Cover Reveal: Undaunted Love (Banished Saga #3)

unnamedTitle: Undaunted Love
Author: Ramona Flightner
Publisher: Grizzly Damsel Publishing
Series?: Banished Saga #3
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance

Broken:

In spirit by the death of her daughter and by disillusionment with her marriage, Savannah Montgomery must find the strength to rediscover her sense of self-worth. Living in a mansion in Boston’s Back Bay, surrounded by maids, she’s learned wealth alone will not bring happiness. Submerged in a deep depression, a chance encounter brings friendship into her life. Will her friend’s faith in her embolden her to embrace a newly envisioned future?

Disillusioned:

By his actions in the Philippines during the Spanish-American War, Jeremy McLeod believes he will continue to battle the darkness alone. Returning home to Boston’s North End, wounded in body and spirit, he consigns himself to a solitary life. Working in his brother’s workshop brings much needed solace, but will it be enough?

Dedicated:

To forging a life with her husband Gabriel, in Montana, Clarissa McLeod is determined to fulfill her role as wife. When actions from her past continue to haunt her present and threaten her future, will Clarissa trust in her husband’s love and surmount her deepest fears?

Undaunted Love follows the McLeod, Sullivan, and Russell families as they struggle against injustice, persevere against loss and betrayal, and learn that the strongest bonds are the ones forged by loyalty and love.

***** About the Author *****

Ramona FlightnerRamona Flightner is a native of Missoula, Montana. After graduating from Tufts University with a B.A. in Spanish, she earned a Masters degree in Spanish Literature from the University of Montana. Her Master’s thesis, Chilean Testimonial Literature: the collective suffering of a people, highlighted her continued interest in the stories of those who were at risk of being forgotten or silenced.

She studied nursing at the University of Pennsylvania and graduated with a Master’s in Nursing as a Family Nurse Practitioner. She has worked for ten years as a family nurse practitioner providing care to the poor and under insured at two community health centers, first in Wilmington, Delaware and now in Boston, Massachusetts.

An avid reader, she began writing three years ago. She enjoys the demands of research and relishes the small discoveries that give historical detail to her books.

Ramona is an avid flyfisher and hiker who enjoys nothing better than spending a day on a remote Montana river, far from a city. She enjoys research, travel, storytelling, learning about new cultures and discovering new ways of looking at the world. Though she resides in Boston, Massachusetts, Ramona remains a Montanan at heart. 

Her dreams are to see the plains of East Africa, marvel at the wonder of Petra in Jordan, soak in the seas of the South Pacific, and to continue to spend as much time as possible with her family. 

Banished Love is her first novel and is the first in the forthcoming Banished Saga.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Review: Love’s First Flames

23601283
Title:
 Love’s First Flames
Author: Ramona Flightner
Publisher: Grizzly Damsel Publishing
Release Date: November 2014
Length: 129 pages
Series?: Banished Saga #.5
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N

Love’s First Flames is a novella prequel to the Banished Saga.

Devastated…
When a fire irrevocably changes the lives of the three McLeod brothers, Gabriel, Richard and Jeremy learn to depend on each other in their harsh new reality.

Determined…
To thrive in prosperous, dynamic Boston of the late 1800’s, the McLeod brothers forge a bond created from loss, loyalty and shared hardship. Led by elder brother Gabriel, the three brothers battle wits against class conscious, exploitive relatives, working together to maintain a sense of family.

Committed…
To their dream of a better future, Gabriel worries that Richard’s interest in fellow orphan Florence Butler will only lead to heartache. Will Richard be able to secure Florence’s love? Will the brothers maintain their loyalty to each other? Or will they be torn apart?

***** Review *****

This is a prequel to the Banished Saga. I reviewed Banished Love (#1) and Reclaimed Love (#2) last year. The third book will be coming out some time this spring.

I liked this short prequel, and I also didn’t like it.

What I liked:

  • The McLeod brothers all together again (at a younger age)
  • A couple of loving influences for the McLeod brothers during their dark days with the Mastersons
  • Richard meets the sweet Florence Butler and kind of courts her
  • Florence has a motherly-type figure in her boss
  • Gabriel and Richard stand up for what their parents have taught them
  • Gabriel stays strong and provides for his brothers like a good man

I didn’t like, as we’re not supposed to, Aunt Masterson.

At first, she’s just a woman. A very nice-looking woman.

