Mildred Dunlap is a generous and loving soul but, in the eyes of the townsfolk, already has one strike against her – in the tradition of her father before her, she doesn’t go to church. When news of Oscar Wilde’s conviction in England hits little Red River Pass, Nevada, she discovers that she might have something else to fear. Edra, known to all as Mildred’s cousin, is actually her life partner. With the townsfolk calling for Wilde’s blood, what will happen if they find out about her? She has a plan to ward off the busybodies but can she pull it off or, in the end, will everything be made worse?
Set in 1895, the novel has a real feel of history though the themes carry over into today. Mildred and Edra are good people who are happy and confident in who they are together and fear not what others think of them but what they might do because of those thoughts. An overlying theme is that the crueler townsfolk (Josie) aren’t happy unless everyone is living exactly as they believe they should live.
Mahurin’s characters are extremely well rounded. When we meet Gus, the shopkeeper, we are told that he is kind and friendly and loves what he does but that he has secrets. When we meet Josie we know that she is bitter in a way that most people can’t stomach and that she shares his misery with everyone around her. At first blush, Josie may seem a bit much in her hate of everyone – even those who are friends – but, as with people in daily life, it soon becomes evident that her vitriol is about herself and not anyone else.
This was a fabulous read and I highly recommend that everyone buy it.