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Tomboy Bride: One Woman’s Personal Account of Life in the Mining Camps of the West

Tomboy Bride

by Harriet Fish Backus

If you ever thought of memoirs as a boring genre, I encourage you to sample Harriet Fish Backus’ Tomboy Bride. It is anything but boring. “Tomboy” refers to the Tomboy Mine, located above Telluride, Colorado, and “bride” is the author Harriet who moved there in 1906 immediately after her wedding at the age of twenty with her mining engineer husband George Backus. The first half of the book describes the difficulties and adventures inherent in living in an almost impossible to reach area with only the barest necessities. Harriet was a city girl and had a big learning curve in basic survival skills in the remote, dangerous, high altitude mining camp—everything from baking at over 11,500 feet to how to wade in long skirts in the snow to an outhouse located quite a distance from the home.

The second half of the book relates a series of moves to various mines along with changes in mining fortunes. Not every mine was successful, and the country’s economic twists affected the mines as well. Their adventures took the couple to Britannia Beach, British Columbia; Elk City, Idaho; and Leadville, Colorado. They had several children and lived through World War I and the Great Depression. George’s mechanical ingenuity landed him a job in Oakland, California, which he held for 37 years, but Harriet’s fondest memories are not the ones of ease in the city, but of struggles, love, and friendship in the mountains.

Mining was a difficult and dangerous business. This was true even for college educated mining engineers who suffered from the cold, long hours and perils along with the miners. Mortality rates were high because of the distance to health care. Transportation was slow and uncomfortable along the treacherous snow packed mountain trails. Water and coal had to be carried by hand from dropping off points up slippery, snow-covered slopes to their homes by the residents. The only fruits and vegetables available were canned and brought up monthly on burros. Because of the isolation, residents tended to work as a community. As long as Harriet and George were together, they were happy despite, and sometimes perhaps because of, their shared hardships.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Memoir, History

Notes: 1. I recommend the 50th anniversary edition of Tomboy Bride because it includes many photographs that bring the story to life.
2. There is a timeline at the end of the book.
3. This is a great book for a book club to read as it is ripe with topics for discussion. Tomboy Bride includes thought provoking questions at the end of the book which our book club found quite helpful.

Publication: 2019—West Margin Press
First publication—1977

Memorable Lines:

On reaching his destination the rider tied the reins to the pommel of the saddle and turned the horse loose. Regardless of the distance, knowing the trails far better than most riders, the horse quietly and surely returned to the nearest stable, at the Tomboy or in Telluride.

Crash! What sounded like pounds of glass breaking into bits was only an old cigar box filled with nails that had fallen from a shelf. Even the rats laid low that night, at least we did not hear them. My chattering teeth kept time to the rattling of the old stovepipe fastened by wires to the rafters. The denim “carpet” rose and fell like ocean billows and wind crackled the newspaper padding.

…at the end of a month we both felt inwardly the call of the wild. Somehow, after the serenity of our mountains, the city seemed tawdry and confusing.

A Cowgirl’s Secret–sacrificing for family

A Cowgirl’s Secret

by Melinda Curtis

I recently had a three book marathon with The Mountain Monroes, reading books #7, 8, and 9 which were all published in 2021. Today I finish up my reviews for them. I hope you enjoyed visiting Second Chance, Idaho, as much as I did. There are some more members of the Monroe clan that we have yet to meet; I am looking forward to 2022 and more clean love stories with an emphasis on family, making your way, and finding your place.

This heartwarming romance is full of complications—one of the legacies of Harlan Monroe, head of the wealthy Monroe family. Wanting his grandchildren to be independent, Harlan’s stipulations in his will ensured they would have to find their own way in the world, not relying on his money.

In A Cowgirl’s Secret, we meet more of the Monroes as they come to Second Chance at the beckoning of Shane Monroe who wants to influence their vote in a decision about the little town’s future. Bentley Monroe, reticent, but a mechanical genius and racing boat designer, arrives. Everyone is mystified by the magnetic attraction he holds for kids and animals. Cassie Diaz, recovering from being trampled by a rodeo bull, is certainly not immune to his spell as he caringly steps in when her health fails while she is responsible for two precious children whose father, Tanner, is out of town. It seems everyone has money issues, and the mysterious Tanner’s arrival just stirs the pot as he claims to be a Monroe.