Gabriel shrugged his shoulders as a thin woman stepped out, wearing a shimmering blue dress that almost appeared black. She pulled a slate-colored wool coat more firmly around her as she exited the carriage. She wore black gloves and a black hat with a veil pinned back.

Her harsh features were drawn into a moue of disgust as she glanced around the street, and she raised a square of white linen to her nose as she dodged horse droppings and approached Mrs. McClowski’s door. 

Aunt Masterson is evil. She collects the McLeods and takes them into her house, but it is surely not for want. It is simply to keep up appearances. What would it look like to the genteel society if she didn’t take in her sister’s own children?

“My sister had the misfortune to marry a worthless man, and these are her children. A cautionary tale.”

The longer the boys stay, the more abuse they must take at the hands of their family. The cousins are snooty brats. They are seen as burdens and even lesser than the servants. In fact, Aunt Masterson refers to them – directly – as cretins. She slowly loses it over the course of the novella with each passing antic.

She is evil in its purest form. It is so hard to think that people actually applauded and supported Aunt Masterson in her words, actions, deeds and schemes. How much more does the woman have to prove that she’s the devil incarnate? It’s like society – ahem, snobby ladies in particular, I’m talking to you – is completely blinded. She could be standing on a pedastool, revealing her next hateful scheme and they all applaud her for it.

One of my favorite parts of Love’s First Flames was actually Richard, the middle brother, when he stood up to Aunt Masterson with the very fiber of who he was:

“Our da said respect was earned,” Ricahrd said, inserting himeself between Gabriel and his cousinss even though he was at least three inches shorter than any of them. “Not given just because you wear some fancy suit that makes you look uglier than a wart on a baboon’s bottom.”

 Followed by a much more simpler response from Gabriel: 

She pinned him with her most severe glare. “You will learn to respect me, Gabriel.” 

“Respect is earned, Aunt, and you’ve done nothing to earn it.” 

I also loved how smoothly Richard’s courtship of Florence began, but sometime between the end of the prequel and Banished Love, something goes terribly, terribly wrong. I thought that might be covered in the prequel so as not to leave any gaps in the storyline, but I suppose that’s something that is going to be left alone.

***** About the Author *****

Ramona FlightnerRamona Flightner is a native of Missoula, Montana. After graduating from Tufts University with a B.A. in Spanish, she earned a Masters degree in Spanish Literature from the University of Montana. Her Master’s thesis, Chilean Testimonial Literature: the collective suffering of a people, highlighted her continued interest in the stories of those who were at risk of being forgotten or silenced.

She studied nursing at the University of Pennsylvania and graduated with a Master’s in Nursing as a Family Nurse Practitioner. She has worked for ten years as a family nurse practitioner providing care to the poor and under insured at two community health centers, first in Wilmington, Delaware and now in Boston, Massachusetts.

An avid reader, she began writing three years ago. She enjoys the demands of research and relishes the small discoveries that give historical detail to her books.

Ramona is an avid flyfisher and hiker who enjoys nothing better than spending a day on a remote Montana river, far from a city. She enjoys research, travel, storytelling, learning about new cultures and discovering new ways of looking at the world. Though she resides in Boston, Massachusetts, Ramona remains a Montanan at heart. 

Her dreams are to see the plains of East Africa, marvel at the wonder of Petra in Jordan, soak in the seas of the South Pacific, and to continue to spend as much time as possible with her family. 

Banished Love is her first novel and is the first in the forthcoming Banished Saga.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Book Review: Reclaimed Love

reclaimedbold1-266x400Title: Reclaimed Love
Author: Ramona Flightner
Publisher: Grizzly Damsel Publishing
Release Date: January 2014
Length: 337 pages
Series?: Banished Saga #2
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance
Format: e-book
Source: author

Find the book: Website | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

*****Synopsis*****

Committed…

To living a life she desires with the man she loves, Clarissa Sullivan continues to teach poor, immigrant children and to agitate for the vote for women as she awaits Gabriel’s return to Boston. Will her stepmother leave her in peace or is her life about to change again in unforeseen ways?

Convinced….

Clarissa is the woman he now wants to marry, Cameron Wright renews his pursuit of her. Charming, wealthy and well-bred, he is perceived as the ideal gentleman for a blacksmith’s daughter. With Gabriel far from Boston and his return uncertain, why should Clarissa continue to reject Cameron?

Devastated…

After his banishment from Boston, Gabriel McLeod forges a new life in a remarkable city. Will the memories of the love he shared with Clarissa sustain him?

