The Bonnet Book by Nancy Menees Hardesty Book Blog Tour

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.

The Bonnet Book
by Nancy Menees Hardesty
Genre: YA Historical Fiction
Release Date: August 1st 2020

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KATY Texas Special

Oklahoma City  •  Mid-May 1910

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.

As 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.

Off 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 chest.

“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 cup.

Blanche 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 Oklahoma meal.

“So, Miss Blanche, what is your job? And who sent you to Oklahoma all by yourself?” asked Ruby.

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.


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