‘Gold!: The Story of the 1848 Gold Rush and How It Shaped a Nation’ by Fred Rosen

g tsot1848grahisan frSTORY: On January 24, 1848, as carpenter James Marshall worked on building a sawmill at John Sutter’s Fort, east of Sacramento, California, he accidentally discovered a pea-sized nugget of gold in a ditch.

Just like that, the scope of the American myth changed. From 1848 to 1850, 90,000 people trekked across the continent; by 1854, that figure had risen to 300,000. Representing every ethnic group, more than ten percent of the American population migrated to California’s gold fields in six years. Defying disease, crime, the depredations of nature, and each other, fortune hunters risked all for the slim chance of riches.

The Gold Rush marked the moment when people stopped believing that hard work leads to a good life, which then leads to a good afterlife. They started believing, instead, that anyone could strike it rich. Americans thus began their phantom pursuit of wealth, a pursuit that continues to this day.

REVIEW: When the California Gold Rush began in 1848, people from all over the world came to the foothills of the Sierra Nevada to seek their fortune. Very few actually succeeded.

This book documents many historical facts. Some of which I will touch on here.

Colonel John Sutter built Sutter’s Fort which served as a piece of civilization in the middle of the Gold Rush wilderness area. An enthusiastic entrepreneur, Sutter offered stores, hotels, and places to eat for weary travelers. When gold was found by Sutter’s Mill, they tried to keep it secret but, of course, it leaked out.

James Marshall arrived at the fort possessing the rate talent of being a wheel right and worked with Sutter. Even though Marshall had discover gold in January 1848 in California, it had already been discovered in North Carolina and Georgia in the 1820’s and 1839, respectively.

The Donnor Party and its horrors were a group of people headed for the Gold Rush in their determined trek through hazardous snow.

The start of the Mormon Church began during this time period. They blazed the trail that the gold seekers would soon follow upon.

McNeil’s Travels was printed in 1849 and became one of the best accounts of what it took to join the Gold Rush and was available nationally and internationally. People in this group were known as the 49ers but, sadly, many succumbed to cholera.

Convicts from Australia and the penal colonies of Great Britain began arriving and crime became rampant. In response, a Vigilante Committee was formed and resolutions passed that those caught thieving would get a swift and fair trial. If found guilty, they would be hanged. That got their attention and soon crime began to abate.

The California Rangers were formed to provide some sort of law and order.

Placerville, the center of the Gold Rush became known as Hangtown. Slavery was not tolerated in the Gold Rush area. Most blacks were well liked and respected but the same was not true of the Chinese mostly because they were simply hard workers. The Mexicans were hated even more. Cholera was rampant in the mining camps due to a lack of any sewage system.

Of those people who left for the Gold Rush, one in four never made it back, thus making it a 25 percent mortality rate.

Those of you with an interest or fascination with the Gold Rush, I highly recommend this historical documentation. Originally published in 2006, this is a reprint.

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‘Death Comes To Kurland Hall’ by Catherine Lloyd

dctkh clSTORY: As wedding bells chime in Kurland St. Mary, a motley group of visitors descends on the village—and with a murderer on the prowl, some of them may not be returning home…

Lucy Harrington has returned to Kurland St. Mary to help with her friend Sophia Giffin’s wedding. But her homecoming is made disagreeable by the presence of Major Robert Kurland, whose bungled proposal has ruffled Lucy’s composure, and a meddling widow who has designs on her father, the village rector.

Wary of the cloying Mrs. Chingsford from the start, Lucy has doubts about the busybody’s intentions with her father. But everyone else seems to think they make an ideal match—until the courtship is curtailed when Mrs. Chingsford is found dead at the bottom of a staircase. It’s clear that it wasn’t an accident, and in hopes of finding the culprit, Lucy and Robert call a truce and begin scrutinizing the wedding guests.

But the widow left behind plenty of enemies, and when one of them is the next to turn up dead, Lucy and Robert discover that the truth is far more scandalous than anyone could have imagined…

REVIEW: Kurland St. Mary, England – 1817

Sophia and Andrew Stanford are to marry soon so Lucy Harrington is nearby Kurland Hall for the wedding. Major Sir Robert Kurland, Baronet and Lucy are at odds with each other. He had asked Lucy to marry him but she refused him when she found that her uncle had pushed Major Kurland to propose to her.

