The Woman Who Loved Jesse James

Written by Cindi Myers
Review by Arleigh Johnson

Jesse James – notorious outlaw to some, hero of the Southern cause to others – is brought brilliantly to life in this novelization of his courtship and marriage to his cousin, Zee. Following a chance meeting at a wedding, and later, as Zee tends to his wounds, they fall deeply in love. Though many years pass before they actually marry, she holds on to her faith in him, all the while ignoring the negative press and wild stories she hears of him. With her, he is a different person entirely – intelligent, well-spoken and mannered, he treats Zee with love and devotion. Once she gives in to the idea that he is living a dangerous double life, she does not try to change him, for his wildness is a part of him she greatly loves.

This book is not only a love story. The Reconstruction Era is recounted through the viewpoint of a state split between the North and South, and many were supportive of the James brothers playing Robin Hood, robbing from the very men they felt had taken away their livelihood – banks and trains controlled by Union businessmen. Though a definite leaning to the Southern cause is apparent, the reader gets a sense of the political atmosphere of post-Civil War America. This is a sympathetic viewpoint of the infamous outlaw, but nonetheless a poignant one with interesting details of the era and an immaculate recounting of the retaliatory crimes committed by Jesse James.