Sunday, 6 May 2007

Petticoat Ranch by Mary Connealy

This is a rather unusual Western full of modern satire, girl power, and the supernatural. And no, Petticoat Ranch is not the name of the piece of land in question. It’s just an apt title for a story of a farm full of women – not one of them wishy-washy. A young widow and her girls get by in the wilderness, until her late husband’s brother shows up…

The tale begins with a dramatic night-time rescue of said brother-in-law, followed closely by a hurried wedding. The pace hardly lets up as the sudden newlyweds lock into a battle of wills. Sophie and Clay give each other plenty of reason to get mad, but they have to work together to outwit the killers after their ranch. Sophie’s four daughters confuse Clay mightily with their crying and shrieking while they hide from him the fact that their prowess with guns and horses is on a par with his own. Clay learns that it’s hurtful to call someone stupid, and Sophie learns to let Clay do the heavy work she’s been used to since Cliff died.

Clay does his best to protect his newly-acquired womenfolk, but in the end they take care of the problem themselves. It’s almost pure delight to observe the men rushing off on wild goose trails while the girls set traps, load their guns and tie up bad guys with a matter-of-fact skill.

The supernatural aspect is an underlying simple communication between Sophie and God, which is miraculously overheard by far distant friends who then set out to help her. The timing is always perfect, whether for Sophie’s booby-traps or the arrival of the troops.

The result is a highly spiritual Western adventure full of hilarious moments as well as serious Christian growth. In between Clay’s getting buried in petticoats, threatened with a soup ladle by his little wife, or spied on by gangsters, and Sophie praying, building booby-traps, or fighting off the desire for revenge, there’s never a dull moment.

The storyline is squeaky clean, to the extent that it surprised me when Sophie announces she’s pregnant. Yes, this is a romance, but a very practical one – men don’t like talking, women are smart, men yell and women cry, men want to be protectors and women wear long rustly dresses. Some of these things may almost seem clichéd, but the way it’s all told here, it sure sheds a humourous light on the gender battles that still go on today.

It is perhaps a little incongrous to see so many elements of modern thinking in the Wild West. However, it is certainly more than obvious that it’s the rigours of the West that force people to be innovative.

A sharp-eyed view of the world as seen by a tough Western woman is salted with occasional comments from her husband, only proving how very opposite their thinking is. Girls, don’t miss this one…

And don't forget to visit CFRB Central to see what the others are saying!
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