WESTERING WOMEN: historical fiction

WESTERING WOMEN

Sandra Dallas
St. Martin’s Press
Historical Fiction
January 2020 – ARC Netgalley  ★★★☆☆

If you are an adventuresome young woman of high moral character and fine health, are you willing to travel to California in search of a good husband? Do you want to instill God and Civilization and Righteousness in the westernmost part of our country?

What to do on a rainy day and suffering a 9.0 Richter scale head cold? Snuggle with a book with a simple and entertaining story-line. Sitting in my email inbox that morning, was an offer from St. Martin’s Press to read Westering Women in exchange for my review; a promising choice. Serendipity.

Being an adventuresome old woman, not necessarily of high moral character, I decided to  spent the day traveling with forty-three woman in a train of prairie schooners heading from St. Joe, Missouri to California. The book amused me but I won’t say it made me feel like I connected with the characters. As a woman born at a time when my father had to sign for my first credit card, I could relate to many of the misogynistic scenes; there were times I could see where the use of a good war club might serve as an attitude adjuster.

But there is always a place for a good sappy read that tosses out obvious hints and clues well in advance. It doesn’t take a genius to see where scolding a bratty child repeatedly be careful while crossing a raging river and being repeatedly ignored might lead to tragedy. Staying with that scene, days later the mother just hitches up her skirt and says … Oh,well. Life goes on. She’s with Jesus. I don’t have to worry about her anymore.

There was a healthy dose of Christianity sprinkled everywhere like holy water. Not a surprise to the reader as the trip was sponsored and led by two preachers. At the same time, the travelers’ faith comforted them and sustained them through, what was surely true in 1850s dash across the continent, soul bending moments.

As expected, not every woman on the journey headed out through hell and high water to get a husband. The twelve or so main characters each have a hidden secret that is revealed in the fullness of time.

There were the inevitable accidentals, cholera death, and clashes with Native Americans. Fragile women escaped brutal husbands and every man they encountered on the journey seemed to want “carnal knowledge” or provide a sound beating to the woman who dared to escape their wrath; justification in my mind to head west to start over leaving bozos behind – but as expected, the bozos just had to track down the women and give them grief; bad move guys. Don’t attack a pack of feisty women.

Let it be said that this old gal did raise a hand in salute at the strength and determination of the women to form a cohesive sisterhood; broken women can heal like a broken bone – stronger in the end.

Sandra Dallas fans will enjoy the story. As I said in the beginning, I enjoyed the read. Didn’t strain the brain and was an easy read that I never felt I had to just put it down. I will admit to a couple of -“on come on, really?” moments.

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