ThrowbackThursday this week features a book I enjoyed very much. It was published in 2012.
It’s the latter half of the nineteenth century and Annie Haddon is travelling across America in a stagecoach, corseted, with layers of petticoats and to make matters worse, wearing hat and gloves. The heat is stifling, not to mention the company. Her Aunt Bea and cousin Charlotte included. Annie didn’t even know why they were making a side trip to Texas when they were bound for New York. Not that Annie was in any hurry to reach New York, as the man her aunt intended to marry her off to awaited them. At twenty-seven Annie was considered almost beyond hope in the marriage stakes. A woman of her age who reads and holds her own opinions and especially one who is a cripple, had to take what she could get, according to her ‘loving’ relations.
When the stagecoach is attacked Annie discovers she has been abandoned and if not for Colt McCall she didn’t dare think what would have happened to her. Colt is half white, half Sioux and accepted by neither, dark and broodingly irresistible in a way Annie finds disturbing, although she can’t put into words why. She seems to have an affinity with the untamed land and a strange feeling, almost of belonging.
It bothered Annie more than she could say, to think that she’d sometimes dreamed of something like this. A mysterious stranger, a daring rescue. Being carried off on a wild-eyed horse, westward into the sunset.
I loved this book from the start. It took me back right back to my favourite TV programs and girlish fantasies of ruggedly handsome cowboys. It’s very easy to relate to, and like, Annie. I had quite the opposite feelings towards her aunt and cousin. They ride roughshod over Annie and grind her down, leaving her with very little self-confidence. But for all her vulnerability, she has the strength of character and courage to cope with the extraordinary situation she finds herself in, and enough not to allow the dictates of the day, or her self-obsessed and uncaring relatives, to ruin her life. I think Colt would set my heart a flutter too, intriguing and powerfully attractive with a strong sense of honour… ‘The underdog defending the downtrodden.’
An extremely well written and structured story, the scenic descriptions are vivid and transported me to the majestic and vast openness of the American west. I love June Kearns’ writing style, the unfolding romance, as well as the humour and great dialogue infused into the authentic narrative. A very unexpected, and sad for Annie, twist at the end.
I enjoyed reading the quotes taken from The Gentlewoman’s Guide to Good Travel at the beginning of each chapter. This priceless one began Chapter 4….’When embarking on long and fatiguing expeditions, ladies should endeavour to avoid those garments which constrict the vital organs, as far as modesty allows.’
About the Book
Jane Austen meets Zane Grey. The American West,1867. After a stagecoach wreck, well-bred bookish spinster, Annie Haddon, (product of mustn’t-take-off-your-hat, mustn’t-take-off-your-gloves, mustn’t-get -hot-or-perspire Victorian society) is thrown into the company of cowboy, Colt McCall – a man who lives by his own rules and hates the English. Can two people from such wildly different backgrounds learn to trust each other? Annie and McCall find out on their journey across the haunting, mystical landscape of the West.