Tenderfoot
by Mary E. Trimble


Treble Heart Books, 2010. ISBN 978-1-936-12709-2.
Reviewed by Sharon Lippincott
Posted on 06/05/2011

Fiction: Historical; Fiction: Romance

When I read that this tale of reluctant romance was set on a working cattle ranch during the drama of the Mt. St. Helens eruption in 1980, I was hooked. Tenderfoot held compelling personal interest because I experienced the drama of that eruption and ash fall first-hand from my home in Richland, Washington, 135 miles due east of Mt. St. Helens.

Due to my personal involvement, I especially appreciate the way Trimble begins each chapter: with a news flash about the state of the mountain that particular day, creating a growing sense of foreboding that I remember well. Although her accounts are attributed to a fictitious reporter and published in a fictitious paper, they ring true to my memory. Trimble.s description of the mountain and events relating to the ultimate eruption are vividly portrayed with gripping drama and are consistent with numerous factual accounts I've read and watched in the ensuing decades. Even though I am fairly knowledgeable about the topic, Trimble's descriptions and accounts of people who circumvented barricades to be on the mountain before and during the eruption provided welcome new insight. In my opinion, if there were no other reason to read Tenderfoot, this element would be enough.

Trimble also takes pains to deftly portray life on a working ranch, drawing from city girl Corrie Stephens' experiences after rehabilitating a run-down cabin on the Circle J ranch. Corrie arrives for a post-divorce change of scene and to gather material for her writing career. Her insatiable writer's curiosity provides a perfect vehicle for instructive conversations with dashingly handsome owner J McClure and his ranch hands. From the conversations, combined with Corrie's adventures, I gained the sense that I too could saddle a horse, pitch hay to herds, de-louse and ear tag a cow, or teach an orphaned calf to drink from a bottle.

Not surprisingly, the romance between Corrie and J is predictable, with the usual string of obstacles, many self-imposed. The tensions lay not in doubt about the outcome, but how they will overcome those obstacles. I found it refreshing that Trimble was able to convey the power of raging emotions between Corrie and J without explicit scenes. Perhaps for some, the romance will be the main feature of the story. I found it a heart-warming thread for educating readers about ranch life while also reporting on one of the major cataclysmic events of the twentieth century.

The combination of explosive emotions and explosive mountain results in a compelling read. Tenderfoot deserves the acclaim it has received from the Western Writers of America.


Mary E. Trimble writes mainstream and coming-of-age novels with contemporary western settings. Recently released, Tenderfoot is a romantic suspense novel with the sub-plot of the Mount St. Helens eruption of 1980. Her coming-of-age books Rosemount and sequel McClellan's Bluff have been met with wide acclaim, with McClellan's Bluff receiving an EPIC award. Mary is also the author of 400+ magazine and newspaper articles covering travel destinations and articles of interest to homeowners. Mary lives on Camano Island, WA with her husband Bruce. Their four children also live in the Northwest. Visit her website.

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