REVIEW: Wagon Train Cinderella by Shirley Kennedy
A Cinderella rendition taking place on a wagon train journey to California, this novel will appeal to those who enjoy the adventurous spirit of those brave pioneers of the 1850s.
Wagon Train Cinderella by Shirley Kennedy
Category: Historical Western Pioneer
Publisher: Kensington Books (February 3, 2015)
Rated 3.5 out of 5
Format: eBook read, print also available for preorder.
Callie Whitaker is traveling with her family and their hired hands on the Overland Trail to California in 1851. Abandoned on the Whitakers’ doorstep as a child, Callie is eternally grateful to her stepmother and stepfather for taking her in. Since leaving their farm in Tennessee, Callie is bone-weary from laboring each day on the trail. Her two stepsisters are much too fragile to do any strenuous work, per her stepmother, so Callie does the bulk of it.
Callie is fetching water when she first encounters mountain man Luke McGraw. He’s bathing in a stream, but Callie can’t look away because she’s so mesmerized by his masculinity. Of course, Luke sees the humor in the situation and makes light of Callie’s gawking. Luke is part of a wagon train camped across the meadow from her family, with about fifty wagons in their company, which Callie’s stepfather agrees to join a few days later.
Callie’s stepfather is insensitive and has strict rules, even though his daughters and stepdaughter are old enough to make their own decisions. The only one too small to have a say is seven-year-old Tommy who is mostly forgotten due to his inability to learn. Callie’s stepmother is almost as cruel as her stepfather; expecting Callie to take care of the family’s needs as well as take care of her stepbrother.
Callie has no choice but to go along to California with the only family she knows, but she can’t help wishing they never left Tennessee. The trail is hard and dangerous. Will her fears be realized, or will the wagon train be fortunate enough to reach California before the impending snow challenges them more?
This novel has elements that I find appealing when looking for historical fiction, as well as a few aspects that didn’t make it perfect for my preferences. There’s the wagon train journey and hardships that I find captivating. Logan, a main character, is a trapper and I’m especially fond of these loners. This outdoorsy hero has his appeal with his rugged good looks and he is aloof as you would expect, but he doesn’t do anything during the journey that illustrates him as a trapper. Even so, his tenderness toward Callie is necessary for her growth as a woman. The wagon master, another main character, is more true to his character and met my predictions more so than Logan. The Cinderella character is full of light and servitude as you would expect, but I felt that Callie was too agreeable with her family who enslaved her. But that also portrays her inner light and sense of survival which will be drawn upon before the end of her story.
Although this novel kept me reading, I didn’t feel the characters’ emotional connection. I didn’t especially miss it, until one dire circumstance toward the end of the book when I should have felt the characters’ bond poignantly and I didn’t, so I backtracked to be sure I had read it correctly. I continued to read because I wanted to know the outcome and was pleased with the conclusion, but because the really dark moment felt disconnected from deep point of view for me, I didn’t enjoy it as much as I could have.
The historical detail is well done so I think fans of pioneer stories will like this book if you’re okay with a less emotive story. Although there are romantic situations, they’re not sexually explicit. The multiple romances aren’t necessarily sweet, because they don’t all wait until marriage, but there are no rape scenes, thankfully, and no kidnapping of women. This makes me appreciate the author’s hard work even more, by making this story an original piece of historical fiction without relying on the normal scenarios of this subgenre, while adding in some interesting tidbits about Diggers and concentrating on the dangers of the wagon train movement during the gold rush.
I would have liked more specifics from the characters’ everyday lives, such as how they acquired the food, expecting a trapper to hunt, which I don’t remember reading about. The foodie in me wanted to know more about cooking on a fire, preparation and acquiring of sustenance, since it can be a major obstacle on a journey of this length. The detail that was included was good, especially toward the end, but I just wanted more because I am curious.
I found the journey to be the most fascinating part of WAGON TRAIN CINDERELLA. Even with my quibbles, it’s a satisfying read and I will look for more by author Shirley Kennedy. For those who love a Cinderella rendition, many characteristics of Cinderella’s personality are spot on, including the naiveté which may annoy some until she acquires a backbone. For those who enjoy a pioneer story, you will get the flavor of the trail and be engaged in the adventure.
WAGON TRAIN CINDERELLA is enjoyable, with an eBook price prior to publication that matches the story well, making it an agreeable purchase for those who love this subgenre as much as I do. I’m hoping Ms. Kennedy writes more stories of the west, maybe one about Callie’s younger stepbrother, Tommy?
Reviewed by Dorine, courtesy of Romance Junkies. ARC provided by NetGalley.
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