Will Clarissa overcome deceit and treachery and reclaim her love?

*****Review*****

Oh, this book. How many of you think your mother-in-law is bad? Well, this book paints an ugly picture for Clarissa…almost like a historical version of Cinderella, without the stepsisters and no fairy godmother, just a beyond evil stepmother.

I snuck this one in while on my trip to Pennsylvania, and I am so glad I read it sooner rather than later. You can find my review of Banished Love, the first book, here. Clarissa is still in Boston, trying to continue on with her life even though Gabriel has gone west, after being blackguarded by Clarissa’s stepmother and her evil counterpart and cohort, Gabriel’s aunt. These two witches come into play quite a bit in this book, more so than in the first book, and their doings are far worse than in the first book.

Clarissa is pining over Gabriel, but he hasn’t written to her since leaving. Does he still feel the same? She continues teaching and deflecting the advances of her former fiance, Cameron, but it is harder and harder to do so with her stepmother plotting teas with ulterior motives and inviting Cameron over. Even her father’s adamant foot-down order that Cameron is not allowed in his house does not stop Clarissa’s stepmother, who convinces her husband to make Clarissa give up teaching and  be underfoot to learn the “proper” way to run a house, and be confined to her own home, a prisoner with no outlet. And this makes Clarissa’s stepmother even bolder in her actions and her inane matchmaking between Clarissa and Cameron. She goes too far and all but ensures that Clarissa will be forced to marry Cameron, or suffer untold ruin. During all of this, Clarissa meets Gabriel’s long-lost brother Jeremy, back from the war in the Philippines, and he is the one who grasps the idea of what Clarissa is keeping hidden. Also in a cruel twist of fate, the McLeod’s uncle Aiden surfaces, to learn that the nephews he was told were dead were indeed very much alive.

If only Gabriel would ask her to come to him…

This novel switched between Clarissa and Gabriel, and I felt that more time was spent with Gabriel than with Clarissa, so as to develop Gabriel’s new life out west. He meets up with a nice guy, who steers him into a mining town in Montana, derailing his plans for California. Gabriel finds work as a carpenter in this booming town and makes friends (and enemies) among his work crowd and Matthew’s. The Egan house is where Matthew and Gabriel and the bunch end up the majority of the time. Liam Egan works with Matthew in the mines, and Ameila Egan cooks and in general cares for the men, who all dote on little Nicholas. They are all trying to get Gabriel to get Clarissa out west and be reunited, and eventually she decides to do just that.

Clarissa sets off west with her brother Colin, and quickly discovers there is little trace of Gabriel where he said he’d be…and yet he has left the rumor mill running at full speed after leaving town with Amelia Egan. None of this bodes well for Clarissa, and even after they are reunited and things have been sorted out, Clarissa’s refusal to tell Gabriel what happened in Boston, and about what she learned as to why Cameron is forceful in his pursuit for their marriage, made me quite temperamental as a reader. There were several people telling her to just tell Gabriel, and just like in Harry Potter when Dumbledore gives Harry plenty of opportunities to tell him what is going on and Harry refuses, Gabriel gives her even more opportunities to tell him. Clarissa was such a flawed character at this point, afraid that Gabriel would not want her, that she almost made it come to that by her refusal to open up to him.

This teaser that Ramona shared about Reclaimed Love sums up the book beautifully:

Reclaimed-Love-change-yourself-into-something-final-400x400

There are so many things that happen in this novel that I can’t share even a glimmer of it, but they are all important, and most important of all is Cameron’s hell-bent reason for following her west. I did not think that he would let things end as they had in Boston, and even goes so far as to lie to everyone that Clarissa accepted his offer of marriage.

Even though Colin has gone west on this journey with Clarissa, his character was very limited in this book, while on the flip side of that coin we got to see quite a bit of Gabriel’s uncle Aiden, who as a businessman had an interest in a particular company in Boston that is keeping quiet about its bankrupt status…

The novel ends on a sweet note, with no clear indication of what will come in the next book, but from what I know of Ramona Flightner and her write-by-the-pants writing style, I think she’ll be writing more for this series than she originally thought as characters and plot lines continue to develop.

