The Debutante Queen (Book)
1889 (Helena, MT): Calista Blythe enters the first Miss Snowflake Pageant, celebrating Montana statehood to expose the plight of street urchins. But hiding an indentured orphan could unravel Calista’s reputation and her budding romance with pageant organizer, Albert Shanahan, if her secret is revealed. Will love or law prevail? This book is the first in the “Montana Beginnings” series. The sequel is “Eleven Pipers Piping.” Each book can be read as a single story, but if you love historical fiction and series set in the same locale as Helena, Mont., your place is to live in a story world among the pages of the “Montana Beginnings” series by Angela Breidenbach.
“The Debutante Queen” is a novella based in Helena, Mont., during the late 1800s. The main character, Calista Blythe, is a beautiful, humble young woman with a compassionate heart. Calista is drawn into the world of street orphans and newsies (boys who sell newspapers and do odd jobs to help feed themselves and their siblings) after a young girl, Lea, runs away from the cruel master who has indentured Lea’s late mother. Lea asks for Calista’s help and sets Calista on a mission to find a home for Lea and the newsies.What complicates matters is a burgeoning attraction between Calista and her long-time friend, Albert Shanahan, who owns a local hotel. Albert asks Calista to participate in a beauty and talent pageant to celebrate Montana’s new statehood, bring off-season tourists to Helena, and help the town become viable after the gold rush inevitably ends. Calista agrees, but only to try and win the pageant’s prize money so she can buy out Lea’s indentured contract. However, Calista’s road to glory is paved with potholes. Breidenbach fills the book with rich, period details. She also gives just enough characterization of the main players to make them come to life. Together, these elements paint a vivid picture of the town and its inhabitants, drawing the reader in right away. She also builds suspense in each chapter and pulls the reader toward the novella’s conclusion. In addition, Breidenbach subtly weaves Calista and Albert’s faith into the story and paints Calista as an “Esther” figure. Although one of the antagonists has a quick turnaround at the end of the story, which didn’t ring true, the novella was fun to read, life-affirming, and touching. The sweet nature of this particular historical romance novella will especially satisfy fans of the “When Calls the Heart” book and television series. We are pleased to give “The Debutante Queen” a “Family-approved” seal.