Retribution Rails

Retribution Rails

by Erin Bowman


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When Reece Murphy is forcibly dragged into the Rose Riders gang  because of a mysterious gold coin in his possession, he vows to find the man who gave him the piece and turn him over to the gang in exchange for freedom. Never does he expect a lead to come from an aspiring female journalist. But when Reece's path crosses with Charlotte Vaughn after a botched train robbery and she mentions a promising rumor about a gunslinger from Prescott, it becomes apparent that she will be his ticket to freedom—or a noose. As the two manipulate each other for their own ends, past secrets are unearthed, reviving a decade-old quest for revenge that may be impossible to settle.

In this thrilling companion to Vengeance Road, dangerous alliances are formed, old friends meet new enemies, and the West is wilder than ever.


Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781328603678
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 07/23/2019
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 513,046
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range: 14 - 18 Years

About the Author

Erin Bowman used to tell stories visually as a web designer. Now a full-time writer, she relies solely on words as the author of acclaimed YA novels Frozen, Taken, and Stolen. She lives in New Hampshire with her husband and when not writing she can often be found hiking, geeking out over good typography, and obsessing over Harry Potter.

Read an Excerpt


There’s a nice stretch of rail between Painted Rock and Gila Bend, and that’s where we’ll take the train.
     Diaz and Hobbs are hunched over the track, sweating and cursing beneath the Territory’s winter sun as they work to uproot another spike. Hobbs is yapping advice in a tone that’s earning him rude gestures from Diaz. Besides their banter and the clank of tools hitting metal, the morning’s silence is damn near deafening. No cactus wrens singing. No breeze. Not even the far-off whistle of the train we know’s coming.
     A robbery ain’t how I envisioned spending my eighteenth birthday, but after three years riding with this crew, I’ve learned to expect nothing and be ready for anything.
     Boss checks his pocket watch and tucks it away without comment. Means we’re still on schedule. For now.
     “Well, Murphy?”
     “Nothing yet, Boss.”
     I been sitting in the saddle ’longside him all morning, checking the horizon with his binoculars. The train’s due in Gila Bend at quarter past twelve, meaning it should be chugging our way ’round high noon. We heard it’s carrying a mountain of money to a bank in Tucson. Payroll, plus general funds being transferred. Has something to do with the approaching new year. Exact details don’t matter to us. Boss’s got an informant, and his info ain’t steered us wrong, save for one skirmish a few months back, so when we hear money’s on the move and can be lining our pockets before the sun sets—​three days, even, before the calendar reads 1887—​we follow the lead.
     “How ’bout Crawford?”
     I turn my attention east. The Gila carves through the parched Arizona soil in the distance, but on a slight rise before its banks, a mass of cattle’re grazing. The rest of our boys—​Crawford, Barrera, DeSoto, and Jones—​are out there among the beef. The herd belongs to some rancher, but when the train breaks the horizon, Crawford and the others’ll get ’em moving, coaxing ’em this way till they’re stampeding for the tracks. If’n things go smooth, the rail Hobbs and Diaz are wrestling with won’t matter. Conductor’ll see the herd and shout for the brake. Then we’ll step onto the cars as the dust settles, taking ’em by surprise. But if the herd don’t cooperate or their timing ain’t agreeable, a busted track ain’t the worst way to stop a train. We done it before.
     “He’s still getting in place,” I say. The hillside ain’t speckled with nothing but tan hides and dull-green shrub, and Crawford’s supposed to turn his jacket out when he’s ready. It’s got a red lining.
     “Lemme have a look,” Boss says, reaching.
     I surrender the binoculars and watch as he observes the herd. His brows’re pulled down tight, his expression stern and focused. It ain’t a rare look. I think I only caught him laughing twice in the three years I been forced to ride with him.
     “Were I wrong?” I ask after he hands the binoculars back.
     “Nah. Didn’t think you would be, but a boss’s gotta check or he ain’t much of a boss.”
