Author: T.V. Olsen

Published: 1983

Mood: If you want to discreetly devour the steamy sex scenes of a badly written bodice-ripper romance and need a book that disguises itself as a Western.


I didn’t finish Red is the River. In fact, I only got through a quarter of it – and I have ZERO regrets about that.


I always say that I’m not the type to quit on a Western, be it a book or a movie. Even if it’s terrible, I’ll force myself to get through it so I can at least provide a scathing review. But I’m no spring chicken here, and I couldn’t let this tediously self-inflated yet painfully vapid story take up another moment of my time.


Red is the River is so pointless, they had to put the words ‘Lonesome Dove’ on the cover to trick people into reading it.


Red is the River is so pointless, it makes watching a Luke Hemsworth Western seem like a good idea.


Red is the River is so pointless, the only thing you could hope to get from it is a papercut so you’d have something better to do with your day than read this book.


Do not waste your time, people! This insult to the Western genre is headed right to the thrift store, because I don’t believe in destroying books but I definitely don’t want it anywhere near my other Westerns in case its trashy energy is contagious.


photo of the book Red is the River


Red is the River is the “blazing saga” of a Swedish pioneer family who clash with a logging family over land rights. A raging feud quickly develops between the angry, macho dads, but so does a Romeo-and-Juliet situation between two of the young ‘uns.


The writing in this book is so disgustingly self-indulgent, like it’s trying to prove that it can hold up to the actual blazing Western sagas but embarrassing itself at every turn.


  • Author T.V. Olsen seizes every chance to use 20 words where he could have used two, so there’s no flow whatsoever
  • It feels like it was written with a thesaurus in hand
  • It seems like the intended audience is women, because there’s a LOT of sex written in that romance novel style, you know… descriptions like “the crisp, black-furred nexus to her womanhood” (my fiancé lost it for like 10 minutes when he read that line in this review – specifically the word ‘crisp’)
  • But then the sex scenes aren’t even good, they alternate between overly flowery swill and borderline rape
  • The story in general is misogynistic to the point where even though you know women were basically property at the time, the male characters are so one dimensional and testosterone-fueled that you can’t imagine any woman from any era putting up with their shit
  • And then you have inconsistent, badly written dialogue that’s supposed to sound like Swedes who speak English as their second language but it does NOT work

The cover boldly compares Red is the River to Lonesome Dove, but the only commonality I can find is that both are dense paperbacks. There is no universe in which these two stories are on the same playing field.


I only read this book because a) it arrived in a box full of random Westerns that I had no control over purchasing, and b) the author won a Golden Spur Award and the cover compared it to Lonesome Dove and I fell for it.


Don’t make my mistake. Just, don’t.