The Chili Queen


Author:  Sandra Dallas

Title:  The Chili Queen

Genre:  Western, Gentle Reads

Publication Date:  2003

Number of Pages:  304

Geographical Setting:  Nalgitas,NM

Time Period: 1800s, post civil war

Plot Summary:  Returning home by train from an especially profitable “business” meeting in Kansas City, Addie French, proprietor of the Chili Queen brothel in Nalgitas, NM encounters spinsterish Emma Roby, a mail order bride. Emma’s naivety brings out Addie’s protective instinct,so when Emma’s perspective groom fails to show at the train station, Addie takes her in at the Chili Queen.  Besides the working girls, fellow residents include Welcome, a former slave now Addie’s outspoken and feisty cook, and Ned Turner, local bank robber,who is Addie’s friend and occasional  love interest.  Surprisingly Emma fits in quite well with these unlikely characters and finds herself involved in not only a bank robbery gone wrong, but also in a scheme to trick her miserly brother John.There are many intriguing characters in this book, Addie, Emma, Welcome and John, and the author gives each their own story to provide the reader  with just enough  background information to show that they are not really whom they seem to be.From an ordinary western, this book progresses into an intricately plotted con game.  Weaving the characters’ backgrounds and stories together, Dallas provides a sophisticated plot full of sudden twists, turns and switchbacks that will eventually lead the reader to several surprising resolutions.

Subject Headings: New Mexico, The Old West, Brothels, Outlaws, Bank Robbers, Westerns, Pioneers, Pioneer Women, Quilting, Cowboys, Mail Order Brides

Appeal:  atmospheric setting, cleverly written, humorous, homespun elements, historical dialect, spicy and authentic characters, plot centered, shifting points of view, twisting plots, foreshadowing, surprise elements, flashbacks

3 terms that best describe this book:  Atmospheric, surprise elements, shifting plot

Similar Authors and Works (Fiction):LaVyrle Spencer, Forgiving a western with a brothel theme and characters forced into dire circumstances; Nancy Turner, These is My Words: The Diary of Agnes Prinewith similar theme of pioneering women, hardships; Hard Trail to Follow by Elmer Kelton, also historical fiction western with bank robber theme.

Similar Authors and Works (Nonfiction):Hearts West:  True Stories of Mail-Order Brides on the Frontier by Chris Enss similar theme of mail-order brides; An Illustrated History of New Mexico by Thomas E. Chavez deals with history and settlement of New Mexico; Philip W. Steele,Outlaws and Gunfighters of the Old West gives information on some of the more famous men and women outlaws of the time.

Name:  Chris Murray


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