Two more Monroes are introduced. One plays an important role and the other a minor one. Their identity should be kept secret until you read the book because therein lies a major plot twist. Meanwhile, if you are following this series, you will be happy to know that a lot of the Monroes who have been featured in previous books have a supporting role in this one.

The Mountain Monroes Series is a fun, clean, and relaxing tale spun out by author Melinda Curtis over a set of books that features each of the twelve cousins. I have looked forward to each one of them; Curtis intends for readers to be able to jump in anywhere and enjoy the story and characters. If you like second chance stories, then you won’t regret a visit to Second Chance, Idaho.

I would like to extend my thanks to Melinda Curtis for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Romance

Notes: #9 in The Mountain Monroes Series, but works quite well as a standalone.

Publication: September 28, 2021—Harlequin Heartwarming

Memorable Lines:

The ranch smacked of faded dreams and the faint whiff of desperation.

He tasted the bitterness of being cast aside, overlooked, ignored. That was the fate of the lone Monroe who considered every word before speaking, who didn’t tell jokes with any skill and was content to be part of the crowd rather than compete to be a leader of it.

But if voices were raised, feelings invariably got hurt no matter how much you loved someone.

Caught by the Cowboy Dad–is marriage a negotiation?

Caught by the Cowboy Dad

by Melinda Curtis

Dr. Bernadette Carlisle has her life together. She has a successful OB/GYN practice in Ketchum which she is trying to sell to become Second Chance’s doctor. She has one very small, teeny problem/blessing. She is pregnant by an ex-boyfriend who has ghosted her. Said ex is the oldest cousin in the Monroe clan and a financial wizard who has, unfortunately, lost his corporate position because his grandfather’s will stipulated the severing of business relationships of all of his children with their children. He has also lost his investment funds in a cousin’s risky project, and he has a teenage son from a first marriage with ambitions that include MIT premed as a seventeen year old.

For Bernadette, marriage must include love. For Wyatt, marriage is a negotiable business contract. As they embark on a road trip with Wyatt’s very studious, likable, nerdy son, they encounter one disaster after another and don’t get far down the road. They do have a chance to re-evaluate their priorities and meet some interesting people. Join Bernadette, Wyatt, and his son Devin in Melinda Curtis’ Caught by the Cowboy Dad as they make the trip of a lifetime in Idaho and end up following their dreams back home.

I would like to extend my thanks to Melinda Curtis for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Romance

Notes: I particularly liked this novel in The Mountain Monroes Series because, although the Monroe family situation provides a backdrop, most of the action occurs away from the town of Second Chance and the Monroe clan. That means fewer characters to keep up with and decide if they are going to be incidental or major. It allows for deeper character development and the introduction of some new, interesting characters. Caught by the Cowboy Dad, although #8 in the series, makes an excellent standalone.

Publication: June 1, 2021—Harlequin Heartwarming

Memorable Lines:

“Where I come from, life is about more than making money. It’s about passing on something important to folks and leaving something special to family….You don’t understand life….It’s about purpose. It’s about joy.”

“So instead of telling him how you felt, you hoped he’d guess.” Bernadette shook her head at Devin. “You’re more like your father than you think.”

“Love is giving. and being in love… Well, it makes you a better person, not in that you-complete-me kind of way, but as if you can make a risky reach for the stars because if you fail, you’ll still have that person at your side.”

The Littlest Cowgirls–new twins in Second Chance

The Littlest Cowgirls

by Melinda Curtis

Twins! Twins have an undeniable attraction for most readers, and there are a lot of them in Melinda Curtis’ The Mountain Monroes Series. In The Littlest Cowgirls, twins Ashley and Laurel have a sticky situation resulting from Laurel going on a date with famous actor and playboy Wyatt Halford—as a stand-in for her more reticent sister Ashley, an actress. Fast forward nine months when Wyatt is invited to attend a very pregnant Laurel’s wedding. Laurel has decided Wyatt needs to at least know of his paternity to twin daughters. Ashley, meanwhile, wants to change her image from “America’s Sweetheart” as a former child and teenage actress to that of a more serious and mature actress and producer. Life becomes complicated quickly for everyone in the story as they work through their personal pasts and how that will affect their futures.

