Barb Taub's Reviews > The 20's Girl, the ghost, and all that jazz

The 20's Girl, the ghost, and all that jazz by June Kearns
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it was amazing

It’s funny. Reading June Kearn’s books feels like coming home. Home to old-fashioned glamour, romance, and love stories. That’s why when I went to write about them, I was so surprised to realize that these books are like nothing I’d ever read before. Her heroines are in the fine old tradition of (strait-laced/gloved/hatted/tea-drinking/chat-about-the-weather-then-indomitably-triumphing-over-evil-doers-or-the-ill-bred) British ladies. Her heroes are… not. Tall, taciturn, moody-bordering-on—and often achieving—rude, they could just be another iteration of Rose Sayer vs Charlie Allnut from The African Queen, where Hepburn’s proper British spinster meets Bogey’s gin-swilling reprobate. But there’s more going on in these books than a clash of cultures.

In An Englishwoman’s Guide to the Cowboy, corseted, gloved, proper Victorian British spinster Annie Haddon is the poor relation who is never allowed to forget the debt she owes her relatives for taking her in and raising her. All that changes when her aunt insists on a trip to the American west, only to have the stage they’re riding in come under attack. Rescued by cowboy Colt McCall, Annie finds her growing appreciation of the wide open landscapes around her includes the tall half-native-American cowboy in front of her.

In The 20’s Girl, the Ghost, and All That Jazz, Gerardina Mary Chiledexter is coping with the death of her beloved guardian, the enchanting, glamorous, improvident Leonie who left her a bookstore and a mountain of debt. Her world, the tiny irresistibly-named Lower Shepney Market, is still reeling from the Great War, so eligible marriages that might have defined her future are not possible. The bookstore faces financial ruin, and she’s about to lose her home when she discovers that she’s the half-owner of a ranch in Texas—to the annoyance of her co-owner Coop.

As I read Gerry and Annie’s stories, I realized that they are about more than the clash of differing cultures. They are even about more than ‘opposites attract, fight, kiss-kiss, and ride into the sunset’. Those stories are fun, but we’ve all heard them before. No, what June Kearns investigates—in the lightest, most entertaining, often laugh out loud funny way—is what home means. Annie, Colt, Gerry, and Coop are all people who are in some way cut off from their own place. Each is surrounded by the world they grew up in, but not defined by or ultimately at home in that world. In Kearns’ books, that search for a home that accepts you for who and what you are defines and motivates the characters. Sometimes, of course, those characters get it wrong. But luckily for them, Kearns’ books also have enchanting hints of supernatural spirits or even grumpy cats who don’t hesitate to point out their charges’ mistakes and nudge them back to the path to happiness.

Having made the reverse of her characters’ westward journey—I moved from the American west to a tiny English village—I was captivated by both the loving descriptions of English village life and the admiring pictures of the American west. Arguably, neither world still exists, but through these books you see not only those places, but the way they define and inform their modern day equivalents. You still can attend an afternoon cricket match that lasts the whole day, or ride a horse for hours across a western landscape. And the best part? Kearns accomplishes all of this so lightly that you never feel her touch. Her books’ dialog sparkles, her descriptions of the two different worlds have you picturing western expanses and British teas, and her pacing is perfectly timed to deliver her characters to their combined British/American just desserts. That’s y’all done. Cheers.

**I received this book for free from the publisher or author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.**
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
September 26, 2014 – Shelved
September 26, 2014 – Finished Reading

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