The novel “Maureen” is named after its main character. The disenchanted city girl answers an ad in the Seattle Times, and two weeks later moves to Eastern Washington to work as a nanny, housekeeper and cook on a large cattle ranch. With no experience, only great instincts and resilience, she flourishes on the ranch. Maureen’s two sisters and brother are shocked at her decision to leave the city, but she proves that you can take a girl out of the city and transform her into a country girl. She quickly learns the ins and outs of her role on the ranch, thanks to her natural curiosity and keen intellect. John, the recently widowed rancher, Wade, his 17-year-old son and Leslie, his 7-year-old daughter, become her focus and purpose. But don’t expect a romance novel. Maureen maintains a strict professional relationship with the rancher.
Her innate kindness helps her make friends with the neighbors and others in the community. At first many of them suspect she is “after” the rancher. But as the years slip by – ten in all – Maureen’s efficiency and dedication slowly wins them over.
Maureen tells the story through her first-person point of view and easily maintains the reader’s interest. The characters are well developed and the plot holds several unexpected twists, all believable. I learned more than I expected about large cattle ranching. I grew up on a farm in Pennsylvania, and I felt nostalgic for farm life while I was reading “Maureen.”
Though the novel centers on Maureen’s job at the ranch, it is not a case of all work and no play. She grows to love recreational horseback riding, as well as the ranch terrain. She enjoys gardening and grows fond of the young daughter. As the children grow up, they learn how to work and take their chores seriously. The older brother’s commitment to helping his little sister is heart-warming. But like all teens, they also have a stubborn side that can sometimes cloud their ability to think clearly when extremely stressed.
Disappointed in love and past the point of having children, Maureen proves there’s more than one way to become a mother. Over the course of the novel, she learns to love the rancher’s children like her own. The layers of tension unfold at just the right time. The cloud of the rancher’s wife’s death lessens with time, though it is always there.
Maureen’s siblings also thread through the story as consistent background characters. Her younger sister’s sudden death builds to a satisfying and unexpected finale. I definitely want to read other books written by Mary Trimble. She writes a perceptive and gripping story.
Reviewer Cheryl Bazzoui is a retired registered nurse and an author from Bradford. She writes under the pen name Ann McCauley.