Lucy lives with her father, a rector, and her twin brother and sister, Anna and Anthony. Major Kurland’s ex-fiancee, Miss Chingford, daughter of the snide Mrs. Chingford, are staying at Kurland Hall to attend the wedding. Mrs. Chingford is a mean woman who enjoys stirring up trouble and discord wherever she goes. Surprisingly, Lucy’s father announces his engagement to Mrs. Chingford. However, after the wedding of Sophie and Andrew, Lucy finds Mrs. Chingford dead from falling down the stairs. As Lucy and Major Kurland have worked together in the past to solve mysteries, they immediately join together once again to try and solve the mystery of the woman’s death. Soon after, Mrs. Fairfax, a recent widow is found dead from what appears to be an overdose of laudanum. While both Lucy and Major Kurland are working together to find out the truth behind these deaths, a Mr. Reading, fiancee of one of Mrs. Chingford’s daughters, makes threats to Lucy that she should back off from her investigations, things turn dangerous.

Will Lucy and the Major manage to solve the mystery while they continue to be at odds with one another?

I did not read the first two books of this series. Perhaps if I had, I would not have been so confused as I struggled through this story. Many times, I felt like I had walked into a movie in the middle of it and had no clue as to what was going on. However, if readers have read the first two novels and liked them, then I’m sure you will be pleased with this novel too.

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‘Hargrove House’ by Allie Harrison

hh ahSTORY: As a child, Torrie Reynolds entered the haunted Hargrove House on a dare. Terrified by what she’d heard while inside Hargrove House, she avoided it since. Now fifteen years later, Torrie is an interior decorator.

When Will Dalton buys the infamous Hargrove House and offers Torrie the job of refurbishing it, she has no choice but to take the offer to keep her business afloat. As the house is restored and rooms come alive with character and color Torrie brings to them, her fear of the house fades.

Hargrove House begins to even feel like home to her. With each finished renovation project, it is harder for Torrie to leave. It is even harder for her to leave the comfort of Will Dalton’s arms. But she discovers there are things more terrifying than ghosts when she learns why Will is digging in the dark, frightening cellar.

REVIEW: When she was 11-years-old, Victoria (Torrie) Reynolds accepted a dare to enter the empty and supposedly haunted Hargrove House located in her hometown. Bravely, she went inside, picked up a crystal she saw lying on the floor and put it in her pocket. When she heard a voice say “Victoria,” she fled from the house and ran all the way home. Now, 15 years later, finds her as a struggling decorator in the same town. The new owner of Hargrove House approaches her and asks her to refurbish and decorate the house. The owner, Will, gives her the authority to decorate the house the way she would like to see it. While Torrie is surprised at this, she is also pleased and as she has such wonderful ideas for making the house perfect.

The story of the house is that the family that lived there many years ago vanished on the wife’s birthday and were never found. It is also rumored that someone the family knew killed them and buried them in the basement. No reason for that was ever found.

As Will wants the work on the house completed in time for him to host a holiday party in December, Torrie immediately starts ordering things and arranging for workers. She is amazed at how readily available workers and furnishings are so that things start coming together quickly.

When Will insists that Torrie set up her office in one of the rooms in the house rather than run back and forth to her office, that makes sense and works for her. However, this constant togetherness sparks an attraction between them.

When Will’s children start to show up in the house, Torrie is surprised that he never mentioned them before. They are sweet children and soon themselves to Torrie. There are times that certain things in the house don’t make sense but Will always seems to have an explanation for them. But one thing that never gets explained is that strange swishing sound coming from the dark basement that sounds like someone digging.

Come read this really good spooky story. I’m betting you won’t want to put it down until you solve the mystery.

Connie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

‘The Clandestine Betrothal’ by Alice Chetwynd Ley

tcb aclSTORY: Love in Name Only

When Susan announced to her aunt that she was engaged to Beau Eversley, the most sought-after bachelor in London, she should have been the happiest girl in England. The trouble was the Beau knew nothing of the betrothal. Susan had made up the whole affair. And to make matters worse, she would soon be found out.

There was nothing to do but confess her outrageous falsehood to the handsome Beau. But once she did, he agreed to play along with the charade. It seemed the perfect solution, until Susan suddenly found herself trapped in a lie, and engaged in name only to the man she truly loved.

