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Reviewed by Ray Hosler for Readers' Favorite
A Lady Newspaperman’s Dilemma by Eileen Donovan artfully lays out the choices women had in the 1920s pursuing a journalism career. Newspapers were the most influential communications medium in the early 20th century, known for their ability to frame political issues. Competition for jobs was fierce and it took a special breed of writer to be a successful reporter — hard-nosed, persistent, fearless, intensely inquisitive. The main character, Alex Lawson, lands a newspaper job at a Montana town’s daily newspaper and bubbles over with confidence. Her bubble bursts when she finds out that her main beat will be society news. Her mentor and competitor at the paper, Betty, puts her in her place as well. When a courthouse incident lands Betty in the hospital, Alex has a chance to prove herself. At the same time, she starts dating two eligible bachelors in town. She struggles to decide whether she wants to choose a more traditional path of marriage and motherhood or a profession.
Eileen Donovan weaves a believable yarn based on historical events and societal expectations of the time. Women were expected to pursue domesticity or a career, but not both at the same time. Donovan writes in a straightforward style and engages readers with plenty of excitement throughout. I found her verbal exchanges between the two suitors convincing, and the personality differences between the two men she’s dating have the reader wondering who she might choose for a long-term relationship. The townspeople she comes to know will sound familiar. There’s the crusty old newspaper editor, the town gossip, and the friendly owner of the speakeasy bar to keep your interest. The story climaxes when a river floods in the spring and threatens to wipe out the town. What will become of Alex and the newspaper? Will she choose love or follow her dream of working at a large daily paper? In the end, the “what ifs” are many. As historical novels go, A Lady Newspaperman’s Dilemma gives the reader hours of entertainment following Alex’s daily challenges working on a small-town newspaper as romance comes calling.