Spunky 16-year-old Bethany is the storm center of considerable fuss here and there in the post-Civil War West-she always seems to find ""the most unpopular thing to do""--and her misadventures begin in 1867 when she's shunted from a Missouri orphanage into marriage with an ""old man"": thrice-widowed Gideon. Bethany is already battling Gideon's ""marriage rights"" when she's raped by scurvy Turley, Gideon's son (she gives him his comeuppance with a well-aimed pitchfork), so, now disguised as a boy, she goes on the road and eventually joins up with nice Styler Brown on his way West. Styler remains caring and decent even when he innocently discovers Bethany's real sex--and after hiring on as a waitress (her salacious boss gets zapped with a poker), joining a patent medicine show, and surviving an Indian attack, Bethany finally ends up in Bright Prairie, Kansas, working for Styler's newspaper. Although pregnant with Turley's child, Bethany is now happy. . . until she brings down the wrath of a hellfire preacher in town and defends an Indian from the preacher's frame-up. Then along comes Gideon, who has tracked her down, intending to drag her home--and Bethany accidentally shoots him. But at the trial for attempted murder, raucous neighborhood railroad men hint that there'll be stove-in skulls if that ""pretty little gal"" goes to prison. There's an acquittal, a divorce, and finally Bethany and her chosen--Styler's partner Barney--head for Denver. With all the warmth and drollery of Mixed Blessings (1978)--a saddle-flapping traveling tale with an appealing lass of the Old West who's tough as rawhide and tender as mountain dew.