Courting Miss Hattie

Courting Miss Hattie is a 1992 romance novel by award-winning author Pamela Morsi. The novel is set in Arkansas around 1911. The time frame is established by a reference in the book to the New Madrid earthquakes (1811–1812) having occurred 100 years prior. Although no exact location is named in the book, the most likely setting for the novel is northeastern Arkansas based on references to the New Madrid earthquakes, descriptions of the topography, mentions of crops raised (cotton and the new crop, rice, whose introduction to the area is a subplot of the novel), and proximity to the Mississippi River. The county where the story takes place is also depicted as being significantly north of Helena (Phillips County). The physical description of the county seat recalls Osceola (Mississippi County), but this is not specified.  

The titular character, Hattie Colfax, is a plain-looking, twenty-nine-year-old “spinster” and owner of a small cotton farm in a rural county whose economic viability is dependent upon cotton. The other main character, Reed Tyler, who is five years Hattie’s junior, has worked the farm since he was eight years old. He sharecrops the land with the intention of purchasing the farm once he has the money saved. Hattie’s and Reed’s relationship at the novel’s outset is almost sibling-like.  

The titular courtship begins when widower and father of seven Ancil Drayton starts calling on Hattie. This courting awakens Reed’s appreciation of Hattie as a potential love interest and does the same in Hattie regarding Reed. The bulk of the novel concerns the development of the relationship between Hattie and Reed, paying considerable attention to Hattie’s awakening to the possibility of a life beyond her lonely existence. A significant subplot is Reed’s attempt to introduce rice to the Colfax farm and the county after learning about the crop at his uncle’s rice farm at Helena. 

Supporting characters include Bessie Jane Turpin, Reed’s fiancée and daughter of well-to-do merchant Arthur Turpin; Harmon (Harm) Leege, who helps Reed engineer and work the rice fields; Harm’s alcoholic father Jake; the Reverend Able Jessup and his wife Millie; the Drayton children; and Reed’s family. 

Courting Miss Hattie won the Romance Writers of America’s RITA Award, the highest honor in romance publishing. 

For additional information:
Morsi, Pamela. Courting Miss Hattie. New York: Bantam Books, 1992. 

Pamela Morsi. http://www.pamelamorsi.com/ (accessed December 3, 2021). 

Glenn Simmons
Lonoke, Arkansas

Last Updated: 01/05/2022

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