I bring this up not to relive a morning I'd rather forget, but because in Melinda and the Wild West: A Family Saga in Bear Lake, Idaho, there's a chapter entitled Skunk Oil.
"Instantly the room filled with the most putrid, foul, disgusting, detestable odor that Melinda had ever breathed in. The smell was so nauseating and repulsive that it could not be described in words."Having lived through our skunk ordeal, I know that author Linda Weaver Clarke describes the indescribable quite well. The odor of skunk oil is indescribably awful. But this chapter is humorous and has a lighter tone than some of the other chapters which depict Melinda's experiences in the wild west, among them an encounter with notorious bank robbers and with a grizzly bear.
~Melinda and the Wild West, Linda Weaver Clarke
In August, I had the privilege of interviewing Linda Weaver Clarke, and read some samples of her work, available on her blog. Last month, I posted about her book giveaway; the winners are announced on her blog today, which happens to be her birthday. Now I've read the first book in her Bear Lake Valley series, Melinda and the Wild West, published in 2006. Set in 1896 in the wild west, this historical romance is based loosely on the lives of her great-great grandparents, Gilbert and Sarah Weaver, who were pioneers. The book tells the story of Melinda Gamble, a young woman of 26 who is not yet married. She leaves her hometown of Boston to live with her Aunt Martha and Uncle William in Paris, Idaho, to pursue a career as a teacher. Melinda is a modern, independent, "self-willed" young woman who wants to make a difference as a teacher. She's also interested in love and marriage, but doesn't want to give up too much of her independence, or her career as a teacher. While out strolling one day, she wades in a stream and meets Gilbert Roberts, a rancher and widower, who's also the father of one of her students, an unruly girl named Jenny. Melinda reaches out to Jenny at school and helps her to behave in class and love learning. But she is not sure about Gilbert, because although there's an undeniable attraction between them, they're very different from each other and always seem to misunderstand each other. I won't say much more because I don't want to reveal too much about this book.
Engaging historical fiction reels me in. From this book I learned, among other things, that Idaho gave women the right to vote in 1896, and that Abraham Lincoln made Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863. Reading Melinda and the Wild West was very enjoyable. Linda Weaver Clarke blends fact and fiction and brings the story to life through wonderful descriptions, of the characters' thoughts and emotions and of the untamed landscape. I felt as if I was surrounded by the vast wilderness of Idaho, experiencing the story firsthand. Although this book is set in the past, the romance in this story is beautiful and passionate and timeless. I want to know what happens next and look forward to reading more of the books in this series.
Special thanks to Linda Weaver Clarke for sending me this book. Happy birthday, Linda!