The Bonnet Book by Nancy Menees Hardesty #BlogTour
Check out my stop on the blog tour for The Bonnet Book by Nancy Menees Hardesty!
The Bonnet Book
by Nancy Menees Hardesty
Genre: YA Historical Fiction
Release Date: August 1st 2020
Sent away on an orphan train at fourteen, smart and lovely Blanche Spencer lands in St. Louis, Missouri as a nursemaid, wearing rags and sleeping in a pantry. To rise above her servitude, she begins a self-education program. A trade booth at the 1904 World’s Fair and a Cobden, Illinois apprenticeship launch her into a hat-making career, which she documents in a tiny diary, The Bonnet Book.
An early example of self-determination and girl power, Blanche—now Bonnie—travels alone to the Wild West, where she’s presented with the chance of a lifetime and the possibility of love—both rife with challenges that test her drive, purpose in life, and sense of self.
The Bonnet Book diary and other historical items in the novel are real-life touchstones in this gripping, inspiring story based on the life of the author's grandmother.
As the KATY pulled into the Oklahoma
City depot at seven o’clock, Blanche excitedly gathered her carpetbag and purse
and hurried down the train steps. St. Louis had a big-city train station; this
western city barely had one at all. Wearing her tall black boots, she stepped
carefully around the muddy puddles, thinking the storm last night must have
also passed through Oklahoma City.
she walked outside the depot, a buckboard wagon lurched around the corner,
splashing the puddles in every direction. The driver, a woman with curly red
hair and a wide-brimmed leather hat, stood up, tugging on the reins. The wagon
came to a halt a few feet from Blanche, who was startled by not only the
commotion but the horse’s loud snorts.
jumped the redhead, her wild hair flying behind her. She wore a long, dark
skirt, a tailored pale-blue blouse with long sleeves and a white collar, and a
dark-blue scarf. It was casually draped around her neck and knotted across her
“Pardon me. Might you be Miss Blanche Spencer?” asked the redhead.
“Why, yes! Who are you?” The woman
reminded her of Annie Oakley. She was square-shouldered and square-jawed, with
an athletic body.
“I’m Mrs. Ruby Keyes, wife of Willis
Keyes. Mr. Robey of St. Louis, a former customer of my husband’s, sent us a
telegram asking that we meet your train. I am relieved that you arrived at the
time listed in the telegram. Some trains get delayed by Indians, collapsed bridges,
or stranded cattle on the tracks.” Blanche’s eyes grew wide with Ruby’s list of
predicaments her train had been lucky to avoid. “Let’s get you in the wagon.”
Ruby set down two metal cups of coffee, two tin plates of food, and a
jar of berry jam.
“Welcome to breakfast in Oklahoma City!” She smiled and lifted her
smiled back and gratefully spread jam on a piece of toast. She then began
eating the warm eggs with bites of toast. After her first sip of coffee, she
breathed deeply, dropped her shoulders, and began to settle into her first
“So, Miss Blanche, what is your job?
And who sent you to Oklahoma all by yourself?” asked Ruby.
“I am trained
as a milliner—a hatmaker—and I love my work! Apparently Oklahoma City is
looking for hatmakers, so my St. Louis boss sent me. I was eager to travel,
partly to distance myself from a certain beau. So, I enthusiastically accepted
this assignment, and here I am!”
a long trip to make by yourself! I came here two years ago—also from St.
Louis—with my husband, Willis. He runs a new livery stable here in Oklahoma
City. We also have a small ranch outside the city. I breed horses and train
some of them for rental and sale at the livery stable.”
Ruby sipped her
coffee and continued.
City is a boomtown in this new state, and our stable has almost more business
than we can handle. Willis also races horses at the nearby racetrack at Wheeler
Park, a few blocks from here. Most of our friends are horse people, and horses
are pretty much the currency of our lives. Very different from hats!”
“I’ve never had a girlfriend stay over
in our new house. My horsewomen friends are all older than me and rarely come
to visit. This frontier city is attracting many adventuresome men but few
women. Your visit is like having a cousin or a sister! I am twenty-eight years
old and an orphan. I was very lonely as a child. I got introduced to and fell
in love with horses, and I married Willis so I could ride his horses!” said
Ruby, blushing. “I am happy to have you as a new friend, and I will see to it
that you learn to be self-reliant like me.”
Ruby embraced Blanche in a loving hug.
Blanche smiled sleepily as Ruby shut
the door. A new prairie sister, she thought, as she drifted off.
About the Author
Nancy Menees Hardesty, born in Illinois and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, moved to San Francisco, California in 1969. Nancy spent six years researching and writing her debut novel, The Bonnet Book. She had various family journals and artifacts and the extensive help of her mother, Mary Kay Menees, who was the daughter-in-law of the book’s protagonist, Bonnie Spencer. The tiny “Bonnet Book” of hat sketches and the wooden hat-supply trunk featured in the book are still in the author’s possession.