Miss Royal’s Mules (Nickel Hill)

Written by Irene Bennett Brown
Review by Jodie Toohey

Book one in Ms. Brown’s Nickel Hill Series sets the stage for an exciting and interesting series set in Kansas in the early 1900s. We meet Miss Jocelyn Royal when she wakes up from a night spent in a livery stable, determined to raise the funds necessary to buy back her family’s farm without turning to the seedier occupations available to a woman at the time. Her independent and spunky character gets her a job driving mules to the Nickel Hill Ranch, and her truth-telling, strong, and stubborn disposition help her survive when she is abandoned by her boss, keeping things afloat until he returns so she can collect her much-needed pay. Despite these somewhat clichéd qualities for a historical heroine, Miss Royal is an engaging character, and the narrator of her story has a voice with an authentic, early 20th-century western feel.

Miss Royal’s Mules is an exciting, action-filled story with elements of mystery and romance that kept me reading enthusiastically. And, refreshingly, it doesn’t have the typical boy-meets-girl, girl-hates-boy-but-can’t-resist-him setup of formula romance novels. Based on the fact that it’s the first in a series titled Nickel Hill, it’s no mystery as to how the story will end; the mystery is how Miss Royal goes from being a homeless, destitute woman hiding in a livery stable to owning mules and living at Nickel Hill. The ending sets up the second installment well and provides the reader with plenty of motivation to want to read it; and just because it’s 1900s Kansas, we know the end of the first book won’t be happily ever after.