I can, however, take some guesses and list out some hopes:

  • Uncle Aiden buys out the company he originally came to Boston to do dealings with, making ruin publicly humiliating for one Boston family
  • Ameilia finds a wonderful man to remarry (although I’m still undecided as to who!)
  • Richard and Jeremy come west to join Gabriel, Clarissa and Aiden
  • Clarissa’s father discovers his wife’s treachery and abuse of Clarissa and something horrible befalls her and Gabriel’s horrid aunt
  • Cameron Wright ends up dead (come on, a girl can only hope!)
  • Savannah finds some happiness in her horrible marriage
  • Clarissa and Gabriel have a baby
  • The grandparents learn of Cameron’s true nature and make amends to Clarissa in some way
  • Clarissa and Gabriel devise a way for Ronan to live his life with purpose
  • Colin finds a way to put his love and musical talents to good use (and hopefully becomes famous?)

*****About the Author*****

Ramona FlightnerRamona Flightner is a native of Missoula, Montana. After graduating from Tufts University with a B.A. in Spanish, she earned a Masters degree in Spanish Literature from the University of Montana. Her Master’s thesis, Chilean Testimonial Literature: the collective suffering of a people, highlighted her continued interest in the stories of those who were at risk of being forgotten or silenced.

She studied nursing at the University of Pennsylvania and graduated with a Master’s in Nursing as a Family Nurse Practitioner. She has worked for ten years as a family nurse practitioner providing care to the poor and under insured at two community health centers, first in Wilmington, Delaware and now in Boston, Massachusetts.

An avid reader, she began writing three years ago. She enjoys the demands of research and relishes the small discoveries that give historical detail to her books.

Ramona is an avid flyfisher and hiker who enjoys nothing better than spending a day on a remote Montana river, far from a city. She enjoys research, travel, storytelling, learning about new cultures and discovering new ways of looking at the world. Though she resides in Boston, Massachusetts, Ramona remains a Montanan at heart. 

Her dreams are to see the plains of East Africa, marvel at the wonder of Petra in Jordan, soak in the seas of the South Pacific, and to continue to spend as much time as possible with her family. 

Banished Love is her first novel and is the first in the forthcoming Banished Saga.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Book Review: Banished Love

Banished Love (Banished Saga, #1)Title: Banished Love
Author: Ramona Flightner
Publisher: Grizzly Damsel Publishing
Release Date: January 2014
Length: 290 pages
Series?: Banished Saga #1
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance
Format: e-book
Source: author

Find the book: Website | Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Synopsis

Free-Spirited…

Clarissa Sullivan dreams for more from life than sipping tepid tea in stifling parlors in Victorian Boston. She defies her family’s wishes, continuing to teach poor immigrant children in Boston’s West End, finding a much-needed purpose to her life.

Radical…

As a suffragette, Clarissa is considered a firebrand radical no man would desire. For why should women want the vote when men have sheltered women from the distasteful aspects of politics and law?

Determined…

When love blossoms between Clarissa and Gabriel McLeod, a struggling cabinetmaker, her family objects. Clarissa’s love and determination will be tested as she faces class prejudices, manipulative family members and social convention in order to live the life she desires with the man she loves.

Will she yield to expectations, or follow her heart on a journey of self-discovery as she learns what she cannot live without?

Review

The year is 1900; the place is Boston, where high society still has a lasting impact on gossip and reputations. Clarissa is a young woman who caused quite a stir a few years prior to the novel starting, through no fault of her own whatsoever, but ugly gossip and remarks have made Clarissa out to be the one at fault, along with her continued insistence that she teach school in a poorer area of town.

Clarissa is also very clumsy, and known for it. She accidentally knocks a man from a ladder coming out of her uncle’s store, causing him serious injury. She ensures that he is well cared for, and discovers that he is a carpenter her uncle has hired – and he hires Gabriel to build Clarissa bookshelves for her school. Despite Clarissa’s clumsiness, a romance is budding between the two.

Clarissa teaches because it gives her life a sense of purpose. She enjoys it, and it grants her a certain amount of freedom, but a freedom she soon discovers is not so free at all. She is once again subjected to the rumor mill and gossips of society – including her very own stepmother, who is stirring that roiling pot, and simpering to her father when confronted with her wrongdoings. However, sometimes the damage is too great to be undone.

An unexpected and unwelcome ghost of Clarissa’s past shows back up in town and stalks her at every opportunity. Clarissa must eventually be escorted home from her school, but her stepmother is trying to play matchmaker, knowing fully how this ghost from Clarissa’s past has hurt her, and is tarnishing Gabriel’s reputation.

