Jane Peck starts out as a wild, red-headed girl from Philadelphia who struggles to become a proper lady in order to fit in with society and capture the heart of the man she loves only to discover, when she sails to meet her fiancee in the Pacific Northwest, that frontier society is no place for white gloves and corsets. I enjoyed this story so much that I couldn't wait to get to the library to pick up the second book in the series. My only caveat is that I would recommend it for older children, but I admit that I am a little conservative in what I give my kids to read. If you want details, you can write to me privately and I will try to explain my reservations regarding the appropriateness for younger or sensitive children. Also, there is a Catholic missionary priest in this story who is not always painted in a favorable light, but since there was no obvious disrespect or bashing, I am willing to see where the story goes regarding this character.
From Publisher's Weekly:
The enormously likable and irrepressible 16-year-old narrator Jane recounts her childhood crush on her father's apprentice William, which caused her, at age 11, to trade her tomboyish spitting and cherry pie-eating for proper deportment and embroidery lessons at Miss Hepplewhite's Young Ladies Academy. As Jane makes her way to the Oregon territory to marry William, Holm humorously juxtaposes Miss Hepplewhite's lessons with the reality of life at sea and on the frontier in 1854. Such advice as travelers must "dress plainly and pack lightly" does not seem to apply: Jane reflects, "She had been rather remiss in mentioning any hints on killing fleas, avoiding rats, bathing with seawater, or being seasick." The plot thickens when she meets Jehu, an officer on the ship and discovers that William has departed for a project with the governor. Jane (named Boston Jane by the local Chinook Indians) must share a cabin with unkempt, tobacco-chewing men and make herself useful by cooking, washing and mending rather than supervising servants or pouring tea. The developing love triangle (with Jehu and William) takes a back seat to Holm's credible portrait of Jane's budding friendships with the Chinook and pioneers, and the series of challenges that transform her into the outspoken, self-reliant young woman readers will long remember. Ages 10-up.
I really enjoyed listening to the story on audiobook while I was driving. I like the author's storytelling and have become invested in the emotional lives of the characters. Sunshine has asked if she may read it and I think I will wait until I finish the series before deciding. I like to be careful when it comes to modern books with strong female characters, just to make sure that there isn't some heavy feminist undercurrent. I'm all for independence, smarts and strength in female characters, just a little jaded and cautious about how that looks to authors who don't share our religious/moral values. I have no idea if Ms. Holm is one of those authors, I'm just saying that I like to be careful. I like the way this series has begun. From an historical fiction perspective, I think Ms. Holm did a good bit of research on this time period and locale which is nice to see and could be incorporated in a unit study or just might spark a few rabbit trails. I'll let you know how the rest of the series goes.