08 April 2014

Anything You Can Do...(Harlequin Superromance No. 776; Women Who Dare No. 37)

Synopsis from Goodreads: 'I contend that today's man could handle the rigors of pioneer life. Could a woman? - Nolan Campbell.

'You bet! Anything he can do, she can do, too! -Emily Benton.

'And probably better!' -Sherry Campbell.

There's only one way to find out. Nolan Campbell (known as Camp) recruits a group of women to reenact the kind of wagon train journey made by settlers of the 1820s. These women include his sharp-tongued sister, Sherry - and Emily Benton. Emily with her fragile beauty, her delightful laugh, her two impossible children. Emily, who's as determined and capable as any pioneer.

Surrounded by big horses and smart women, Camp discovers that wagon train life, 1990s-style, isn't what he expected. Sometimes it's fun (not to mention funny) and sometimes it's frightening. Kind of like falling in love. With Emily...

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, published by Harlequin Enterprises, Limited, 1988; received through BookCrossing in March 2014.

My thoughts: I actually finished this delightful little book last week, and hopefully my poor memory will allow me to do it justice. I very much enjoyed it.

Camp and his sister Sherry seem to have quite a sibling rivalry relationship, and Sherry is adamant that women can do anything men can. Camp is a college history professor, and Sherry is a department chair for women's studies. At a work function they get into a discussion with some colleagues about how modern women have lost the domestic skills of their grandmothers and great-grandmothers, and how soft women are today compared to the women of pioneer days. At Sherry's prodding, Camp agrees to sponsor a group of women on a wagon train reenactment along the Santa Fe Trail, so that he can write a paper comparing and contrasting pioneer women versus modern women. His plan is to follow the wagon train by car, staying in motels along the way, and checking in with the women when they pass through a town. But after one of the women drops out at the last minute, and the other women threaten to mutiny when they realize he isn't actually participating, he gets roped into driving a wagon.

What follows is a quite amusing tale, with the women practically running circles around Camp while on the trail. And one woman, of course, particularly gets his interest aroused. Emily is a widow with a teenage daughter and a preteen son, who are spoiled and coddled by their wealthy grandparents, and she is hoping to use this trip to spend some quality time with them, and ground them a little more in reality. And boy they needed it, especially her daughter. They look down their noses at their mother and constantly talk about their grandparents' money. There's also a college student who has a crush on Professor Nolan and wants to get closer to him, Maizie, the grizzled old wagon master, and assorted other participants.

I didn't really relate to Emily at first, even though I, too, raised two kids as a single parent. I couldn't really understand why she allowed her deceased husband's parents to retain so much influence over her life and her children. Emily's reasoning is that they are such big wigs, owning half the town and having influence over politicians and judges alike, and if she doesn't kowtow to them and repay the humongous sum of money her husband borrowed from them (unbeknownst to her until after he died) they'll take her children away from her. But my mind had trouble accepting that there was a real threat of that happening.

Regardless, I still liked her, and Camp, and I laughed several times, which is always a plus. I also kept thinking what a great movie this book would make. 

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