All the while, Clarissa is foiled against her cousin, Savannah, who is soon to marry a snobbish, well-to-do “gentleman” who at every opportunity reminds Clarissa exactly who she is and what she is in the most horrible way. Clarissa brings up a time or two the rift that is fast growing between the two cousins, especially after Savannah’s drastic retreat from The Cause.

Clarissa wants more from her life – and winds up the friend of an old, high society woman who has so much money nothing said can ruin her. Mrs. Chickering is an adamant suffragist, from the old days of Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. She becomes a mentor to Clarissa in so many ways.

Clarissa’s family is an obstacle in this book in so many ways. Her aunts and uncles, cousins and brothers love her, but her aunts hold to the traditional notion that a woman belongs in the home. Her brothers love and support her to no end. Her uncle adores her. Her grandparents detest her, her father and brothers because her mother “married down.” Savannah is the exalted granddaughter doing everything right. But there is one unlikely relative who surprised me in support of Clarissa’s choices and new love interest.

This book explores the deep patriarchal society structure of the time, and the vast complexities of the nature of genteel society. It gives context to a time when women as a collective were changing in their needs and wants of life. Indeed, it provided historical context from the original suffragist days through Mrs. Chickering, and the new suffragist agenda, which is vastly different and barely scratches the surface of a movement. This is a time when a person’s word could be taken at face value as truth, and many took advantage of that to manipulate situations, especially the character and reputation of others, as is made clear on more than one occasion in this novel. Clarissa is pitted against these ideas within her own family, which is a hard thing to face. She also falls in love with someone below her status in society, and again faces all of the complexities and ugliness that human nature can bring.

Clarissa experiences growth as a character, as do most of those involved. I was disappointed that her friend and fellow teaching colleague disappeared after a point in the book, and the focus was on the development of the plot and conflict regarding Clarissa and Gabriel. Mrs. Smythe, Clarissa’s stepmother, truly grows in character to the opposite end of the spectrum. Even after being chided, reprimanded and scolded by her husband, she won’t stop her personal efforts to hurt Clarissa. In fact, it seems to only serve to make her more grandiose in her efforts and schemes.

In essence, this is a Romeo and Juliet novel, with an unfinished ending in that as readers we don’t get satisfaction. The book ends on a definitive cliffhanger that has me pondering several things:

    • Florence Butler, Clarissa’s fellow teacher, will resurface in a subsequent book (and perhaps her love issues will be solved)
    • The second book will follow Gabriel instead of Clarissa
    • Clarissa’s ghost will reappear, and her stepmother will continue to push and push until something completely drastic and unfixable occurs
    • Clarissa become more involved in the suffragist movement
    • Secretly (knowing it won’t happen) that Clarissa’s father divorces Mrs. Smythe

I loved this book. It was a wonderful read with several historical constructs, during a time that for women was very important. I fully intend on getting my hands on Ramona’s follow-up novel, which may be released sooner than expected! 🙂

About the Author

Ramona FlightnerRamona Flightner is a native of Missoula, Montana. After graduating from Tufts University with a B.A. in Spanish, she earned a Masters degree in Spanish Literature from the University of Montana. Her Master’s thesis, Chilean Testimonial Literature: the collective suffering of a people, highlighted her continued interest in the stories of those who were at risk of being forgotten or silenced.

She studied nursing at the University of Pennsylvania and graduated with a Master’s in Nursing as a Family Nurse Practitioner. She has worked for ten years as a family nurse practitioner providing care to the poor and under insured at two community health centers, first in Wilmington, Delaware and now in Boston, Massachusetts.

An avid reader, she began writing three years ago. She enjoys the demands of research and relishes the small discoveries that give historical detail to her books.

Ramona is an avid flyfisher and hiker who enjoys nothing better than spending a day on a remote Montana river, far from a city. She enjoys research, travel, storytelling, learning about new cultures and discovering new ways of looking at the world. Though she resides in Boston, Massachusetts, Ramona remains a Montanan at heart. 

Her dreams are to see the plains of East Africa, marvel at the wonder of Petra in Jordan, soak in the seas of the South Pacific, and to continue to spend as much time as possible with her family. 