     My chest puffs up a little, then deflates from the shame. I ain’t sure how it’s possible to admire and despise someone in the same breath, but that’s how it is for me with Luther Rose. I can’t forget the scar he put on my forearm—​the half-finished rose brand of pink, puckered skin—​or what his men did to the Lloyds that day they dragged me into their crew. Or the waste Boss lays at his feet day in and day out, never seeming to feel an ounce of remorse or guilt. None of the Rose Riders seem to. And yet, this is my life now. This is how I gotta live. I’m here ’cus I got something Boss wants, and I’m gonna be his prisoner till he gets it. Surviving is easier if I pretend I’m one of ’em.
     And if I make Boss happy in the process.
     Luther Rose runs a tight outfit, after all, as savage and unforgiving as his half brother, Waylan. Back when he were still alive, the gang hit the stagelines, not the rails, and local folk didn’t even know Waylan had a sibling. It were a secret within the gang. Waylan never wanted his kin to be a target, and since they had different mas and didn’t bear a striking resemblance, he had Luther act like any old member of the crew. It was only after his passing that Luther made his true relation to the late Boss known. It helped strike fear. Now people quake at the mention of Luther Rose just as much as they did when hearing of Waylan a decade earlier. The gang’s as feared as ever.
     Hell, I was scared of ’em as a kid growing up with the drunk I called a father in Ehrenberg, and I was downright terrified when they rode into my life three years back. Most days, I’m still on edge. The trick is, I try not to show it. You display yer weaknesses ’round these type of men and they’ll eat you alive.
     The shriek of an engine whistle shatters the afternoon quiet.
     “Soon now, Murphy,” Boss says to me. A plume of dark smoke puffs ’long the horizon. “Soon.”
     I check for Crawford and find a swatch of red, hear the gunshots popping next. The herd starts lumbering.
     Diaz has finally pulled the last spike, and now him and Hobbs are wrestling with the rail, yanking it so it don’t line up with one farther down the track. Soon as it’s free, they circle back on their horses, pulling up behind me and Boss.
     The stampede comes on, our boys riding ’long the outskirts to keep the cattle confined and on target. My mare, Girl, is already getting spooked. She ain’t never liked trains, and she twitches beneath me. I squeeze her tight with my thighs, trying to assure her all’s well, but if I had it my way, I’d clear out a little, let the beef run their course, and swoop in when the train brakes for the animals. But Boss is sitting proud in his saddle, unfazed and barely blinking, so I try to do the same.
     The engine’s bearing down on us like a bullet come outta the barrel, a blot of black on the horizon that flies straight and true. It ain’t slowing, but neither are the cattle. Crawford and his men draw rein on the north side of the rails, letting the herd lumber on. Dust billows ’round the beef.
     Beyond the dirt cloud, the train keeps blowing its whistle.
     “Boss?” Diaz warns at a shout.
     But Boss just holds up a hand.
     Right when I’m certain this is the time a train’ll derail and go flying, the brakeman applies the brakes. The clamped-down wheels screech and scream, running over the rail. The shrill cry is like a pickaxe to my skull, the worst kind of headache. I got my bandanna up over my mouth and nose to protect from the dust, and I can still smell the metallic tang of the hot steel, the engine’s coal steam.
     For a good half minute our world is nothing but dust and heat and screaming brakes. Sparks fly. With one final exhale from the engine, the train goes still. The herd continues south, taking the dust with ’em.
     I fan dirt from my eyes.
     The dark outline of the train engine sits a few yards ahead, air rippling ’round it. It’s a giant of a locomotive, a towering black behemoth that came to a stop just yards from our busted bit of rail.
     A figure leans out from between cars, flapping a pale kerchief so he can see if the herd’s cleared out.
     Boss draws his pistol.
     The poor bastard don’t even have a chance to yell out a warning. The moment his eyes find us, going wide and fearful, Boss pulls his trigger. The man’s head snaps back, and he topples from the train, landing beside the track.
     “Let’s move!” Boss orders.
     We draw our pistols, tip our hats low so all you can see easy between the brims and bandannas is our eyes. And then we’re storming the train.

