Friday, October 2, 2009

Melinda and the Wild West

Ugh! One morning, several months ago, we woke up earlier than usual, about 5:30 AM, to the worst smell imaginable. What was it? It smelled like a poisonous gas of some sort--was it chemical warfare? In my groggy state I imagined all the worst scenarios. While I checked my daughters in their rooms upstairs, my husband checked my son downstairs--all were sleeping peacefully--as we continued to feel suffocated by this toxic scent. Would we survive? My husband and I could hardly breath and could not fall back asleep, so we ventured outside several minutes later to investigate, and soon realized what must have happened. Our dog had been sprayed by a skunk outside in the early morning, bringing the overpowering smell inside the house. We couldn't tell what the smell was, initially--skunk smell changes as time passes--only that it was disgusting beyond belief and words.

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."
~Melinda and the Wild West, Linda Weaver Clarke
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.

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!


  1. I'm so glad to see this is good and that you enjoyed it!

  2. I like the cover. I think I will check out this skunk book.

  3. Oh my gosh! What a touching review! Thanks, Suko. Thank you so much. I'm going to post it on my site for others to read.

  4. You're very welcome, Linda. I did just edit it ever so slightly so please post the updated version.

    Have a wonderful birthday!

  5. Great review. I recently received a copy of this book and I can't wait to read it. This is my favorite era and pioneer stories are so much fun.


  6. I just love your skunk story. I was laughing as I read it.

  7. Hello:) I also had the pleasure of having Linda host at my blog not too long ago and I've been interested in her books ever since. You've given a lovely review- and your blog is wonderful! Thanks:)

  8. Bermudaonion, thanks for your positive comment.

    Gautami, this is a very enjoyable book (the skunk part is just a chapter)!

    Cheryl, pioneer stories have a special charm, don't they?

    Vivienne, thank you!

    Ms. Lucy, thank you so much. I need to pay a visit to your blog soon. : )

    More comments are always welcomed!

  9. This sounds like a great book, and one that I would really enjoy. In regards to skunks, my son loves Curious George goes camping when George gets sprayed by a skunk . . . if only he knew what that really smells like!

    I'm adding this book to my TBR list. Thanks for the great review!

  10. your description of the skunk smell was very vivid-I will add this book to my TBR list-I have not read all that much historical fiction set in the American west-

  11. Laura, I'm not familiar with that particular Curious George story--and I thought I'd read them all! As always, thanks for stopping by!

    Mel, this enjoyable book is for young adults and older, and gives importance to "the reading life".

  12. Oh my gosh about the skunk, yikes! lol.
    This does sound like a good read and a nice series to get into, very cool that she adds some historical facts in there.
    great review!

  13. I do love a good historical read as well. Great review and thanks for sharing your thoughts on it!

  14. Naida and Samantha, this is a wonderful story, and the fact that it's historical fiction makes it even better. I can't wait to read the next book in this series! Thanks for your comments.

    More comments welcomed as always.

  15. Oh, this book sounds like something I would love! I have put it on my wish list and am going to think about grabbing a copy as soon as I can. I can also attest to the grossness of skunk spray. The worst part about it is that it's so hard to get the smell out. Thanks for the great review, you really intrigued me in regards to this book!

  16. A great review. I know this will be a wonderful read! I can't wait to learn all about "Melinda"!

  17. This review is very well written, Suko. I don't usually read historical fiction, but your book summary encourages me to. Thanks for introducing me to a new author; I love to collect names and titles for future reading!

  18. Sounds like a great book. Thanks for the review!

  19. I just can't imagine that Smell.. and i swear i dnt want to either... yuck!!!

    Those 2 facts- about women getting voting rights etc - I didn't know these EITHER... this sounds like a marvelous read.. Awesome review..!

  20. Sounds like a great book!. We have dodged the skunk bullet so far, but even my boss (an MD) came to work after being skunked!

  21. Zibilee, you are so right. It's very hard to get completely rid of skunk smell, which lasts and lasts.

    Danielle, thanks for stopping by!

    Virginia C, enjoy!

    Karen, historical fiction is a wonderful genre.

    MonieG, thank you!

    Veens, this book is a fun way to learn about "the wild west".

    Linda, hope you continue to dodge the skunk bullet.

    Thank you all for your comments. More are welcomed.


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