Books by Jeanne Williams

HOME STATION by Jeanne Williams
Released: Dec. 11, 1995

Williams (The Unplowed Sky, 1994, etc.) serves up a nicely blended soufflÇ of sentiment, Populist politics, and romance: a sweetly evocative, if unrealistic, western novel set in Oklahoma Territory in 1900. For Ed Morland, station agent for magnate Adam Benedict's railroad, the frontier town of Bountiful is his last hope to regain sobriety and his daughter's respect. For Lesley Morland, Bountiful is an opportunity for a permanent home and friends she won't have to leave each time her father's drunken sprees lead to unemployment. As Benedict turns Bountiful into the hub of his railroad by providing cheap land and cheap credit to prospective settlers, the deserted town becomes a thriving community whose life revolves around the train depot and its vital telegraph. Then Ed is killed trying to prevent a robbery, and Lesley assumes his position as station agent and almost immediately adopts three orphans. When Lesley chooses wagon driver Jim Kelly over Benedict, her spurned suitor turns from benevolent dictator to robber baron, threatening to destroy Bountiful by rerouting the railroad, at the same time endangering Lesley's financial independence. Lesley and Jim then lead a plethora of minor characters in a cooperative effort to preserve their community, an effort that reflects the Populist beliefs of its inhabitants. Bountiful is saved, the villain reformed, and all ends happily—as well as typically for Williams, whose latest effort revives many of her stock characters: stalwart heroine and kindly but weak older man; villain and supportive hero. Lesley also embodies Williams's favorite theme: a woman alone taking responsibility for her own well-being and winning financial security for herself and one or more helpless individuals, usually children. A nostalgic if historically accurate evocation of yesteryear, with poignant scenes of hardship and struggle. The author's Manichean characterizations may be a little too pat, but her fans won't be disappointed. Read full book review >
THE LONGEST ROAD by Jeanne Williams
Released: Feb. 23, 1993

Another period romance-adventure featuring a brave little gal mogging through trouble, teaming up with other down-and-outers, finding love, and making music. Unlike the primas of The Island Harp (1990) and Home Mountain (1991), this latest Williams heroine would rather blow a harmonica than pluck a harp—on the way from Kansas to Texas during the Depression of the 1930's. When Ma died in Kansas, father Ed left 13-year-old Laurie and her younger brother Buddy at the hardscrabble farm of horrid Grandpa while he set out for California to find work. Hoping to find dad—as well as the kind wayfarer who gave her courage and a harmonica and taught her traveling tunes—Laurie with Buddy hops freight trains. It's kind ``Way,'' one of the migrating jobless men, who takes the pair in hand; and when it's known that Ed has died, the three form a makeshift family, eventually augmented by Marilys, a hotel pianist. Meanwhile, swooping around like a buzzard, is W.S. Redwine, a persistent villain, owner of truck- stops, oil wells, etc. On the trek to Texas, the new family will mingle with the desperate and dispossessed, see nature's wrath and government wrongs, share food, stories, songs. And by the close, Redwine is neatly splashed away—while Laurie finds love. Williams has assembled some appealing folk reminders of those hard times, but the story route has that click-clack inevitability that brings hither slumber—or, for the following, the serenity of knowing that the journey will end on the sunny side of the street. Read full book review >
THE ISLAND HARP by Jeanne Williams
Released: Dec. 1, 1991

A Williams woman is at it again, doing the same gutsy things- -dealing with hardship and injustice in a 19th-century pioneer setting and rallying others. Like Susannah of Kansas (No Roof but Heaven, 1990), Mairi of Scotland fires up the miserable to form a community, and like Katie of Arizona ( Home Mountain, 1990), Mairi plays a harp beautifully. Here, the setting is the Scots island of Lewis during the Clearances of the 1840's, when English landowners drove crofters from their homes to use the land for grazing or hunting. Seventeen-year-old Mairi—happy with the simple life with beloved grandfather ``Fearchar,'' Gran, brother Tam, and other relatives—screams in from a summer pasture when she realizes that the laird's factor has set fire to their home. Fearchar dies rescuing his harp, brought years ago from Ireland. Then into the midst of the family's rage and grief steps Captain Iain MacDonald, a Scot by birth but a soldier for the English Queen. Iain does all sorts of kind and good things, but Mairi will never leave the auld soil for America. Eventually, she'll rally family and others of the dispossessed to take over a broch (a ruined tower from an ancient people). Before long, there'll be a reestablishment of herding, small farming, fishing, and weaving—with occasional celebrations, Mairi on harp, Iain on pipes. Of course, there are also crises: Tam's kidnapping, a potato disease, an influx of starving people, etc. Then Mairi is in love with Iain—a ``gentry'' and a match that may never be.... With trembling orations of principle (``Time out of mind, our bodies have turned into Lewis earth. We are rock and soil of this island''), plus Scottish Gaelic drizzled throughout and thick as Highland mist: another tale of a hard-working girl of noble sentiments. Read full book review >