After writing last night's post I had a shower and when straight to bed to finish reading my book. . .
I have to say I was a little disappointed when I discovered that the book I had bought was not the original version of the novel - it was an abridged edition. But it was still very good. Unlike in a lot of books "specially adapted for young readers" from the original the romance was very believable, and even though I haven't read the original, I think it has probably preserved the heart of Oke's book very well.
I suppose I should give you some sort of summary of the plot. . .
The story is built around sixteen-year-old Ariana Benson. The daughter of a preacher, Ariana works as a schoolteacher in the American Mid-West, circa 1870. This may not sound like a very promising start - how many scores of historical romance novels have been written about young schoolmarms slogging it out in the Little House on the Prairie-era Wild West. But trust me, this is a historical novel with a difference.
Another school day finishes for Ariana. She packs up her things, getting ready to leave the deserted schoolhouse. Two rough-looking men appear in the doorway. They have come to kidnap her. But why would they want to kidnap her? She's just a poor preacher's daughter; there's no way her father could afford to pay any ransom. Unfortunately, the two men are not so obliging as to answer her questions.
They take her away, through a terrible snowstorm, to their camp - a huddle of ramshackle buildings hidden in an isolated valley. (I was getting a bit of deja-vu as I read this book - finally I figured out that this valley and its inhabitants reminded me very much of the dreaded Doones of Lorna Doone fame.)
Ariana is kept prisoner in a filthy cabin. Terrified and all alone, only her faith, her relationship with God sustains her. She spends much of her time praying and reading her Bible. Will "Boss" Russell, the leader of this little gang, assigns his son Laramie to guard Ariana's cabin, making sure she doesn't escape. Laramie gets a shock when he discovers that the mysterious prisoner is a girl! He had had no idea who the captive was, but he had assumed that it was a man. . .
Will Russell is every bit as conniving and evil as an Ensor or Counsellor Doone, but Laramie is certainly no Carver Doone. He had never felt right about the way his outlaw 'family' lived, about the lifestyle he had been brought up into; but it was the only way he had ever known. He found himself being drawn to Ariana and this faith that she had in her God. She was the total opposite of everything and everyone he had ever known before.
Well, I won't say any more - I don't like it when movie trailers or the blurbs on the back of books give away too much, so I won't spoil everything for you; but summing things up, A Gown of Spanish Lace is a very good book - possibly one Janette Oke's best. There's a lot more action and adventure in this than there is in many of her other books. If you've read any of Oke's other books, you'll know what to expect. If you haven't, this would be a good place to start - it really is one of Oke's greatest books.