Surprise! I bet you thought I’d never get back to these last few books, but I decided to slog through Sunfire #28, Josie…and I it wasn’t really as bad as I remembered. Hmmm.
Front Cover Blurb: Her ride for the pony express changes her dreams—and her heart.
Back Cover Blurb: Can Josie have love and adventure?
Main Character: Josie Gaits, curly dark brown hair (referred to late in the book as black), turquoise-blue eyes, 5 feet tall. Turns 16 a few chapters into the book. She lives in Carson City, Nevada, with her widower father, older brother Tim (who rides for the pony express), and younger siblings, seven-year-old Frankie and five-year-old Molly. Her mother died in childbirth a year ago, and Josie has taken over as housewife and mother to the younger kids…something her father seems to take for granted. While she toils away, Josie is dreaming of the great wide somewhere and something more than housework.
Suitor #1: James Donley, 19 years old, curly blond hair, green eyes, 6 feet tall. He’s the manager of the Carson City pony express office. Josie thinks of him as more of an older brother; he’s always around to help her with chores and take care of the children.
Suitor #2: Mike Bradman, just turned 18 at the start of the book; black eyes, black hair, and sideburns. He’s an orphan who is hired by James to ride for the pony express. He’s a tiny little guy, 5 foot 7 and 120 pounds, which makes him an ideal rider. He’s also totally full of himself as he sweeps into town and sweeps Josie off her bored little feet.
Setting: Mostly Carson City, Nevada, Spring through Autumn 1861.
On the Cover: Middle, Josie, looking like a beauty queen accepting an award. Left, James, looking like a farmer. Right, Mike, looking more attractive than I feel Mike really was in the book. Bottom right, Mike leading Josie on a horse, which is somewhat misleading, as Josie rides well enough to not need anyone to lead her. but, there’s supposed to be a “couples” image, so there it is. At least he’s not “saving” her.
Josie is interesting in that Josie is stuck in the characteristic female roles of the time before she’s ready, and she really wants freedom to experience something else. It’s not necessarily that she never wants to be a wife and mother, but she’s been shoved into these roles way too soon, as a 15-year-old girl, and has very little support (except from James, and older brother Tim when he’s around). It’s no wonder that she’s immediately smitten with Mike, who’s the embodiment of freedom. I think there’s even a small part of Josie that envies Mike’s ability to ignore Frankie and Molly, which she sometimes wishes she could do as well.
Of course, this is Schurfranz. James calls Josie “Little One,” although to be fair she tells him not to, and she has a typical Schurfranzian episode of staring at herself in the mirror and marveling at her reflection so we get her description. Otherwise, it’s not until about three-quarters of the way in before the book really falls apart. At a convenient moment, there’s no one to take the description of the Battle of Bull Run to Sacremento, so she jumps on her (nearly wild) horse to take the mail herself. She encounters a deadly rattlesnake; a rockslide; mildly hostile Indians, who of course make friends with her; a gang led by a female bandit, who of course makes friends with her; and…oh, no, you knew it was coming…
NO, Frollo, NO ONE MISSED YOU. No one would have missed you if you’d stayed out of this book, but of course you didn’t. This time Frollo is one of the bandits, a nasty bugger named Jake Grimes (let’s hope he’s not an ancestor of Rick). Jake wants to kill Josie, while leader Lee plans to set her free after they’ve performed their last robbery. Jake waits til everyone else is gone, and…does he try to assault our heroine? Does he even really try hard to kill her? No, he just yells “Josie Gaits!” a lot until she jumps on his horse and leaves him with a reluctant mule named Mousie. You would think that would kill Josie’s sense of adventure, but in about 10 minutes of chores, she’s ticked at her family again.
From there, it’s a race to the typical Schurfranz finish. Not to spoil it if you haven’t read this book, but the ending is almost word-for-word straight out of Danielle or Laura. The only difference is that the losing suitor isn’t a big jerk; he really wants Josie to be happy.
What impressed me most about this book was lots and lots of historical facts about the pony express. There were also tie-ins to the start of the Civil War, mentions of the railroad, and even Mark Twain. Overall, not a fabulous book, but it’s not as terrible as I thought.
Up Next Blurb: Coming next from Sunfire: Diana, strictly raised in a wealthy family, falls in love with a handsome stranger who may never return from the Lewis and Clark expedition!
Diana was one of my favorites, it was so unusual! The youngest Sunfire heroine, and also showed the longest period of time covered.