You’ll need to read the book to find out if the sparks flying between Ashley and Wyatt can turn into a professional relationship, and if Wyatt wants to be part of his little girls’ lives. The members of the Monroe clan make a backdrop for the drama playing out in Second Chance, Idaho. Twelve-year old Gabby has big ears but has difficulty keeping a secret. Cousin Jonah has written the script about villain Mike Moody for a western whose origins come straight from the local mountains. There is lots of local color provided by adult and pint-sized cowboys and a few cowgirls as well.

I would like to extend my thanks to Melinda Curtis for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

Category: Romance

Notes: #7 in The Mountain Monroes Series. Although it could be read as a standalone, this one is a little harder to read independently because there are so many Monroes converging on Second Chance for the wedding. Although the author provides a chart for the relationships of the original family members, the family has grown through marriages and engagements to include many more people. An expanded chart or extra notes would have helped for this novel.

Publication: February 21, 2021—Harlequin Heartwarming

Memorable Lines:

“But thanks for bringing us all down to earth, Mother.” “As the worst-case scenario thinker in the family, I live to serve.” Mom made her exit with a dramatic flourish of her hand.

Wyatt could feel a double cross in his bones better than his coal-mining father could feel the earth tremble before a cave-in.

An inkling that one of these days, he’d look in the mirror and find a gray hair. And his indestructible self-image, the one he used as a shield against his father’s bitterness, would crack. Then his position on top of Hollywood would tilt and crumble.

Return of the Blackwell Brothers

 

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Join me as I fulfill a commitment to the five authors of the books in the Return of the Blackwell Brothers series to read and review the series by the end of 2018. The deadline is close, there is no penalty if I don’t achieve success, and it is a fun task I look forward to.

I have questions as I go into this reading. Will five different authors be able to maintain continuity in the plot? How much will the characters overlap? Will the authors try to maintain the same style or will they branch out on their own? I don’t ask these questions with one right answer in mind. I am open to watching the series play out according to the authors’ designs.

This series is from a line of Harlequin books called Heartwarming and they are advertised as “wholesome, tender romances.” I don’t appreciate steamy, erotic writing or psychological thrillers. I like books that are engaging, well-written, and within my comfort zone in regards to content and language. I will be looking at these books from that perspective as well as the usual—plot, characters, setting, pace, etc.

As always, thanks for reading my blog and sharing your opinions as well.

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No Way Home–abundant suspense!

No Way Home

by Annette Dashofy

No Way HomeNo Way Home combines elements of a cozy mystery with elements of a thriller, and the result is an excellent read. As a cozy, No Way Home’s main character is Zoe Chambers, a county EMS paramedic and Deputy Coroner, who gets involved in trying to solve a murder when a riderless horse returns to the stable she manages. She is also trying to help her friend Rose find her missing son Logan. Meanwhile, several young people have overdosed in her county, and Zoe’s boyfriend Pete, Chief of Police, is driven to find the dealer. In this book, there are all the components of a good cozy: a likable heroine, a love interest, and a fascinating mystery with lots of threads. In addition, we are exposed to Native American culture as found in the Four Corners area.

No Way Home is also a thriller, however. A crucial characteristic of a thriller is suspense. This book kept me interested and wanting more from start to finish and fearful of what  might happen next. The book has two contrasting settings as it bounces back and forth from Pennsylvania to New Mexico in such a way that the reader wants to keep going with each plot thread in turn, a thread which is dangling just out of reach. It is a book you won’t put aside easily or for long.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Henery Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery, General Fiction (Adult)

Notes: #5 in the Zoe Chambers Mystery Series, reads well as a standalone

Publication:   March 14, 2017–Henery Press

Memorable Lines:

He had an easy smile, a hearty laugh, and a talent for putting everyone at ease, whether they agreed with his politics or not. In addition, Dale was always happy to help with chores even if it meant getting dirty. Not what Zoe had expected from a well-to-do politician.