REVIEW: The Honorable Hugh Eversley, age 27, is also known as Beau. A handsome, wealthy, and very fashionable man, he has a younger sister, Georgiana, Georgy, who has just left her young ladies’ Seminary. Georgy’s school friend, Susan Fyfield, has always enjoyed hearing stories from Georgy about Beau Eversley. After leaving school, Susan returns to live with her aunt and older cousin, Cynthia. As her aunt is a widow, money is somewhat scarce so Susan finds herself living on the edge of the nicer world where Georgy lives. Cynthia has just become betrothed. Susan is told that she is an heiress but knows nothing more about it. She never knew her parents and was brought to her aunt’s as a young child. She is convinced that she was born a bastard which makes her feel ashamed.

Susan is to attend Georgy’s coming out ball and is eager to see Beau again. As Susan is a shy person and has not had invitations to dance, Beau gallantly steps in and asks her to dance. In addition, he escorts her in for supper. Never having had anything alcoholic to drink, Susan becomes tipsy after quaffing a glass of champagne and Beau discreetly gets her aunt who takes her home. But Susan tells her aunt that she is engaged to Beau! The next morning, Susan searches out Beau and confesses her error. He agrees to go along with her but the story now continues to grow and makes for a lot of problems which also makes for a lot of fun.

Follow Susan and Beau as they search for the mystery of Susan’s past. The characters are perfectly woven into the story making for a terrific Regency romance novel which was first written in the 1960s.

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‘Miss Merton’s Last Hope’ by Heather Boyd

mmlh hbSTORY: Over the years, Melanie Merton has used every trick and ruse to repel overeager gentlemen callers without ever revealing the real reason she won’t say yes to an offer of marriage. When neighbor Walter George jumps to her defense against slurs cast by suitor number twelve, he also pries into her past—uncovering the circumstances around a tragic loss in her childhood and her aversion to being touched by anyone. But even protective Walter must be kept at a distance for his own good, because despite a growing attraction between them, Melanie must deny him too.

Unlike other men his age in Brighton, Walter George hadn’t considered Melanie Merton for a wife because he was convinced he’d never have a chance to impress his haughty neighbor. But that was before he understood her better, before he uncovered why she kept friends and suitors alike at bay. The right husband could restore the woman he sees into some semblance of the fun-loving child of his memory, but would Walter stand a chance or become just another unlucky suitor?

REVIEW: Melanie Merton lives in Brighton with her brother, Valentine, and his new bride, Julia. Melanie’s parents are quite wealthy and also quite boring which is why she enjoys being with Valentine and Julia. Valentine is hoping that Melanie will finally accept a proposal of marriage and find happiness. However, she has just turned down her 12th proposal and her brother is quite exasperated with her. She is beginning to get a reputation for leading men on which is completely untrue. She has a large dowry but simply does not want to get married, nor does she want to have children. She simply has an aversion to anyone touching her. It is thought that this must stem back to something in her childhood. It appears that she changed after her beloved governess, Mrs. Anderson, passed away. She is punishing herself for something she may have done by pushing other people away. But Melanie is mum on that subject and will not discuss it.

Her neighbor, Walter George, and his sister, Imogen, have been friends for many years. Walter is a very wealthy man and is kind and generous as well. His good works make him a very appealing person. He recently gave a home to a new widow with a large number of children.

Melanie has always loved to sew garments for children and has quite a supply of them tucked away for her friends to have when they are expecting a child.

Walter is quite fond of Melanie and when she confides to him that she does not want to marry because she does not want children, he tells her that there are ways to stop conception. As they become closer, Melanie slowly thaws and allows herself to find affection toward Walter. But what can the future hold for them?

This was a nice story but I had a difficult time understanding why Melanie felt the need to build a wall around herself for what she had supposedly done. I can honestly say that I did not like her character and to me, she had very few redeeming qualities. Walter was my favorite character and his patience with Melanie is exemplary.

