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  • Writer's pictureJoan Fernandez

Hardland Book Review

By Ashley E. Sweeney

Cover of Speaking While Female an anthology

The vivid, tough, hard-earned integrity of character Ruby Fortune (what a name!) clenches the first words of this novel and never lets me go. The backdrop of harsh desert and a beaten down coal mining town in 19th century Arizona mirrors Ruby’s hellbent day-to-day survival instincts. After traveling the country as a star sharpshooter in her father’s cowboy circus, Ruby gets caught in a marriage gone bad after her father dies. The subsequent aftermath kicks off a fast-moving trajectory of suspense, double-crossing, murder and misdeeds. Through it all Ruby’s gritty determination raises sons, runs a roadhouse, manipulates enemies and finds (of course) impossible love. I wanted to know her. I admire her. Author Sweeney has written a character who knows who she is and won’t let go—no matter the blood and dirt flung at her. Fantastic.

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