Reviewed by: Toni
Member of the PRG Review Team
Jessica Brewster and her cousin Jake are currently going through items left in the cottage Jess has inherited from their grandmother…a series of letter, journals, and diaries written by their great-grandmother and great-great-grandmother. One item is a china teacup with the name “Mitawin” written on the underside. Since Jess works at historic Ft. Laramie, she takes the cup there to see if someone in the gift shop can identify it, without success. A check of an English-Sioux dictionary on sale at the gift shop reveals that “Mitawin” is the Lakota word for “wife.”
In a short time, Jess will learn all she wants to know about the origin of the teacup and that word.
Preparing for tourists, Jess dresses in her period clothes and makes a cup of tea. When she brushes her fingertips around the rim of the teacup, it makes an eerie yet soothing sound, lulling her into an almost-trance. The next thing she knows, she’s sitting in a parlor, having tea with women who are definitely not her co-workers, and a man, a handsome Lakota named Mitchell, is calling her his wife.
She’s in the year is 1886, and Ft. Laramie is a living, breathing, bustling army base and not a tourist attraction…
For the next two months, Jess will live the life of her great-great-grandmother, Jessamine, in nineteenth century Wyoming, and she will fall in love…with Jessamine’s first husband, the man her grandmother simply referred to as “the Indian.”
Jess will bring twenty-first century anachronisms into the past as she struggles to adjust to living in a time when women were supposed to be seen and not heard, most people could barely read or write, and working from dawn to dusk, and raising a herd of children, only one or two who would live to adulthood was the norm. She will experience heartbreak and love, especially in her relationship with Mitchell, the Laota Sioux who believes her to be his wife, Jessamine,. She will be tempted to tell him she knows of his eventual fate, and she will seriously question whether she can leave him when she has a chance to return to her own time, and bring Jessamine back . . .
I don’t like time travel stories, so, like the person who hates cats and has felines trailing after her, I’m invariably sent that particular genre to review. Why don’t I like them? Simple: because they are always inevitably sad, as well as poignant.
The Accidental Wife is no exception. What else can a story be if a woman finds a man to love only to face the fact that he died a hundred and twenty-five years before she was born?
In spite of that, I found this story entertaining. I also think it well-written, enjoyable, and historically accurate. As a resident of Nebraska, I found the descriptions of Jessamine’s time spent in that state, historically and geographically correct. When Mitch describes Chimney Rock and inscribing their names there, as well as mentioning the Oregon Trail, I nodded in agreement, because I have also seen those landmarks…the deep ruts of the wagon wheels cut into the prairie, now almost eroded away by weather, the names and dates carved into the base of Chimney Rock by those hardy souls travelling further west.
These are vanishing signs of a life marked by adventure and hardship, now as disappearing into the past as much as Mitchell does, and CJ Fosdick’s narrative was spot-on.
I also grudgingly admit that the love story between Mitch and Jess was delightful, though indeed poignant, a Western-tinged Outlander. Only one thing could’ve made it better for me: if, when Mitch disappeared, it had been because he was also transported to the present. Give me a happy ending sans pathos anytime.
Okay, I admit it, this is a great story! I lay aside my prejudices to declare The Accidental Wife one of the best of this genre I have read, with accuracy in its historic sections, and a gentle but sensual love story for the romantics.