Fresh from an Eastern finishing school, Rhiannon O'Shea wants nothing to do with her parents' plan to marry her off. Then the town council nominates her for mayor as a joke, and the fiery vixen astonishes everyone by accepting the challenge. But her campaign forces her to form a dangerous alliance with the most eligible bachelor in Wolfe, Kansas.
Cheryl Anne Porter's books, I find, are hard to categorize and evaluate. While reading this book, I thought it was fun, humorous and winsome. When I thought about the book, however, I realized there were significant problems. Let me outline the story first.
Rhiannon O'Shea is just back from three years at a finishing school in Baltimore. Now she is back home in Kansas and she has to work at avoiding her former tomboy ways. Rhiannon is the oldest of 4 children and her father is the town banker. Surrounded by three younger brothers, Rhiannon is 19 years of age. Unbeknownst to her, the men in the Fancy Lady Saloon, while in their cups, decide to nominate a slate of women to run against the current (men) members of the city council and mayor. They nominate women for all of the council positions, including one of the Fancy Lady prostitutes. All of this is supposed to be a joke. The town drunk nominates Rhiannon for town mayor. A cub reporter takes it all down and the news makes a huge splash in the next day's newspaper.
In the meantime, the O'Shea family has a large party to welcome their daughter back home. She meets again the man who has inherited almost everything in the town (and the town is named after his family). Hank Wolfe has returned from several happy years at West Point and military service in the West. Hank had to relinquish his commission to take responsibility for the vast Wolfe holdings (world-wide) upon his father's death. Hank is a very bitter man of 32.
Most of the women of town simper and hang on to every one of Hank's words. However, Rhiannon is totally unimpressed by Wolfe's wealth and Hank finds that to be a pleasant surprise. He is instantly attracted to her. He pursues the little spitfire but her head is soon turned by the opportunity to run for mayor. She sees several things that she could do to make the town better.
They have a conversation about marriage and both are opposed to it; Rhiannon wants to do something with her life first and Hank is not interested in staying in Wolfe, Kansas, and he wants to return to his former life.
Here are the major problems I had with this story. First, this story obviously takes place before 1899 and yet Hank and Rhiannon engage in a sexual relationship -- openly. She is openly living in his home; she's also running for office. In that day and time, moral turpitude (engaging in behaviors that are considered contrary to community standards of justice, honesty or good morals), would automatically eliminate Rhiannon from running for and holding office.
People are shocked by Hank and Rhiannon's behavior, but they don't censure them for it. Mr. O'Shay goes to Hank and tells him that he must marry his daughter; Hank tells him that that is just what he has been trying to do. Rhiannon just isn't interested.
XXXXX SPOILER ALERT XXXXX In spite of the flagrant affair they are conducting, Rhiannon is elected mayor. It simply wouldn't happen in that day and time.
By the way, women's suffrage didn't come to Kansas until 1912., long after this story was to have taken place. There are other problems (Hank decides that he has to get Rhiannon pregnant before she will marry him. He sets about doing just that and tells others).
This couple is fun to watch but the story was so unrealistic that it ruined the whole effect. This is one of those books where there is lots of action but, at the end, the reader is often left with the feeling, "Is that all there is?'