Friday, May 13, 2011

Review: Unbridled Dreams by Stephanie Grace Whitson

Soooo...since Blogger blew up or whatever yesterday, and deleted all posts and comments (sadness!) since Wednesday, here is my review of Unbridled Dreams again, originally from 2008.

Unbridled Dreams
By: Stephanie Grace Whitson
Publisher: Bethany House
ISBN: 978-0764203275

About the book:

Irma Friedrich has everything a girl could want…but she’s miserable. To her, the perfect life includes horses and roundups and trick riding.

Willa Friedrich, haunted by disappointment and fear, thinks controlling her daughter’s future is the only way to protect Irma from dangers Willa knows all too well.

Shep Sterling, known as King of the Cowboys, leads a life that represents all Irma desires…and everything her mother fears.

Something has to give when Willa’s insistence on sending Irma to finishing school collides with Irma’s determination to audition for Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West. And Shep Sterling is waiting in the wings…


Growing up, I was absolutely obsessed with all things western. I loved cowboy stories, and practically devoured Louis L'Amour novels (long live the Sacketts!). When I started reading Christian fiction, I soon found that most books with a western setting fell squarely into the "prairie romance" category (which is all well and good, but they just aren't my cup of tea). I prefer a western-set tale that's a little grittier or more adventurous. Unbridled Dreams fits the bill perfectly, delivering an adventurous, romantic, whirlwind coming-of-age tale set against the colorful backdrop of Buffalo Bill's Wild West.

By the late 19th century, the west was settled, but the "wild" west lived on in Cody's renowned traveling show. Seventeen-year-old Irma Friedrich has one burning desire - to realize her dream of becoming Liberty Belle, a trick riding Wild West star. However, her unorthodox dream is in direct opposition to her mother's desire for a ladylike daughter who could make an advantageous marriage. When Irma and her overly-indulgent father Otto go to extreme lengths to make Irma's dream come true, Irma must prove herself to the Wild West troupe and somehow repair her tense relationship with her mother without sacrificing her dreams. But when the star cowboy, Shep, begins to pay her extra special attention, to Irma's shock she begins to question her single-minded pursuit of stardom.

Irma is a wonderful, richly drawn character. She's a teenager with a lot to learn about life, and her journey from a passionate, spoiled girl to a hard-working troupe member is richly detailed and her maturation is believable. Willa and Otto's marriage is beautifully portrayed with a sometimes painful realism. Whitson's portrait of marriage shows it to be hard, sacrificial work, but when God's at the center of the relationship, the rewards are breathtakingly worthwhile. The heart of the story is Irma's growth as an individual and in coming to terms with her mother. I suspect that a lot of mothers and daughters will be able to relate to Willa and Irma's relationship. Through her characters, Whitson confronts the reader with what happens when secrets are laid bare, communication is fractured, and pride brings painful but much needed lessons. Unbridled Dreams is a fast-paced, absorbing read that takes its wonderfully real characters on a journey of forgiveness, healing, and restoration. Highly recommended.


Carissa said...

Started reading Unbridled Dreams, and I am loving it. Like you I loved the west and western as a child. Like you when I started reading Christian fiction western's i noticed that they were geared towards romance. I wanted something along the classic western novel lines. I am glad to see that Unbridled Dreams is something that I was looking forward.
I was also excieted to see that Bufflo Bill Cody was a character in the novel. I've always be insterested in him since I was a kid and watched a tv show about him in his younger days as a pony express rider. I am looking forward to finishin the book this weekend.

Unknown said...

@Carissa - So happy to hear you are enjoying Unbridled Dreams, and that it is meeting your expectations/desire for the genre! Buffalo Bill is a fascinating character...I've always loved stories of him & Annie Oakley & the like. :)