Banished Love is her first novel and is the first in the forthcoming Banished Saga.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Book Review: One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd

33512
The Journals of May Dodd

Title: One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd
Author: Jim Fergus
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Release Date: January 1998
Length: 304 pages
Series?: n/a
Genre: historical fiction
Format: paperback
Source: purchased
Challenge: n/a

Find the book: Website | Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble 

Synopsis

One Thousand White Women is the story of May Dodd and a colorful assembly of pioneer women who, under the auspices of the U.S. government, travel to the western prairies in 1875 to intermarry among the Cheyenne Indians. The covert and controversial “Brides for Indians” program, launched by the administration of Ulysses S. Grant, is intended to help assimilate the Indians into the white man’s world. Toward that end May and her friends embark upon the adventure of their lifetime. Jim Fergus has so vividly depicted the American West that it is as if these diaries are a capsule in time.

Review

*Note: This is a work of historical fiction. The author includes a note to readers about the making of this book, which did come about from an actual historical event, but has fictionalized what follows and fictionalized the actions of characters, some of which were actual historical figures of the time.

But even old money…and the equally unparalleled ability of the rich to keep dark secrets, could not completely obscure the whispered rumors that trickled down through the generations that May Dodd had actually died under somewhat mysterious circumstances…

This novel centers around the historical event of a peace conference in 1854, held at Ft. Laramie. A Cheyenne chief, Little Wolf, requests one thousand white women to be brides for his Cheyenne warriors, as their society is matrimonial. Children would belong to their mothers’ society – white man society. This was asked in hopes of assimilating the Cheyenne people, uniting two races, and creating peace. Of course, this request was met with a resounding no, and no white women ever were given to the Cheyennes as brides. However, Jim Fergus has written this novel and changed history: in his novel, the United States government sends the white women to marry into the Cheyenne tribes.

Among the wealthy, ancestral insanity has always been a source of deep-rooted embarrassment.

The novel begins with an introduction by Will Dodd, the great-grandson of May Dodd. He wonders what truly became of his great-grandmother, as his is a family of considerable money, high in the ranks of society and there is a rumored family legend that she ran off to live with Indians. Secrets are kept close to the bosom about May Dodd, the black mark in the Dodd family.

He finds a letter written from May to her two children, Hortense and William, and sets about on a journey to discover more than the mere footnote in “the heavily edited family history” in which May Dodd is mentioned in the scarcest of manners:

Born March 20, 1850…second daughter of J. Hamilton and Hortense Dodd. Hospitalized at age 23 for a nervous disorder. Died in hospital, February 17, 1876.

The rumors of May’s life fuel young Will’s yearning for true discovery of his ancestor, especially after his father wastes away the rest of the family fortune and his brother does not return from Vietnam. Will puts his college degree to good use, becoming the editor in chief of a local magazine, and stumbles upon May’s name in researching information for an article. It sparks an interest in him, and he delves deeper into his family’s archives, where he discovers May’s letter to her children. This leads Will to a reservation, where he discovers May has left several journals that have been kept safe.

The novel is broken into notebooks, serving the purpose of various points of reference and time, distinguishing significant changes in May Dodd’s life. From this point it opens up into May’s journals, with each entry meticulously dated.  In total, there are seven notebooks.Indeed, there are even some letters contained within her first few notebooks – letters to her sister, also named Hortense, and letters to the father of her two children.

May explains how she landed in an asylum – placed there at the hands of her own family. Hers is a wretched life, but then one day something odd happens: two strangers come to the institution. They are seeking volunteers to lend themselves to the U.S. government as brides for the Indians, in a back-door, hush-hush operation. Who would want to admit to the public that he’d authorized – and set in motion – for white women to be sent to breed with the savages? That would be quite scandalous, indeed.

This is an incentive for May. She could very well be free of the place! And that is just what she sets out to do, and she achieves it.

It is made clear to readers that May Dodd comes from a prominent Chicago family, who mercilessly turn their backs upon her. I find it quite ingenious that she one-ups them at their own game, little unbeknownst to them, until much, much later. She is determined to take full advantage of her newly freed soul.

Along the way, she meets other women who travel with her and will also marry. Hers is a mixed bag of women: a woman who worked at the asylum she was imprisoned within, a mulatto runaway slave, a large, brawny Swiss, a racist Southern belle, an Englishwoman author and artiste of bird life, a widow in mourning, a young girl from the asylum (believed to be the director of the asylum’s offspring), mischievous twin Irish sisters and a holier-than-thou evangelical Episcopalian.

It seems that May Dodd and I are kindred spirits: [in a letter to her sister about her Episcopalian companion]

I’m afraid that Miss White and I have taken an instant dislike to one another, and I fear that we are destined to become bitter enemies. She is enormously tiresome and bores us all witless with her sanctimonious attitudes and evangelical rantings. As you well know, Hortense, I have never had much interest in the church. Perhaps the hypocrisy inherent in Father’s position as a church elder, while remaining one of the least Christ-like men I’ve ever known, has something to do with my general cynicism toward organized religion of all kinds. 

