Large Print Reviews
The Chili Queen
By Sandra Dallas
The Chili Queen
By Sandra Dallas
Center Point Large Print, (2003)
Genre: Mystery - Historical Fiction, Western
Reviewed by Auggie Moore - August 10, 2003
The Chili Queen is a delightful book, in which Sandra Dallas weaves together the story of four diverse characters:
As the story opens, Addie is on a train heading from Kansas City, back to Nalgitas, after a week's working vacation entertaining a traveling salesman. On the train, Addie meets Emma Roby who is heading out to Nalgitas to marry a man whom she has never met. They have been corresponding for a few months, and he as invited her out west to meet, and to marry if they find that they are to each other's liking. Problems arise, however, when Emma arrives in Nalgitas, and her husband-to-be never shows up to meet her. Against her better judgment, Addie invites Emma to stay at the Chili Queen until she decides what to do with her life. As their relationship develops, Addie finds that Emma has a few skeletons in her closet and that she is not the meek, upright Christian woman that she appears to be on first glance.
- Addie French is a frontier town entrepreneur and business card-carrying Madame. Not the French kind, rather the type of Madame that runs a house of ill repute, and the name of her brothel is the Chili Queen. It is located in the town of Nalgitas, New Mexico, which is where most of this story is set.
- Emma Roby, a mail-order bride, whose would-be husband is a no show.
- Ned Parker, a mild-mannered bank robber.
- Lastly, there is Welcome. Technically,
Welcome is Addie's servant, yet throughout the book the two women often treat each other as equals.
Ned Parker is a bank robber and Addie's lover. He wants to reform and settle down, but Addie convinces him to rob just one more bank, on her behalf, to settle an old grudge. He also, along with Addie, lends a hand in helping Emma settle an old grudge with her brother. The first half of this story is told from Addie's perspective and the second half from Ted's. This gives the reader a unique view of the story from two different standpoints.
The Chili Queen is an unusual western. Set in the late 1880's, Dallas has vividly recreated a dusty New Mexico town filled with outlaws, women of the night, and those seeking to start a new life for themselves. The plot of this story is convoluted, and it is partly a mystery and partly pure historical fiction. Each of the four main characters is something other than they seem, yet each wants to 'settle down and be respectable'. To try and reach this end, each follows a different, and not always proper, path. It is hard to tell exactly where Dallas is going with the story until she actually gets there - which is a nice change of pace from all those novels in which you know the ending before you've even finished the first chapter. This was a fun book to read, yet strangely disquieting.
This book deals with some racy issues, which is to be expected as the main character runs a brothel. Consequently, this is not a book for younger readers. Mature readers, however, should find that while some strong language is used, it is appropriate to the nature of the book.
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