In 1886, thanks to a successful banking business, the Friedrichs are social leaders in South Platte, Nebraska. Eighteen-year-old Irma is determined to ride in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Exhibition as the ranchero “Liberty Belle,” but her mother, Willa, insists that Irma first attend finishing school. To please his daughter, Otto Friedrich deceives his wife, and secretly arranges for Irma to join the Wild West in St. Louis as it begins its seasonal tour. Although Irma regrets the deception, she is so happy to be riding in the show and making new friends––including handsome Shep Sterling, King of the Cowboys––that she ignores the growing tension between her parents.
This novel is a little dreary at the start, but once Irma arrives at the Wild West the story takes off with a gallop. Irma has much to learn under Buffalo Bill’s tutelage, and those lessons have more to do with overcoming her stubborn pride than with perfecting tricks in the ring. Shep Sterling is a charmer, and the relationship between Irma’s parents adds depth and poignancy. Set against the backdrop of the Wild West Exhibition, Unbridled Dreams is an unusual novel whose characters stayed with me long after I closed the book.