounds like there is much to be enjoyed & contemplated by reading the story. I just started the book and can’t wait to get deeper in.

  3. Rox Burkey says:

    Hi I really like this post and your review. I love westerns and your insight into BJ’s writing has moved this to the top of my TBR list. Thank you.

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