The Transformation of Chastity James

Written by Kathleen Morris
Review by Jeff Westerhoff

Raised on a horse ranch in Lexington, Massachusetts, 22-year-old Chastity James was raised by her father to know how to hunt, shoot, and ride. In 1878, she is teaching at a nearby school. Chastity approaches her father about an opportunity to teach at Dodge City, Kansas for one year. Reluctantly, her father agrees, and upon arriving at Dodge City, Chastity boards with Hiram Sampson’s family. Deeply religious, Hiram feels all women should know their place.

After being raped by Hiram’s son Olson, she kills him. Friends help her escape from town when she learns it is impossible to defend her crime. She dresses as a man, changes her name, and begins to head east back home. Followed by marshal Wyatt Earp, she meets a young gunslinger, and together they begin a life on the run.

This novel is aptly titled because the heroine must transform both her identity and her vocation. I found it interesting that changing not only her looks, but also her behavior, from a local “schoolmarm” to an outlaw was so easy for her. This transformation is difficult to believe, but regardless, the novel is well-written and hard to put down.