This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Genres: Historical Romance
Released on December 12, 2013
A romance set against the time of the Klondike Gold Rush Days of Alaska sounded so exciting that I just had to pick it up. It was an interesting blend of a frontier adventure and romance. I love all the little details like uproarious mining camps, sled dog journey, cold wilderness survival on the trail, and just life in general during that time.
The story opens in 1898 when Clara Bixbee intrepidly sets off alone from Seattle to make her way to Skagway with the intent of finding her brother who has disappeared into the wilds of Alaska during the Gold Rush. Her father died and left the family business in the hands of an unsavory business manager, but Clara’s hands are tied because she’s a woman and the business is in her brother’s name. She has made it to Skagway and now needs to find her way over one of the passes and down into Gold Country. A woman alone is fair game for all the unscrupulous sorts and Clara definitely looks like a lamb among wolves. She is fortunate to meet up with one of the few honorable men in town to act as her guide to the interior.
Jeremy Duncan is parts impressed by Clara’s courage while at the same time exasperated by her ignorant stubbornness which is why he can’t in good conscience deny her need to take her along when he packs in his last supply trip to Dawson. He has been away from his family in Oregon long enough. He went away to prove himself and now has enough money to start his own business. The trip over the past and through the interior is brutal and many die from the elements and the rugged trail, but he can’t change her mind so he helps outfit her and prepare her as best he can with her snipping at him the whole way just in case he gets the idea that he’s in charge. Clara gets herself in trouble with one of the worst of the shady element in Skagway when she impulsively rescues a woman from a beating so he is forced to sneak her out of town on the heels of a late blizzard. He’s impressed how she takes to the trail and the rugged life without complaint even though he struggles to understand her flair ups of anger and mood swings. For the first time in his life he actually starts to think of a woman as his. If only they weren’t parting when she finds her brother.
Clara knows she would have never made it as far as she has without Jeremy rescuing her all those times, but she is resentful because she doesn’t want to ever have to depend on a man for anything. She is conflicted about her feelings when it comes to the way he treats her particularly after he kisses her. He apologizes for the kiss which sends her into a tailspin of- did he not enjoy it? does he think she’s wanton? what are these feelings he has awakened in her? why does she care when she never wants to get tangled up with a man who will take over control of her life like her father did with her family? For the first time though, she wonders if she can really trust that Jeremy would never be like her father and that he just wishes to protect her and that includes her reputation and her person even if it is from himself.
The plot on this is pretty straight forward being all about the adventures along the journey. The harsh, brutal life on the Alaskan frontier during the Klondike Gold Rush needed no extra flourishes since it already made things exciting. I thought the back drop was well drawn as were the characters who populated the story around Clara and Jeremy. It felt authentic and it was probably the most interesting part of the story to me.
The romance was a bit raw and on the sweet side for the most part as Clara explored emotions and sexual attraction for the first time. Though that being said, these two can’t seem to keep their hands off each other and kept each other warm on a cold night. There was a playful quality to their romance at times that was fun. They pretended at being married to protect Clara’s reputation since she was traveling with just Jeremy. They would have their tender moments and their spats. I had to smile over a few scenes where she is mortified and he’s totally fine and tries to coax her from her discomfort over issues that a lady would experience while roughing it. Jeremy understands female issues due to the older sister who raised him leaving no mystery and Clara learns that Jeremy is not one to get uncomfortable around stuff that she is a bit inhibited about.
As cute as I thought certain things were with them, the romance was a tough sell for me. I felt like this was a relationship that developed more out of extended proximity than anything else. Mostly, it was the difference in their maturity levels. Clara might have been twenty-two, but she didn’t act it most of the time. She came across as snotty and sulky many times and she manipulated Jeremy emotionally. I got why she had some of her hang-ups, but that just didn’t make her seem ready for a relationship with someone as put together as Jeremy. He was like a paragon of men in that no man would have put up with Clara without either dropping her into the nearest snowbank or losing his temper when she got difficult. Jeremy just patiently tried to sort her out each time and was honest with words, actions and emotions. She might not have done it on purpose, but she emotionally manipulated him with her pouts and tears. So, while I liked them as characters, I was only partially sold on them being together as a couple.
I liked the references to Jeremy’s family so I’ll probably go back and read that other series that features them all particularly his sister. This book is the beginning of a spin-off series it looks like, but other than familial references it’s the start of its own story.
So in the end, I enjoyed the adventure and the characters. I would recommend it for historical romance lovers particularly those who enjoy frontier romance.
My thanks to Net Galley for the opportunity to read the book in exchange for an honest review.