Tangled Times (Nickel Hill Series 2)

Written by Irene Bennett Brown
Review by Ray Thompson

1902, Kansas. The second book in the Nickel Hill series follows the experiences of Jocelyn Royal, the heroine of Miss Royal’s Mules. Now married, she and her husband Pete Pladson are managing a ranch, but their hopes of making it a success and raising a family are imperiled by an outbreak of cattle rustling and her failure to get pregnant. Will hard work, dogged determination, kindness, and the support of friends and neighbors be sufficient to win the day?

This offers a picture of the harsh challenges that confronted settlers in the West, including prejudice and suspicion, the mistreatment of children, and unexpected misfortune, and it helps to balance the generally idealized presentation of the characters. True to the romance form, their choice to treat others with kindness and sympathy, rather than harbor resentment or lash out in anger, leads to a happy outcome to their difficulties: common sense prevails and differences are reconciled; abandoned children are cared for and react with gratitude; and the community rallies to protect its own.

The welcome focus upon domestic matters rather than violent action serves to reveal the crucial role that women played in civilizing the West, and this is reinforced by references to the progress they fought for at the turn of the century: education, cultural events, and equal rights for women.

This will appeal to readers who enjoyed Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie series. Recommended.