Review of West for the Black Hills

West for the Black Hills


After the traumatic events of his childhood, Philip Anderson just wants to run his ranch, raise horses, and live his life in peace. But when a powerful man threatens him and the woman he loves, Philip must make a choice. Will his choice cost him his life?

As a Louie La’mour fan, it was with great anticipation that I picked up West for the Black Hills, and I was not disappointed. Leavell has a sense for the aesthetic as he paints the setting for his exciting story. From the description of saddles to the layout of the town of Mitchell, the attention to detail shows the author’s care for historical accuracy, and gives an authentic taste of the Old West as it happened in the Dakota Territory shortly before U.S. statehood

West for the Black Hills is told through the points of view of Phillip and Anna. Philip wants to forget the troubled memories of his past and live in peace. Anna is caught between two love interests. She must choose to marry for love or to protect her family’s interests. Each viewpoint has a unique voice and personality. The masculine and feminine points of view add a colorful and contrasting narrative to a wonderful story.

Most of the dialogue aids the story’s flow and reveals the main characters as likable and sympathetic. Not only does the dialogue show depth, but masculine and feminine voices are authentic, believable, and entertaining, making it one of the greatest strengths of the story.

West for the Black Hills travels back to a time where the law was enforced by brute force and the barrel of a gun. The beginning of the story seems over punctuated, interrupting the flow of the narrative. However, after the first two chapters, the plotline takes off at an incredible pace. The novel is dominated by external events woven together in a realistic but imaginative way by a gifted storyteller who refuses to allow one minute of boredom.

The conflict in West for the Black Hills is driven by external events. Most of them lay beyond Philip and Anna’s control and lead to internal turmoil as they are forced to make choices outside their comfort zones. These tensions make for a terrific story and allow the characters to overcome obstacles which seem insurmountable. The romantic angle is also used to the story’s advantage without overwhelming the entire plot, and the novel is full of page-turning mystery and heart-pounding suspense from beginning to end.

There are Christian elements in West for the Black Hills. Leavell does a masterful job portraying the epic struggle of good versus evil throughout the novel. Philip acts with integrity and treats women as a Christian gentleman should. There are a few times when conversations about faith make valid points, but some seem like after-thoughts and aren’t necessary.

West for the Hills is a stand-alone novel and the first in Peter Leavell’s Dakota Sunrise Series. It is geared for a mainstream Christian audience who enjoy historical fiction, as well as those who are looking for a clean, rip-roaring, well-written western. It is so entertaining that it may also appeal to a general audience as well. However, there are a few scenes that are not for the faint of heart, and the way evil is depicted may bother some readers.

In short, West for the Black Hills is a page-turning adventure full of lively dialogue, reluctant but likable heroes, and incredible suspense. Peter Leavell is an up-and-coming author whose stories are sure to become favorites. I can’t wait to see what he does next.


I received a free copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.


About Katherine Wacker

Katherine Wacker is currently a reviewer for Bethany House Publishers, and Howard Books. She is a Craftsman graduate of the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writer’s Guild. She holds a B.A in History from San Diego State-Imperial Valley Campus. In her spare time she likes to read books, watch sports, and do jigsaw puzzles. She lives at home with her parents and three dogs, Charlie, Roscoe and Daisy.
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2 Responses to Review of West for the Black Hills

  1. Katherine,

    Great review. You have a way with words yourself. I, too, enjoyed this book. And I don’t read historicals, as a general guideline. And certainly not Westerns. But West for the Black Hills transcends genre (as you alluded) even while it honors it.

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