Indeed, I do not hold stock in organized religion of any sort, after many years of seeing the selfish and unkind actions of congregations of several different denominations. In this sense, I felt a strong sense of ties to May Dodd. In addition, the satirical way the she relates her tale through her letters and her journal entries is also endearing, and it is quickly quite clear that an asylum was not in any way a need for May Dodd.

I got a bigger battery than you. 

Despite May Dodd’s privileged upbringing, she is not disillusioned into what her mission is: copulate with the Cheyenne population. She is on a secret mission (although not very secret at all of the stops along the way, it seems) to teach the Cheyennes how to live after the buffalo have gone. It is a tall order, and one that the Cheyennes do not really care for, although that is exactly what they asked for in their request.

They get a small number of wives, sent in the first shipment, and through a series of events it becomes clear that’s all they are going to get. Indeed, it seems the U.S. government has gotten itself into some hot water in hasty decisions, and must save face to the public…and in doing so is turning its collective back on the white women it sent into the wilds to live with the barbarians.

Along the way, May and her cohorts are under the direction of one Captain John Bourke. He is an actual historical figure, who served with General Crook, known to the Indians as “Three Stars.” Fergus has fictionalized Bourke in this sense, except for an excerpt at the beginning of a notebook, who grows fond of May on their short journey where he finally delivers May to Little Wolf’s tribe, but not before the two encounter one night of passion. May has been selected to be the bride of Little Wolf, the chief of one tribe on the Cheyenne.

What we risk creating when we tamper with God’s natural separation of the races will not be one harmonious people, but a people dispossessed, adrift, a generation without identity or purpose, neither fish nor fowl, Indian nor Caucasian.

This novel does carry religious, political and serious moral undertones, and Miss White’s introduction is just the beginning of this. It is continued through the Reverend Hare, who leaves the tribe in a very unsatisfactory way, grievously offending the sensibilities of the church. That being said, Fergus does not nobilize the Native American, but clearly paints the picture of prejudices of the time – prejudices that ran deep. These hatreds are realized through May’s writings, through her perspective, which I believe to be mostly unbiased (except for one conversation near the end of the novel with Phemie, the runaway slave); she clearly details the hatreds of the civilized white man, and those of the Indians as well. Neither is left morally unscathed in May’s accounts, but the white man is found to be seriously lacking, particularly in this passage:

According to Captain Bourke…the only true hope for the advancement of the savage is to teach him that he must give up this allegiance to the tribe and look towards his own individual welfare. This is necessary, Bourke claims, in order that he may function effectively in the ‘individualized civilization’ of the Caucasian world. To the Cheyenne such a concept remains completely foreign–the needs of the People, the tribe, and above all the family within the tribe are placed always before those of the individual. In this regard they live somewhat like the ancient clans of Scotland. The selflessness of my husband, Little Wolf, for instance, strikes me as most noble and something that hardly requires ‘correction’ by civilized society.  In support of his own thesis, the Captain uses the unfortunate example of the Indians who have been pressed into service as scouts for the U.S. Army. These men are rewarded for their efforts as good law-abiding citizens–paid wages, fed, clothed, and generally cared for. The only requirement of their employment, their allegiance to the white father, is that they betray their own people and their own families…I fail to see the nobility or the advantage of such individualized private initiative…

In many cases our lives were more difficult for being of mixed blood, for we were considered neither black nor white, and resented by both. 

One thing that I do not believe May ever realized is that a half-breed, like the ones the women encounter on the edges of the forts, do not have a foot in either world, are not a part of either race. In this time, if you were of a mixed race – no matter what makeup they may be – you were essentially an outcast, as the above quote (from Phemie) states. May strongly believes in her mission, until Captain Bourke, unable to relinquish his tie to May, provides some unsettling details. Her new-found life is shaken to the core.

There is no power in a baby’s hand. 

In reading this book, I had no idea what journey Fergus was taking me on as a reader, where May Dodd would eventually end up. I was left on this precipice, trying to form predictions over halfway through the book, to no avail. All things eventually begin leading in one direction, with May pushing and encouraging the direction of Little Wolf’s band of Cheyenne people, but with resistance from him until their child is born. Their daughter is unique, and Little Wolf interprets her as the Cheyenne baby Jesus, sent to save their people, but the May Dodd – and all of the other white women – know otherwise.

