The Good Time Girls (Wild-Willed Women of the West)

Written by K. T. Blakemore
Review by Fiona Alison

Blakemore’s madcap novel sparkles with scintillating wit, heartfelt warmth, and snappy repartee. First in the Wild-Willed Women of the West series, featuring women who “succeed through sheer grit, determination, and a parcel of luck,” according to the author’s note, this is an unashamedly feminist take on the Old West.

Ruby Calhoun, occasional outlaw and ex-dancehall girl, is enjoying a hard-won, quiet life in Kansas City, 1905, when in walks the one person she most assuredly does not want to see. Her very best friend―the one she ran out on when the going got tough―cheroot smoking, pearl-handled Colt-toting, horseback rider extraordinaire, Pip Quinn. Past is resurrected into present as Pip drags Ruby from her comfortable nest to hunt and kill the man who ruined their lives, Pip’s nasty one-time lover, Cullen Wilder. As they set off on their mission, Ruby’s knack of de-stressing by running train-timetables through her head comes in handy, chased on and off trains as they are by Cullen’s henchman and the law.

Blakemore’s novel inhabits a vivid world of saloons, hurdy-gurdy girls, spittoons, fedoras, and parasols. Alternating chapters are set in Kansas, 1905 and Orinda, Arizona, in 1898, where Ruby first met Pip at The Paradise, a house of ill- but well-known repute. Rather than turn tricks, Ruby signs on to do a nightly dance routine with Pip. Ruby’s luck with men is sadly thin. There are only four types: good (almost none), weak, mean, or dastardly bad, and we meet all of them.

The novel is, by turns, spirited, whimsical, quirky, mischievous, irreverent, and full of dry wit. It matters not that these girls’ faces are plastered on Wanted posters all over Kansas. They are easy to know, easy to like, and I was rooting for them all the way through their bull-in-a-china-shop ventures. The new member tagging along with the Calhoun Gang by the end ensures a wonderful sequel.