Along with my love of horses I have a passion for Westerns having been brought up on a healthy diet of them and as all my first crushes were (apart from Elvis) cowboy based I daresay I had something of a romantic view of them. When I grew up, I realised how hard the life was but that never stopped me pining for the wide-open spaces, a trusty steed and one of those cool hats. Mine would have been black.
Anyway, An Englishwoman’s Guide to the Cowboy is a book I’ve had on my kindle for years and it was an absolute delight to finally get to it.
Set in the American West in 1867, Annie Haddon, a well-bred bookish spinster, is travelling with what remains of her family, the domineering Aunt Bea and her spiteful cousin, Charlotte. There is a stagecoach wreck and Annie is left for dead by her caring family who are more interested in saving themselves. Fortunately for Annie, a cowboy by the name of Colt McCall comes by and saves her.
Annie is English and comes from the buttoned-up Victoria era. Colt lives by his own rules and hates the English. Yet somehow, they must get along over the vast distances they have to travel to get Annie back to her family.
And what awaits her? Marriage to possibly one of the most hideously described suitors ever. But it’s the best thing for her, so her aunt insists.
This was the most delightful book to read, and I relished every page, every description, every beautifully turned sentence. The descriptions were so vivid you could feel the heat, the dust. The characters so wonderfully rounded you could almost be Annie in among them. And the dialogue? Pitch perfect, the humour as dry as the dust blowing across from the prairie.
Despite the fact I felt like slapping Annie at times, so low was her self-esteem, I loved this book and highly recommend it to all who like good storytelling and maybe once upon a time had a hankering for the cowboy way of life.
Jane Austen meets Zane Grey indeed.