Fergus wraps his story up with young Will Dodd finally reaching his reservation destination, speaking with other descendants of May Dodd, and a final chapter of her life is revealed through a young monk’s final chapter in her last notebook.

The ending of this novel caught me entirely off guard, as I was unsure how it would wrap up. I am a sentimental person, and as such I can sometimes become agitated with an author’s lack of attentiveness  to what I consider a proper ending. (I know, it’s a personal thing. I’m working on it.) However, I was highly intrigued as well because I am a Cheyenne descendant, and I wanted to know how Fergus would wrap up this fictionalized tale of the Cheyenne and May Dodd’s part in it all. I was pleasantly surprised, and my sentimental side was appeased with his gentle ending, despite my broken heart.

Little Wolf and Dull Knife
Little Wolf and Dull Knife

I do commend Fergus for his amazing representation of May Dodd’s character. He has created her with a witty and sharp mind, and it is easy to forget when reading that this novel was written by a man, so well has Fergus created Dodd’s character.

I highly recommend this read to any and all, especially if you are not well-versed in Native American history, specifically in terms of interactions with the United States government. Given my heritage, and general fascination with this time period, I am fairly well-versed in Native American culture and history, and nothing in this novel was out of place. Fergus is honest and clear in his representation of the government (and stronghold military) and its dealings with the Native Americans, and it is starkly seen in this novel.

In addition, in the back of the novel is a reading group component comprised of three sections: a further note from Jim Fergus, a detailed interview with him, and very critical questions for book clubs. This content is usually ignored in general, I feel, but this short inclusion is well worth the few pages it’s typed on. Fergus has also included a bibliography of his research that helped him provide accurate details portrayed in the novel.

About the Author

Jim Fergus was born in Chicago of a French mother and an American father. He attended high school in Massachusetts and graduated as an English major from Colorado College in 1971. He has traveled extensively and lived over the years in Colorado, Florida, the French West Indies, Idaho, France, and Arizona. For ten years he worked as a teaching tennis professional in Colorado and Florida, and in 1980 moved to the tiny town of Rand, Colorado (pop. 13), to begin his career as a full-time freelance writer. He was a contributing editor of Rocky Mountain Magazine, as well as a correspondent of Outside magazine. During the next two decades Fergus published hundreds of articles, essays, interviews and profiles in a wide variety of regional and national magazines and newspapers. His first book, a travel/sporting memoir titled, A HUNTER’S ROAD, was published by Henry Holt in 1992.

jim_fergus
Jim Fergus

Fergus’s first novel, ONE THOUSAND WHITE WOMEN: The Journals of May Dodd was published by St. Martin’s Press in 1998. The novel won the 1999 Fiction of the Year Award from the Mountains & Plains Booksellers Association. A favorite selection of reading groups across the country, ONE THOUSAND WHITE WOMEN has since sold over 700,000 copies in the United States. The French translation – MILLE FEMMES BLANCHES – won the “Best First Foreign Novel” award, was on the bestseller list in France for 57 weeks, and has sold over 400,000 copies in that country.

In 1999, Jim Fergus published a collection of his outdoor articles and essays, titled THE SPORTING ROAD. In the spring of 2005, his second novel, THE WILD GIRL: The Notebooks of Ned Giles was published by Hyperion Press. An historical fiction set in the 1930′s in Chicago, Arizona, and the Sierra Madre of Mexico, THE WILD GIRL has also been embraced by reading groups and book clubs. Winston Groom, author of FOREST GUMP called it, “an exhilarating and suspenseful tale that makes the heart soar.”

In 2011, Fergus published a family historical fiction in France entitled,MARIE-BLANCHE. The novel spans the entire 20th century, and tells the devastating tale of the complicated and ultimately fatal relationship between the author’s French mother and grandmother.  The American edition of MARIE-BLANCHE will be published in the United States in 2014.

In the spring of 2013, Fergus published another novel in France, CHRYSISPortrait d’Amour, a love story set in 1920′s Paris and based on the life of a actual woman painter, Chrysis Jungbluth. Reviewing CHRYSIS in French ELLE magazine, Olivia de Lamberterie,wrote: “This novel is an arrow through the heart.”

Chrysis has just been published in America with the title THE MEMORY OF LOVE.

Jim Fergus divides his time between southern Arizona, northern Colorado, and France.

Find the author: Website | Blog | Goodreads