He held the phone away from his ear. At Rose’s current decibel level, Pete could almost hear her from New Mexico without the device.

Sunrise Canyon–guilt, secrets, and a family’s love

Sunrise Canyon

by Janet Dailey

sunrise-canyonThe sun rises on the Flying Cloud Ranch in Arizona, not too far from Tucson, with beautiful descriptions by Janet Dailey in Sunrise Canyon. The ranch belongs to Dusty, a cowboy in his seventies. Originally a working ranch, with the changing times Flying Cloud became a dude ranch and then evolved into a ranch for troubled teens.  Dusty’s granddaughter Kira is a licensed Equine-Assisted Therapist.  Together they manage the program and raise five year old Paige. The characters have complex backgrounds and relationships. Paige’s mother, Wendy, died in a car accident and her father Jake never returned for her after his last tour of duty in Afghanistan.

Kira and Jake both harbor guilt, but about different situations. The reader is gradually made aware of the causes as the story progresses.  Various interesting plot elements unfold as Jake and Kira get to know and trust each other and as the precocious Paige is drawn to the stranger Jake who has come to work on the ranch.  We also get a glimpse of the side stories of the teenagers who have suffered from trauma, bullying and dysfunctional home situations.

Sunrise Canyon falls right in between General Fiction for adults and a Romance. It is almost as if the genres are dancing, with the fiction storyline taking the lead and then bowing to the tension of the romance. They separate at times and then come to sway and twirl together. I prefer a good plot rather than emphasis on syrupy or steamy romance. I think Sunrise Canyon finds a nice balance with an interesting tale intertwined with  conflicting desires and needs.

Exciting and descriptive, Sunrise Canyon affords a view of PTSD, equine-assisted therapy, and Arizona ranch life.  I found the characters to be sympathetic and I wanted a satisfactory ending for them.  I got that along with some unanticipated adventure.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Kensington Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: General Fiction (Adult), Romance

Notes: 1. mild swearing and sex

2. If you like motorcycles, you will delight in that minor part of the story. (Telling more would be a spoiler for a nice surprise.)

Publication: Kensington Books — February 28, 2017

Memorable Lines:

His eyelids were growing heavy. He was drifting now, his awareness clouding over as if blurred by windswept sand…

The moon was a fading crescent in the western sky, the sun barely streaking the east with the colors of dawn.

The horrors he’d not only witnessed but taken part in were burned into every nerve cell in his body, and woven into the fabric of his soul. They had become the man he was–the man he would be for the rest of his life.

Leaving Independence–Western Romance

Leaving Independence leaving independence

by Leanne Wood Smith

Having just read and reviewed an emotionally difficult nonfiction book, I was ready for something lighter, but engaging.  I found just what I was looking for in Leaving Independence by Leanne Wood Smith.  Independence is the name of the town the Baldwyn family, composed of Abigail and her four children, travels to as the departure point for a wagon train going west.  In an odd turn of events, the father of the family had been reported dead during the early days of the Civil War, but the war is now over and she receives word that he is serving at Fort Hall in the Idaho territory. Abigail is confused that he did not contact her personally, and the family is low on funds with the bank threatening repossession of their home.  A woman of action, she takes her family in search of her missing husband.

There are background stories related to the social and political events surrounding the Civil War and Reconstruction.  Abigail’s friend and former slave, Mimi, is unable to accompany the family on the trip.  The author tells the story with third person narrative and through pieces of letters that Mimi and Abigail exchange during the trip.  She creates an interesting tale with a combination of history, mystery, and romance.  I found the dialogue to be reflective of the characters and the time except for one anachronism.  As the family makes preparations to leave Independence, the teenage daughter, Corrine, is not happy about the trip.  Her mother tells her “you’ll have a much better trip if you decide now to embrace this experience.” “Embrace this experience” strikes me as a modern phrase and not one that is typical of 1866.  The use of this one expression does not ruin the novel for me, and I do recommend it to do what books do best–help you escape into a different time and place.

I would like to thank netgalley.com and Waterfall Press for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an unbiased review.

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