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The Misadventures of Maude March: Or Trouble Rides a Fast Horse    by Audrey Couloumbis order for
Misadventures of Maude March
by Audrey Couloumbis
Order:  USA  Can
Random House, 2005 (2005)

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* * *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

Have you ever been in the right place at the wrong time, or vice versa? And gained fortune and fame, or misfortune and notoriety? Well, get ready to read about Maude March and her sister Sallie as they travel west in search of a relative. Momma and Poppa March died from the fever six years ago, when Sallie was five and Maude nine. Aunt Ruthie became their guardian, and they live in their inherited homestead in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. While exiting the store, Ruthie is caught in crossfire, and killed by a bullet to the heart. Orphaned for the second time, with the bank claiming their home for back mortgage payments, Sallie and Maude are taken in by Reverend and Mrs. Peasley.

They run away, borrowing two of the Peasleys' horses, to search for Uncle Arlen who, according to letters to his sister Ruthie, runs a livery in Independence, Missouri. Their father's compass guides them west and south, as they recall what Aunt Ruthie once said: 'The man had a terrible sense of direction. He could get lost on a trip to the outhouse.' Sallie and Maude cut their hair short, and travel disguised as boys. The saga is narrated by Sallie, a voracious reader of western adventures known as dime novels. Sallie has a writer's mind and a great freedom of spirit. She envisions a dime novel with her face on the cover - 'Sallie March, Range Rider'. Maude is a strong-willed, determined individual who can shoot a rifle with the best.

On the trail, they meet Joe Harden, born as Marion Hardly, who denies to Sallie that he is frontier fighter Harden featured in the dimes. Marion travels a distance with the girls, giving them tips about and survival, but he also gives them something else - unwanted, unexpected exposure! Unbeknownst to the girls, Marion robs a bank in Des Moines - just when Maude and Sally go into the bank to talk with him. Someone is shot, and the rest is history, as newspapers post: 'WANTED 'Mad' Maude and Her Gang for Horse Thievery, Bank Robbery, and Murder'. The postings haunt the sisters, so that Maude ponders, 'I never expected to be a headline before.' The WANTED notices cause upheavals more than a few times, and Marion is double-trouble compounded more than a few times!

The book cover is embossed resembling a 3-D projection of two girls on a strong horse whipping out of the middle. Inside the covers are unique advertisements such as: 'Dr. Radway's Sarsaparillian Resolvent'. There's also a map notated 'Trail of the Notorious 'Mad' Maude March and Her Gang of Robbers, Murderers, and Horse Thieves Across Iowa & Missouri ~1869~'. Audrey Couloumbis won the 2000 Newbery Honor for Getting Near to Baby. Maude's and Sallie's adventures are non-stop action, with compelling characters, varmints of all species, and a few nice folk too. The Misadventures of Maude March is a mighty fine read! If I were to meet Maude and Sallie, I would tell them, 'You Go Girls!' And watch out for Maude March Rides Again!: Trouble Is Her Middle Name!

P.S. I think this book would make a fine TV movie.

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