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Retribution Rails 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
AReadingRedSox More than 1 year ago
VENGEANCE ROAD is one of my very favorite novels of all time, so I was SO excited when RETRIBUTION RAILS was announced. Let me tell y'all, this one definitely doesn't disappoint. Erin Bowman's take on the wild west is spectacular and thrilling; her characters are, as always, complex and fascinating to read about. I honestly cannot recommend this series enough.
lostinmegalpolis More than 1 year ago
Look, I may be one of the few people out there who might say this, but. . .it moved too fast for me. While I prefer a slow burner, I do like any action packed book. And this one, well, I loved all the characters. I loved, loved Charlotte. She was fantastic as she was torn from her world into that of Reece's. The entire time I kept wanting only good things to happen for them. Yet I felt as if the plot needed more. What? I have no idea. Anyway, it was a fun read. It was thrilling from beginning to end, as well. I also always look forward to reading a good western and Erin Bowman sure knows how to deliver one.
DarqueDreamer More than 1 year ago
highly immersive, faRetribution Rails glitters like gold. It is wild, heart pounding, and rich! With danger, excitement, and a stunning cast of characters, this one is sure to take your breath away! For lovers of Vengeance Road, you will not be disappointed with this companion novel! I devoured Retribution Rails! The minute it arrived in my hands, I could not put it down. It was action packed, emotional, and thrilling! I thought I loved Vengeance Road, but I loved this one even more! Erin Bowman did an outstanding job with bringing me back in to the wild west world of Arizona and The Rose Riders. She painted such an elegantly rich picture with her writing! Just like Vengeance Road, Retribution Rails had an immense amount of world building. I could see everything clearly while I read, as if I were brought back to the wild west myself. Her story imagery was astounding, and the depth of the characters was even more beautiful! We were introduced to a strong, stubborn, brave girl named Charlotte Vaughn. Charlotte had gumption and fierce determination. She was beautiful and wild, and always tried to rise above her expectations as a woman. She was so different from Kate in Vengeance Road, and yet, so alike in many ways.  And then there was Reece Murphy. I fell in love with Reece. His story was so well developed and his character just fit seamlessly in the plot. He was alluring, but mysterious. He was brave, and a little vulnerable inside, and he had such depth to his personality. He was also a little dangerous, but seemed to have a decent heart, kind of like Jesse in Vengeance Road. There were so many twists and turns in this wild ride! I could feel my heart racing at each one. This one had the heart of a true cowboy and the soul of a strong woman! It was highly immersive, fascinating, and dynamic! I would recommend this to anyone who loves a good story and a great Western!
222342 More than 1 year ago
What I loved about this novel: 1. It is action-packed from page one! You start this story, and it’s just one big event after another. There’s no down time, so don’t read this one if you want to get some sleep. 2. I LOVE the women in these novels. They are so authentically bad ass. Sometimes you read a book and it’s very clear that the author was trying to make a strong woman character. These women in the wild west had to be bad ass, and they’re freaking awesome. 3. I knew that Kate and Jesse from Vengeance Road would make an appearance in this novel, but I didn’t realize how much their story would intertwine. I loved how their story connected with that of Charlotte and Reece. LOVED IT! 4. I said it about Vengeance Road, and I’ll say it about Retribution Rails too: I LOVE how Erin Bowman wrote the novel in a Western dialect. It made the story feel even more authentic and made it an even more fun read. 5. The ending melted my heart. It was simply perfect, and that’s all I’ll say. BONUS POINT: THE GORGEOUS EFFING COVER! I would recommend this book to anyone who might have even the slightest interest in a young adult Western. It’s so fun, you’ll have a hard time not enjoying it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Phenomenal!! Vengeance Road is one of my favorite books and I'm so happy to report that Retribution Rails totally lived up to my (very high) expectations! I loved spending time with Kate again-- if possible, she is even more badass than ever before. Reece is fantastically complex character, Charlotte makes me want to swat her even as I'm cheering for her. As always, Bowman nails the world-building, the tension, the high-paced momentum. I devoured the book and will go back soon for a re-read.
pooled_ink More than 1 year ago
pooled ink Reviews: Intrigue, justice, debt, and a good ol' fashioned train robbery If you liked VENGEANCE ROAD then you’ll probably enjoy this book just as much. But if you haven’t read it yet, just know that it doesn’t really matter which book you read first. It won’t really spoil anything no matter which one you grab off the shelf. Retribution Rails and its predecessor, Vengeance Road, are companion novels. This isn’t a sequel. They’re set in the same world, during a similar time (RR takes place ten years after VR), but they tell different stories with different characters. Personally I have to be in the right mood to read a Western but when I am and I do it’s pretty easy to see how great these books are. RETRIBUTION RAILS kicks off with a train robbery and doesn’t quit ‘til it’s ridden off into the sunset. Intrigue, debts, romance, criminals, justice, and characters driven by fire, Bowman draws from the classic cup of a good Western and shapes it subtly for contemporary readers. **Read my FULL review on my Wordpress site: Pooled Ink
book_junkee More than 1 year ago
I had read and enjoyed Vengeance Road, so I was pretty eager to see what a companion story would look like...and it’s better than VR was. I loved Charlotte and Reece. She’s smart and stubborn and clever. He’s a better person than he thinks he is and it’s definitely interesting being in his head while he figures things out. Of course it’s awesome to see Kate and Jesse. The scenes with them were some of my favorite. Plot wise, it’s pretty much fast paced right from the beginning. The story starts with a bang and doesn’t let go. And while there’s a lot of riding horses and traveling, it was never boring. I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. Overall, it was a great companion, but it’s strong enough to stand on its own. I could have done with a bit more at the ending, but how it ended really worked. **Huge thanks to HMH for Young Readers for providing the arc free of charge**