Book Review: The Strange Courtship of Kathleen O’Dwyer by Robert Temple

Genre: Historical fiction
Publisher: Five Star
Pub date: 21 December 2022

What would drive a woman in 1828 to head west across the Great Plains into the Rocky Mountains, risking death among hostile Native Americans, brutish mountain men, and wild animals? Why, the same reason as a man, of course–freedom.Like fur trappers of the early western frontier, Kathleen is a misfit. Growing up in the Irish slums of Boston and watching her mother die giving birth to a dozen children, Kathleen has decided to escape into a career as a school teacher, free of men; but when she sets out along the Santa Fe Trail for distant Nuevo Mexico, she finds that dry powder and steady aim are as important as reading, writing, and arithmetic”

I definitely stepped out of my usual genre with this one!
On reading the blurb, I thought it sounded quite interesting, so I decided to take a step away from the world of the Tudors (only a tiny one, I can never stray far).

The story begins with school teacher, Kathleen O’Dwyer, travelling towards a new job in Santa Fe. Her company faces obstacles, including an attack by the Comanche, until she ends up with only one companion, James Colter.
If you’ve ever read any of my reviews, you’ll know I really dislike spoilers and will not be sharing any.

Not knowing anything about the area or period, I can’t say if it’s historically accurate with regards to events going on alongside Kathleen’s journey, but I quite enjoyed it, particularly learning about the different tribes. At first, I found Kathleen to be quite annoying, I actually preferred other characters, but as she ventured on, I grew to like her and how determined she is.
I particularly liked the character of Mangas, a young Apache man, I found his interactions with Kathleen to be really interesting and was cheering him on at one point.

It was interesting to read about how Kathleen chose to leave her home, facing numerous dangers to escape marriage proposals and the societal expectations that she should marry. She certainly went through extreme circumstances to have her independence, which I can’t help but admire.

Temple has a very easy to read writing style and is fantastic at descriptives, almost making you feel like you can close your eyes and see what Kathleen is seeing.
This book has action, romance and focuses on the story of one woman’s determination, first to reach her destination and after that another goal which as I’ve said I won’t spoil but it certainly didn’t end how I expected it to. I would have liked to know how one of the characters (the priest) was faring, but maybe he’ll be mentioned if there is a sequel.

As my first Western, I did enjoy The Strange Courtship of Kathleen O’Dwyer.
My next read is back in Tudor England, but I can’t say I wouldn’t like to read more about Kathleen and Colter if they make another appearance in the future.

I would like to thank the author for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review. It was strange to take such a leap away from English history!

If you’d like to know more about the author you can find Robert on Facebook

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