I couldn't leave off these five books, all of which feature women of grit, cleverness, and determination.
The Outlander by Gil Adamson. A novel of extraordinary beauty, heartpounding suspense and so many surprises. In 1903, Mary Boulton has killed her husband and flees her home. But his brothers, ruthless as he was, relentlessly track her. She races towards the Canadian Rockies, hoping to disappear in the wilds, and finds herself taking refuge in the mining town of Frank. I can give away nothing more without spoiling a novel that immerses the reader in the beauty and brutal indifference of the landscape - and the charismatic and colorful people she meets. I've read nothing quite like it; the story sticks to me and I still think of it years after reading. Marvelous.
Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee. A novel of two young women surviving the treacherous Oregon Trail in 1849 - Samantha, a Chinese girl running from the law and Annamae, a runaway slave she meets as she flees the crime. The two disguise themselves a boys headed for California gold, hoping to evade the law and find a new life. A young adult book that doesn't read like one. Remarkable characters, a dangerous trek across wild lands, and the strength of friendship make this a read that is hard to put down.
These Is My Words: The Diary of Agnes Prine 1881-1901 by Nancy E. Turner. If you loved "1883" you will definitely want to read this book. Sarah Agnes Prine's diary of her trek with her family through the Arizona Territory and into Texas is based on journals from the author's own relative. The every day-ness about it is what makes it so unique. We witness the rigors of the journey - illness, violence, tragedies - as if we are with Sarah on the journey. Her voice shines throughout. I really struggled with choosing between this book of Turner's or "Light Changes Everything" which follows Sarah's niece's life in the Arizona Territory. Both are fabulous, and the voices of each unforgettable.
Girl with a Gun by Kari Bovee. Annie Oakley, Little Sure Shot herself, star of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Shows, solves crimes. Of course she would. Annie Oakley can do no wrong. This book is the first in a wildly fun and clever series of "Annie Oakley Mysteries". Damn good story and damn good fun.
The Diary of Mattie Spenser by Sandra Dallas. Also a diary, but this time in 1865 on the Colorado frontier. This is as much a story of a marriage as it is Mattie's experience of homesteading on the limitless plains. We watch the stars fall from her eyes as her life changes to surviving the harsh realities of infant mortalility, of women and men worked to their breaking point, of the humanity and cruelty of Indians and white settlers alike. And yet, throughout, it is the kindness and strength of people hard-scrabbling an existence where the horizon constantly moves that sings throughout.
I do hope I've tempted you to read some (all!) of these novels. Let me know what you think, and please feel free to send me recommendations for books you think I'd like to read.
NEXT POST: Down an Alley and Past a Livery: The Joy of Historical Maps
K.T. Blakemore grew up in the United States West and never left. Her upcoming novel THE GOOD TIME GIRLS is the first in the Wild-Willed Women of the West Series, featuring women who take no prisoners and succeed through sheer grit, determination, and a parcel of luck. Look for it in Kindle, paperback and hardcover on April 4, 2023.
She has hung her hat in California, Colorado, and currently the Pacific Northwest. The rain does not deter her research whether it be train timetables from 1905 or the best way to catch a loose horse.
Like what you read here? Subscribe to this blog below!