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Reviewed by Emily-Jane Hills Orford for Readers' Favorite
The post-Civil War era was a difficult time for people in both the north and the south. Old anger didn’t die easily and this anger fueled many politically motivated activists, particularly amongst soldiers from the south. One group included the man who would become a legend in the history of robberies across the American West: Jesse James. Much has been written about this rogue warrior who never forgot the grievances inflicted during the war. But a more fascinating story is that of his wife, Zee James, or Mrs. Jesse James. She married her cousin, Jesse, out of love, but her life was anything but a fairy tale existence. Constantly in fear of being discovered, of her husband being caught by the authorities and hanged for his crimes, the family literally lived on the run, moving from one location to another and often having to assume other names to keep their true identity a secret. It was a difficult life for Mrs. Jesse James.
Pat Wahler’s historical fiction/romance novel, I Am Mrs. Jesse James, is a passionate retelling of one pioneer woman’s story. Told in the first person, the reader is led right into the life of the woman who would become part of the legend of the old west’s most notorious outlaw. The story begins with Jesse’s burial and then jumps back in time as Zee recalls where and when the story began. The plot then develops from Zee’s early teen years until she nurses Jesse back to health and the romance blooms forward to the time she defies her mother to marry her first cousin, to live a life on the run with a fugitive always looking ahead to the next big bust and looking behind to the shadows that lurk and threaten. Dialogue is well used and the descriptive narrative accurately portrays the setting and the era. The reader is totally immersed in Zee’s life: her passions, her fears, her trials and tribulations and her undying love for her husband, Jesse. I Am Mrs. Jesse James is a powerful story by Pat Wahler about a very strong, unique pioneer woman.