She rode with the most famous outlaws of her time. Then she vanished.
In the fall of 1895, Etta Place falls in love with Harry Longabaugh, alias the Sundance Kid. She gives up everything to follow him and his partner-in-crime, Butch Cassidy, in their outlaw life across the continent and beyond. Breathtakingly beautiful and every inch a lady, Etta can also ride and shoot as well as any man. As their fugitive life begins to crumble, she finds herself alone and living in a convent with her newborn son. Knowing she can’t hide away forever, she moves halfway across the country to begin anew. Etta prays her past won’t catch up with her.
In 1911 Emily Pleasants steps onto the train station platform of Pine Creek, Minnesota with a teacher’s contract in hand and a secret life she’s fled. A young widow with a small son, she’s searching for a safe place to raise her child where no one will recognize her. She meets Edward Sheridan, a successful merchant and bank owner, who quickly falls for her beauty, intelligence, and kindness. Still, she worries her notorious past will threaten the one thing dearest to her—her son.
From the deserts of Texas to the sweeping vistas of Wyoming, the refinement of New York City to the lush valleys of Argentina, Etta followed the outlaw men she loved so dearly. And then, she disappeared.
One woman, two separate lives. What became of the elusive Etta Place?
Plot: Sletten’s fast-paced novel is inspired by real history and features historical figures Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. The suspense surrounding both real and fictionalized events helps weave the narrative together and lends it an authentic feel—readers soon forget to wonder what is real and what is fiction in this heartwarming story.
Prose: Sletten’s prose is detailed and clean, seamlessly melding facts with inspired imaginings of what outlaw Etta Place’s life might have been like.
Originality: The storyline is unique, creative, and will entertain fans of historical fiction and general fiction alike. The framework for the narrative is age-old, but the author's imaginative premise gives this a fresh feel.
Character Development: Sletten’s cast of characters is wide-ranging yet they each feel memorable and important. Readers will root for Etta, now Emily, as they see her rebuild her life, examine her past, and struggle to move forward.
Date Submitted: July 24, 2018
Miss Etta: A Novel is set in 1895 and opens with the story of a woman who falls in love with the Sundance Kid, follows him and his partner Butch Cassidy into a life of lawless frontier adventure, and becomes an outlaw until she finds herself pregnant and alone, and retreats to a convent to raise her newborn.
By 1911, Emily is a single woman with a young son who seeks a new life for herself far from her past, and who faces a promising future as a teacher. She has a successful businessman as her beau and only the threat of her notorious past shadows her potential for happiness.
Etta seems to have vanished. But Grandma Em holds the key to a long, nefarious saga that needs to be told, and granddaughter Susan is the initially-reluctant recipient of a story that reveals a sage grandmother's long-hidden secret.
Miss Etta builds an engrossing story of Emily's carefully reconstructed life, her notorious past, and how she transitioned from the flamboyant lifestyle of a range-riding outlaw to become a dedicated mother and the wife of a respected businessman. When a lawman and ex-Pinkerton detective gets wind of Emily's possible duplicity after a robbery forces her hand, trouble threatens, and she must again face her greatest fear: losing her little boy.
Deanna Lynn Sletten does a fine job of juxtaposing two very different frontier lifestyles and choices. Emily has long wanted to settle into a place she can call home, where she feels safe. The path to reaching this goal is convoluted and Edward finally provides her with shelter, happiness, and a lifestyle that embraces everything she loves. Will the fact that she once loved an outlaw and embraced his lifestyle return to haunt her?
The 19th and early 20th century come to life in Miss Etta, which deftly explores one woman's choices, experiences, and very different lives. It also explores Butch's changes and the tastes, sounds, and atmosphere of the times, crafting descriptions that are evocative and which cement emotional connections with physical surroundings: "Emily sat on the sofa and poured herself a cup of tea. She glanced around again, and her eyes fell to Butch as he sat in the chair opposite her. They both looked refined and dignified, dressed in nice attire and sitting in this proper room. She almost laughed. She remembered the tent the three of them had shared with only a curtain between them. The suites they’d stayed in at hotels across the country. And the log cabin in Cholila, where they’d sat in the living room together in the evenings, Butch with his stocking feet up on the table while he read a book in his favorite chair. They’d come a long way since then, but in her heart, he was still the same old Butch she’d always known."
The result is a work that brings history to life and focuses on the choices, approaches, and perspectives of a young woman who embraces love in various, very different incarnations and walks away with her life intact. It's an uplifting saga of crime, redemption, loyalty and love based on a timeline of true events that Sletten researched and used to recreate a possible scenario of what happened to the vanished Etta Place, a real woman who willingly followed Harry, the Sundance Kid.
Vivid and compelling, Miss Etta is a warm and engrossing historical novel that offers a satisfying contrast between the swashbuckling world of an outlaw and the quieter life chosen by a woman who not only has two lives, but two loves, who is tasked with making these two worlds come together without colliding. –D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review
Reviewed by Grant Leishman for Readers' Favorite
We’ve all seen and enjoyed that great movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, but have you ever wondered what happened to the real woman, named Etta Place, from that movie? In her novel Miss Etta, author Deanna Lynn Sletten has given us a fictional account of who she may have been and what may have become of her following Butch and Sundance’s supposed demise. We will discover her life as a young woman before her chance encounter with the infamous outlaw, Harry Longabough, better known to history as the Sundance Kid. The author takes us through Etta’s eyes on a journey through the American West, to New York City and down to South America, where it is believed Butch and Sundance met their end. The story is told as flashbacks for Etta, who now lives quietly in a small mid-western town as Emily Pleasants, where she is a highly respected and loved schoolteacher. Yet all the while she is constantly aware that her past could catch up with her, knowing those famous Pinkerton detectives are still looking for the whereabouts of the criminal Etta Place.
Miss Etta is a truly sweeping novel that spans the decades and the country. Author Deanna Lynn Sletten has taken her beautiful lead character, Etta, and imbued her with the strength of character required not only to survive the trying times of living with two outlaws, but to overcome them with cheerfulness and hope for the future, despite the overwhelming odds. I particularly loved the moral dilemmas Etta faced in loving Sundance and Butch. Constantly all three of them found their lifestyles at odds with the morals drilled into them as children and with justifying what they were doing, when they all knew deep down it was wrong. Ultimately they all longed for a life where they could put the past behind them and begin again. I appreciated that when Etta was faced with the choice between the deep love she had for Sundance and any other option, it was always love that won out. At its core, this is a beautiful love story about family, about a deep, passionate love for one man, and life-long love and friendship for another. I did enjoy the sometimes jealous interplay between Butch and Sundance, both of whom loved Etta with all their hearts. This is a fantastic story, a great adventure, and a real joy to read. I highly recommend this book to all lovers of romance, action, adventure and history.