Outgoing, good-natured, and fond of elaborate hats and bicycle riding, Essie Spreckelmeyer is well-liked in her hometown but seriously short on suitors, an unwelcome state of affairs for a 30-year-old woman in 1890s Corsicana, Texas. In her usual forthright manner, the unconventional Essie decides to remedy the situation by picking a likely husband. Having assessed each candidate’s good and bad points in writing, all that is left is to get her prospective spouse to agree to the arrangement.
Featuring a bust enhancer that doubles as a mouse catcher, a runaway snake, and Essie’s adventures on the new “wheeled feet” her friend the peddler brings to town, Courting Trouble is delightfully humorous at times. There’s a dark side to this novel too, however, as we see when a moment of recklessness threatens disaster for Essie and when Essie is on the verge of entering into a relationship that would stifle her individuality. Gist expertly blends these disparate elements and creates likeable yet flawed characters, resulting in a novel that’s both highly entertaining and thought-provoking. I’m looking forward to seeing the sequel.