The French Lady’s Cowboys
Angele Morisot knows that her life in 1860s France is ruined at the tender age of sixteen when a friend of her father rapes her. Her fury over the injustice that she will be blamed for her own victimization galvanizes her into starting a new life on her own terms in America. Her skill with horses gains her the confidence of two quite benign cattle drovers, and she winds up working as a wrangler and general ranch hand in what will be the Wyoming Territory. She meets Tom, who is half Irish and half Spanish nobility, and after traveling with him to California to be married, she returns to Wyoming, where they establish a thriving ranch. The novel follows Angele’s life from sixteen to old age, recounting her adventures, her joys and sorrows, and, more than anything, her relationships with several colorful and enjoyable characters.
The French Lady’s Cowboys is entertaining and full of appealing pioneers, though its rather romantic notions of the Old West (where everyone respects Angele’s willingness to do the hard and dangerous work right alongside the men) stretches credulity. Her abilities are perfectly plausible, but the generous support less so, especially in light of the story’s theme of how racial and ethnic prejudices come to dominate people’s lives. In spite of some tragic events, Angele’s path is much easier than seems likely, though this may be the fault of the book’s first-person narration and resulting paucity of dramatization. In this idealized West, a young woman’s sexual self-assertion is a nice fantasy, but if you can suspend your disbelief, you will enjoy getting to know and follow the adventures of Angele and her family and friends.