Monday, November 16, 2015


Pioneering in the West with the Women of Paragon Springs series by Irene Bennett Brown, from Five Star.

Do you enjoy books that include adventure, romance, and history? This review for a four book series is set in Kansas, but it could be anywhere in the Midwest or Western United States. The series includes LONG ROAD TURNING, BLUE HORIZONS, NO OTHER PLACE and REAP THE SOUTH WIND.

As the oral historian for my family, I’ve interviewed more elderly family members than I can count. The struggles depicted in the Women of Paragon Springs series brought to mind stories passed down through my own family--and will probably do the same for each reader whose family were pioneers. Although each book includes all the women, each book is particularly about one woman’s story. The first two center around Meg Brennan’s struggles. Aurelia Thorne takes center stage in the third, and it’s my least favorite of the four books. The final book with Lucy Ann’s story takes us into the twentieth century.

Let me share the blurb for the first book, LONG ROAD TURNING.

Meg Brennon’s wagon has just been hijacked by three bedraggled strangers on their way to Dodge City. On the run from an abusive husband, Meg agrees to share her wagon with Grandma Spicy, Lucy Ann, and Laddie as they search for their uncle. When they arrive in Dodge City, they learn that the uncle has died, leaving only a small tract of land to Laddie. Meg trades for another parcel and they build themselves a home, soon to be joined by other women and children in need of a safe place. Harassed by a cattle rancher who wants her land, and in constant fear of the bounty hunter her husband has hired to find her, Meg struggles to maintain her farm. The group starts a road ranch for travelers and sets up a newspaper and post office. Through heartbreak and joy the homestead thrives, leaving Meg to realize that she must find a way to free herself from the past.

Women of Paragon Spring is about a group of women who each have faced tragedy. Each is literally at the end of her resources. Banding together, these intelligent women rebuild their lives using their wits, hard work, and planning. They have plans, big plans for Paragon Springs. Although I’ve read many books of this type, in this series I learned a lot about being a pioneer.

For instance, I’m certain that if the necessity arose (Please, God, no!), I could build a soddy. I learned the specifics for quarrying rock. I also learned that being a pioneer took good health and stamina. Fortunately, the Women of Paragon Springs were physically healthy, and each did her share.  They were not Amazons, just downtrodden women determined to make a home for themselves. Fortunately, the principal women characters met their soul mates.

Early on, Paragon Springs was like a commune, but the women soon expanded to homestead the land nearby and it became a community. Later, they decided a town nearby would help everyone so they set about drawing honest, hardworking citizens to people their town. Don’t think for a minute their job was easy! Every step forward was a battle. In spite of the fact the territory was open to settlers, cattlemen who’d been using the government grass for free fought against farmers and the town. Some men wanted nothing to do with women telling them what was needed in the town or county. Crooked con men tried to take over the town, which until then had lived up to its name. Fires, drought, plagues of grasshoppers--just your usual problems for homesteaders.

I loved these books. Any reader who loves pioneer history would enjoy them. Readers who don’t care about history but just want a good, strong story will also find the Women of Paragon Springs a joy. The first book, LONG ROAD TURNING, was my favorite, but all four are well worth the investment of reading time.

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