REVIEW: Westering Women
WESTERING WOMEN by Sandra Dallas gives fans of pioneer stories many of the details we love, but lacks the emotion I crave. I was torn throughout the novel between loving that it was the unusual story I wanted, but without the passion I craved.
I love a wagon train story, especially one that’s mostly women. In this book, all the characters are interesting with something to hide, or a reason to run to California for a new life. These ladies want husbands, but the men don’t necessarily know they’re coming. I couldn’t wait to find out what would happen when the women reach the Gold Rush with so many men to choose from.
I’ve loved this author’s previous work, so it surprised me when I didn’t feel as attached to this one. The writing seemed clunky and meandering, without a clear purpose. Sometimes, it was descriptive without much dialogue. Then when it was full of dialogue, it seemed to lack the description it needed. Many chapters felt unfinished, leaving me with questions.
I could easily overlook those quirks, but when tragedy occurs and I felt no emotion, I knew something was wrong. By 50%, I didn’t connect to the characters, which should have occurred by that point in the story. I liked them well enough, as well as the story, but it didn’t affect me emotionally as it should for the situation.
That didn’t stop me from reading – it just struck me as odd. The depth of emotion was lacking and the only way I can describe it is that the characters seemed two-dimensional. Which is sad, because this really is a good story. It needs fine-tuned and beefed-up to give it the life it deserves. Instead of 336 pages, I would have preferred another 100 pages to develop the characters more in depth.
I feel bad rating this story so low because it’s quite evident that the author put in the effort with research, as well as its creation. But something happened along the way. The life feels edited out of it. Or, in its paring down, the characterization wasn’t developed. I loved that there were a lot of characters, so I didn’t feel that was a problem. They just needed more page time.
This book has so much potential and it’s not a terrible read, because I wouldn’t continue reading if it was, but it could be so much more. Having fully enjoyed TRUE SISTERS by Sandra Dallas, and giving it my highest rating, I realized this book just isn’t as grand in the telling. It lacks emotion and depth.
In the end, I felt as if the characters resembled chess pieces on a board, moving through obstacles to reach their destination, but without the richness of experiencing life in full color.
On a positive note, it is an epic adventure. We get a thorough catch-up at the end so we know how all the women’s lives turned out. I liked that – something that’s not included in enough novels. Also, it’s a good women empowerment story, proving their strength and resiliency in a time of struggle.
Even though the women start this journey in hopes of finding husbands, there is very little romance. That said, many do find their version of HEA, so the reader is gratified with their version of happiness.
For those who love a wagon train adventure, this book has an unusual twist giving it a mail-order bride slant without known husbands, and eventually, mostly a woman-powered accomplishment. Even with the recognizable romance mail-order theme with a twist, this book should be categorized historical fiction and not romance for the strictest of romance readers.
WESTERING WOMEN is structurally sound without any glaring grammatical errors. It’s obvious effort was put into editing. There were some repetitive thoughts from the characters that could have been culled, but those didn’t irritate me as much as they do in some books.
It was the lack of “feels” that bothered me most. Even in the direst moments, a few adjectives would have helped. As the reader, I was left with a feeling of desolation because I wanted to know their hearts. I needed to feel their loss and emote their success, but it just wasn’t there.
Even with all my criticism, I’m glad I stuck with it. There are so few pioneer stories and they are my favorite. My high hopes for WESTERING WOMEN influenced my disappointment, when it lacked what I anticipated. If you want to read something else by Sandra Dallas that is superb, try TRUE SISTERS. I’m anxious to read PRAYERS FOR SALE and THE LAST MIDWIFE, two more of her books on my TBR Mountain Range.
Review by Dorine, courtesy of TheZestQuest.com. A digital advanced copy was provided by the publisher for an honest review. Thanks in advance for following links and sharing this review on social media.
Westering Women by Sandra Dallas
Category: Historical Fiction
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press (January 7, 2020)
Rated 3 out of 5