Miss Merton’s Last Hope is the fourth and final novella in the Miss Mayhem Series. Other titles are:

Book 1: Miss Watson’s First Scandal
Book 2: Miss George’s Second Chance
Book 3: Miss Radley’s Third Dare

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Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

‘Shopaholic to the Rescue’ by Sophie Kinsella

sttr skSTORY: Becky Bloomwood and a hilarious cast of beloved family and friends (plus one enemy!) set off in a van to find her missing father, last heard from in Las Vegas.

Becky’s father Graham and her best friend’s husband, Tarquin, have disappeared from Los Angeles saying simply they have “something to take care of.”

But Tarquin’s wife Suze who is Becky’s best friend, and Becky’s mother Jane, are convinced the two men are hiding something and are in danger—their imaginations run wild. They must track them down!

Hijinks ensue as husband Luke drives Becky, daughter Minnie, Jane, Suze and other favorite Kinsella characters across country from LA to Las Vegas in search of the missing men.

Becky feels deeply guilty about ignoring her father while he was in LA, in addition Becky feels her enemy Alicia is threatening her friendship with Suze.

REVIEW: Becky, her husband, Luke, and their little daughter, Minnie, have joined forces with Becky’s Mom, Jane, and Becky’s best friend, Suze, in a hunt for Becky’s father, Graham, and Suze’s husband, Tarquin. It appears that the two of them took off together to take care of some business and left no other explanation. Since Jane and Suze are beside themselves with worry, the whole group rents an RV and hits the west coast of the U.S. They stop in many cities in their search which ends up being a great sight-seeing trip as well.

We revisit many of the characters of the author’s novels all of which are beautifully created. They all have a purpose in her scheme of trying to find these men.

The group travels to Las Vegas, Sedona, and other cities. Becky comes up with a madcap plan to find a “missing link” that should help them find Graham and Tarquin.

I have enjoyed many of Sophie Kinsella’s “Shopaholic” novels but I’m afraid that this one left me cold. It was as if the author was trying to make a story where there was none. However, I did enjoy again reading about some of her special characters.

Connie for b2b

‘A Gentleman For All Seasons’ by Kate Noble, Shana Galen, Theresa Romain, and Vanessa Kelly

A Gentleman for All SeasonsSTORIES: A Madness in Spring by Kate Noble
Adam Sturridge has made Belinda Leonard’s blood boil since childhood, and the feeling is mutual. But when a would-be matchmaker arrives in the village of Hemshawe, she’d determined to erase the thin line between love and hate. Now, Belinda and Adam are faced with falling for someone they’ve always considered an enemy — can they overcome old prejudices and discover how to rub each other the right way?

The Summer of Wine and Scandal by Shana Galen
When viscount’s son and dandy Peregrine Lochley is temporarily exiled from London to the country for his misdeeds, the last thing he expects is to encounter an intriguing woman. But Caroline Martin has a secret to hide, and it just might be too scandalous for even this debauched rogue.

Those Autumn Nights by Theresa Romain
Ten years ago, wealthy Eliza Greenleaf broke lowly soldier Bertram Gage’s heart—but the last decade brought changes in fortune to them both. Now that he’s made his mark on the world, a twist of fate brings the Greenleaf family under his power. Will this war-hardened officer triumph over his former lover…or will Bertie and Eliza give love a second chance?

The Season for Loving by Vanessa Kelly
Miss Georgie Gage, matchmaker extraordinaire, is resigned to life as a spinster—almost. When notoriously aloof bachelor Fergus Haddon arrives from Scotland to spend Christmas with the Gage family, Georgie thinks she’s finally found her own perfect match—if, that is, she can get the handsome Highlander to agree!

REVIEW: When four of my favorite authors come together in one book, there’s no way I’m going to pass on reading it, especially when the stories within have their own Jane Austen’s Emma!

‘A Gentleman for All Seasons’ is a marvelous and well written anthology. Every story is well thought out and unique in its own way. These authors know their craft well and the characters in their stories, even though short as they are, are all complex and entertaining, but what amazes is the seamless continuity and I dare you to tell which author wrote which story!

There’s a little bit for everyone. If you love second chance romance, you’ll love Theresa Romain’s story, while Shana Galen offers a story of redemption and forgiveness. Kate Noble’s hero and heroine have carried a lot of baggage from their childhood to their adulthood and their story is sweet and funny, while Vanessa Kelly gifts us and our heroine with a Highlander.

Seriously, you have to check these out. They don’t disappoint.

Melanie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher