The best novels about fierce women in the American West

Why am I passionate about this?

The United States Old West is a legend, a myth, a land of contradictions. I grew up and have never left this vast land of scorching deserts, soaring peaks, misty coasts, and redwoods that touch the heavens. I grew up on the myths – Tombstone, Billy the Kid, Calamity Jane, Pearl Hart. What I love most are the stories of the women of the West, who survive with grit, wiles, and no small amount of courage. I love finding the lesser known women through novels and research and seeing their lives bloom before my eyes. Cowgirls, sufragettes, doctors, ex-slaves, Cheyenne, Arapahoe, cattle rustlers, homesteaders, dancehall girls.


I wrote...

The Good Time Girls

By Kim Taylor Blakemore,

Book cover of The Good Time Girls

What is my book about?

1905 Kansas. Ex-dancehall girl and outlaw Ruby Calhoun has settled into a (mostly) quiet and (mostly) lawful life. Then her ex-dancehall partner, Pip, shows up with a grim message: Cullen Wilder, an old enemy, wants them dead, and the only way to survive is to take to the road and get to him first. Unprepared for the journey, their trip is filled with mishaps, blunders, con artists, and the circling noose of the law. If you love Thelma & Louise or are looking for a book that will make you laugh, this is for you. It’s about friendship. About the women’s west. About two women who laugh in the face of hardship.

"Rip-roaring action and lively characters capture the imagination..." - Publishers Weekly

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Diary of Mattie Spenser

Kim Taylor Blakemore Why did I love this book?

This novel follows the journey of Mattie Spenser, a young bride who leaves her comfortable city life behind to settle in the harsh and unforgiving Colorado frontier.

As she faces numerous challenges, including isolation and the demands of homesteading, Mattie's inner strength and resilience shine through. Mattie's determination, the vivid depiction of frontier life, and the exploration of women's roles in the Old West pulled me right into her world.

A truly unique voice that absolutely enthralled me.

By Sandra Dallas,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Diary of Mattie Spenser as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Unexpectedly married to the man considered the catch of her hometown, a young woman finds herself traveling via covered wagon to Colorado in search of a new start, with only her reticent husband and her personal journal to keep her company


Book cover of True Grit

Kim Taylor Blakemore Why did I love this book?

One of my all-time favorites, both heartrending and humorous and a must read.

True Grit tells the story of Mattie Ross, a determined and tenacious young girl seeking justice for her father's murder. She hires the relentless U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn to help her track down the killer.

Readers will love this book for its gripping narrative, vivid characters, and Mattie's unwavering resolve and courage, which challenges traditional gender roles in the Wild West.

By Charles Portis,

Why should I read it?

15 authors picked True Grit as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

There is no knowing what lies in a man's heart. On a trip to buy ponies, Frank Ross is killed by one of his own workers. Tom Chaney shoots him down in the street for a horse, $150 cash, and two Californian gold pieces. Ross's unusually mature and single-minded fourteen-year-old daughter Mattie travels to claim his body, and finds that the authorities are doing nothing to find Chaney. Then she hears of Rooster - a man, she's told, who has grit - and convinces him to join her in a quest into dark, dangerous Indian territory to hunt Chaney down…


Book cover of The Comanche Kid

Kim Taylor Blakemore Why did I love this book?

The Comanche Kid is a breathtaking book that follows Jane, who witnesses her family's murder and her sister's kidnapping during a Comanche raid.

She disguises herself as her brother and embarks on a journey to find her sister and seek revenge. Along the way, she joins a cattle drive, encountering cowboys, Buffalo soldiers, and Comanches, experiencing the beauty and wrath of the West.

This intense novel fearlessly exposes the atrocities committed by all parties, while highlighting the destructive nature of vengeance. Nonetheless, it remains a compassionate tale of bravery and forgiveness. Trust me on this – you will not forget this novel. It’s on my shelf next to True Grit.

By James Robert Daniels,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Comanche Kid as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An epic new western in the grand tradition of True Grit and Lonesome Dove.
A 2022 Western Writers of America Spur Award Finalist for Best Traditional Western Novel.

"The best western I’ve read in a long, long time. Though a first novel, Daniels writes with the sure hand of an old-pro. His voice is authentic and riveting. I can’t recommend this one more highly!” - Peter Brandvold, author of over 70 westerns, including 11 Lou Prophet novels & 15 Sheriff Ben Stillman westerns.

Out of nowhere Comanches attack—and sixteen year-old Jane narrowly survives the slaughter of her family and the…


Book cover of The Outlander

Kim Taylor Blakemore Why did I love this book?

The Outlander is a gripping historical fiction novel set in the Canadian Rockies.

The story follows Mary Boulton, a young woman on the run from her dangerous husband. As Mary navigates the rugged wilderness, she encounters a cast of memorable characters and faces numerous trials.

I loved its evocative and atmospheric writing, transporting me to the untamed Rocky Mountains in the early 20th century. Adamson's portrayal of Mary as a strong and resourceful protagonist captivated me. The land is brutal and beautiful at one, as are the characters she encounters.

The Outlander is a compelling tale of survival, filled with suspense, surprising twists and turns, and a captivating exploration of the human spirit. I could not put this down.

By Gil Adamson,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Outlander as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

On a moonlit night in 1903, a mysterious young woman flees alone across the Canadian wilderness, one quick step ahead of her pursuers. Mary Boulton is nineteen years old, half mad, and widowed - by her own hand. Tearing through the forest with dogs howling in the distance, she is desperate, her nerves burning, and she is certain of one thing only - that her every move is being traced. Two red-headed brothers, rifles across their backs, lurch close behind her: monstrous figures, identical in every way, with the predatory look of hyenas. She has murdered their brother, and their…


Book cover of Buffalo Calf Road Woman: The Story Of A Warrior Of The Little Bighorn

Kim Taylor Blakemore Why did I love this book?

Buffalo Calf Road Woman is a riveting historical account based on true events.

This compelling narrative portrays the remarkable Cheyenne woman known for her valor in both the Battle of the Little Bighorn and the Battle of the Rosebud. Buffalo Calf Road Woman's courage shines through as she fearlessly charges into chaos, rescuing her brother from certain death.

The book immerses readers in the harsh realities of pioneer migration, showcasing the devastating consequences to the native tribes. I was captivated by the raw power of the storytelling and inspired by the unwavering bravery of Buffalo Calf Road Woman.

And these opening lines! “The end of the world began that day. Not slowly or quietly, not piece by piece or by degrees, but as a calamity that brings another and another and another." A powerful, thought-provoking novel. 

By Rosemary Agonito, Joseph Agonito,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Buffalo Calf Road Woman as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner of the Western Heritage Award for "Outstanding Western Novel" 2005

As the Cheyenne fought that June day in 1876, warrior Comes in Sight faced grave danger. His horse had been shot out from under him, and he was left stranded on the battlefield. Suddenly, a rider galloped through enemy fire, pulled Comes in Sight onto the back of her horse, and spirited him to safety. It was Buffalo Calf Road Woman-the warrior's own sister. While white men refer to this clash as the Battle of the Rosebud, the Cheyenne know it as the battle, "Where the Girl Saved Her…


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Feral Maril & Her Little Brother Carol

By Leslie Tall Manning,

Book cover of Feral Maril & Her Little Brother Carol

Leslie Tall Manning Author Of Maggie's Dream

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Mentor Laugher Research nut Avid reader

Leslie's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Winner of the Literary Titan Book Award

Bright but unassuming Marilyn Jones has some grown-up decisions to make, especially after Mama goes to prison for drugs and larceny. With no one to take care of them, Marilyn and her younger, mentally challenged brother, Carol, get tossed into the foster care system. While shuffling from one home to another, Marilyn makes it her mission to find the Tan Man, a mysterious man from her babyhood she believes holds the key to her family’s happiness.

But Marilyn’s quest is halted when her daddy, an ex-con she has never met, is chosen by…

Feral Maril & Her Little Brother Carol

By Leslie Tall Manning,

What is this book about?

Bright but unassuming Marilyn Jones has some grown-up decisions to make, especially after Mama goes to prison for drugs and larceny. With no one to take care of them, Marilyn and her younger, mentally challenged brother, Carol, get tossed into the foster care system. While shuffling from one home to another, Marilyn makes it her mission to find the Tan Man, a mysterious man from her babyhood she believes holds the key to her family's happiness.

But Marilyn's quest is halted when her daddy, an ex-con she has never met, is chosen by the courts as the new guardian. Caleb…


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