Releasing The Reins

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Pub Date 18 Jun 2024 | Archive Date 24 Jun 2024

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Secrets hiding on the tundra…

In the dawning of summer, the rugged landscape of rural Alaska sets the stage for a tale of determination and dark secrets. Headstrong Bunny O’Kelly arrives on the sprawling expanses of Buck Miller’s horse ranch with the fiery ambition to make a name for herself. Against the backdrop of wild horses and unchecked wilderness, she embarks on a grueling journey to prove her worth, not just as a ranch hand, but as a woman in a world that doesn’t want her.

But when Bunny stumbles upon the shattered remnants of Katie Miller’s life, the ranch transforms into a web of lies. Katie’s fatal accident, long unexamined, whispers of hidden truths and cloaked motives. As Bunny delves deeper, she uncovers a sinister layer to the tragedy and finds herself caught in a dangerous game where her quest for justice could unravel the very fabric of her newfound haven . . . yet silence could enshrine a killer’s freedom.

Releasing the Reins spurs you to unravel its mysteries. Can Bunny O’Kelly expose the truth when trust shatters and daylight reveals the deadliest secrets?

Secrets hiding on the tundra…

In the dawning of summer, the rugged landscape of rural Alaska sets the stage for a tale of determination and dark secrets. Headstrong Bunny O’Kelly arrives on the...

Advance Praise

“It takes writing chops to create a women’s fiction/mystery/modern western mash-up like Releasing the Reins, but author Catherine Matthews does it seamlessly. Set in the wild expanses of Alaska farmland, this debut novel honors the majestic landscape, explores the power of the human/animal connection, and exposes the destructive force of family secrets. Bunny O’Kelly is an intriguing protagonist: smart-witted, strong, stubborn, and a little lost. Her journey to unravel a hidden truth is also a hard path of self-discovery—readers will love her, fear for her, and root for her to find the answers she desperately needs. An up-all-night page-turner.”
- Carla Damron, award-winning author of Justice be Done, The Orchid Tattoo, and The Stone Necklace

“Fierce, vivid, and utterly captivating, Releasing the Reins is a must-read for anyone who enjoys hidden truths, rugged wilderness, and characters who are never quite what they seem.”
- S.G. Prince, author of To Poison A King

“Catherine Matthews shines in her debut novel about a young woman taking on gender bias and tackling her past in the ranching world of Alaska. Matthews’s characters are richly drawn, and the book is fast-paced with an edge of danger. A definite page turner. I highly recommend!”
- James D. Shipman, bestselling author of Before the Storm, Beyond the Wire, and Irena’s War

“Evocative. Suspenseful. Lush. Matthews paints the world of an Alaskan horse ranch with unsurpassed skill, as she takes the reader deep into the tundra, and into the dangerous world of Bunny O’Kelly, a female ranch hand in a world of men. As Bunny fights to carve out a home for herself in this unforgiving terrain, she stumbles upon a mystery that she just cannot leave alone. Does a murderer walk free in this close-knit community? Readers will find themselves devouring pages deep into the night as they join Bunny on her suspenseful quest for the truth and for self-discovery. 5 Stars!”
-Heather E. F. Carter, award-winning author of The Black Unicorn

“It takes writing chops to create a women’s fiction/mystery/modern western mash-up like Releasing the Reins, but author Catherine Matthews does it seamlessly. Set in the wild expanses of Alaska...

Available Editions

ISBN 9798989884001

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Featured Reviews

I still can’t believe this is a debut novel! Days later, I’m still thinking about Bunny as we sail towards Alaska.

Matthews paints a wonderful picture of the Alaskan wilderness and ranching, but it’s the character development that steals the show. Turning over the final page in the book, I feel that I’ve spent time at the Midnight Sun Ranch and developed some great friendships. In fact, if I walked down the street in Anchorage, I feel that I’d instantly know if Bunny was walking towards me.

Desperately wishing to disentangle from the knot of dysfunctional family and stand on her own, Benjamina (Benny) O’Kelly leaves home and heads 1200 miles north to a ranch, six hours out of Anchorage. Her grueling journey to prove her worth as a ranch hand at Buck Miller’s ranch had me glued to the pages.

Equestrians will tell you that ‘releasing the reins’ requires trust and Benny definitely learns to release the reins and work hard to earn trust. She’s confident in her abilities and sets out to prove herself to those with whom she works. Releasing the reins with her family is easy as they don’t trust her ability or worth. Buck Miller, her new boss, struggles with releasing the reins and in observing Benny’s determination, he slowly learns to trust again. For Benny, trust has been a refuge. For Buck, trust has been a threat. Regardless, secrets are the root of all the misplaced, broken, denied, undeserved and refused trust in this tight-knit Alaskan town.

I appreciated a taut, well-paced read highlighting the courage to stand up for oneself, the determination to move in the direction of one’s dreams, the cost of responsibility, and the danger of underestimating someone. Abandonment was a central theme, as was demanding respect, proving oneself, and wallowing in the failure to protect.

Reminiscent of the struggles between the Capulets and Montegues of Shakespeare’s world, Matthew’s characters face the fallout of forbidden love between the rival Cooper and Miller families. Benny is caught in the feud between the Midnight Sun and Double J ranches and is driven to uncover the secrets they are so intent on hiding.

I can’t wait for the sequel!

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What a book! I can’t wait to share my thoughts in Bunny’s adventure and Katie’s justice. This has all the makings of an in red book! Suspense, drama, determination…this list goes on and on. I couldn’t stop flying through the pages and I absolutely cannot wait to share much more on this beautiful book.

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A debut novel you will love from the first chapter. Bunny is a feminist icon that knows taking the easy road isn’t always easy what you are meant to do. Bunny and the rest of the characters are so relatable and the details of Alaska are so vivid you’ll feel like you’re there. Overall I loved this book only gave it four stars because I wanted more from the ending at least a few more fictional days or weeks.

Thank you to Victory Editing and NetGalley who provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All the thoughts and opinions are my own.

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I enjoyed this book, even more so once I got the swing of the alternating story lines. One story line takes place in 1984 and focuses on Bunny (aka Benny), a strong willed girl as she leaves her home and family's dairy farm in Washington to become a ranch hand on the Midnight Sun horse ranch in Alaska, where she wasn't really welcome and she fought very hard to prove herself the equal of any male ranch hand in order to stay working there. The other story line takes place in 1982 and focuses on Katie, the daughter of Benny's boss Buck at the ranch. Benny becomes intrigued by what really happened to Katie and tries to uncover the truth of her death. This fast-paced read kept me going and I couldn't wait to see how it all played out.

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This book gives such cozy mystery vibes, I FLEW through it. This book has a dual timeline, which I LOVE! This is a book where the main character Benny/Bunny has come to Midnight Sun to work as a farm hand after her dad does not leave her part of the ranch (years are 1982/84). Shortly after arrival, Bunny learns that the Farmer’s Daughter, Kate, died two years earlier in a car accident. Bunny cannot leave resting dogs lie, so as you follow Benny in her life on the ranch, you also follow her as she puts the pieces together about what really happened with Kate.

I received this as an ARC from Net Galley, but this is a true and honest review. I rated this book a 4.5 (rounded up since Goodreads does not have half stars).

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This novel is a well-paced, enjoyable, and rewarding read. It features an appealing blend of mystery and psychological/women's fiction elements, and the setting, while unfamiliar to me, wound up being my favorite part. The author captures the rural Alaskan landscape and makes the horse ranching milieu accessible to readers through vivid description and emotional relevance.

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