Published by St. Martin's Press on January 7, 2020
Source: the publisher
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From the bestselling author of Prayers for Sale, an inspiring celebration of sisterhood on the perilous wagon-trail west
"If you are an adventuresome young woman of high moral character and fine health, are you willing to travel to California in search of a good husband?"
It's February 1852, and all around Chicago Maggie sees the postings soliciting "eligible women" to travel to the gold mines of Goosetown. A young seamstress with a small daughter and several painful secrets, she has nothing to lose.
So she joins forty-three other women and two pious reverends on the dangerous 2,000-mile journey west. None of them are prepared for the hardships they face on the trek through the high plains, mountains, and deserts. Or for the triumphs of finding strengths they did not know they possessed. And not all will make it.
As Maggie gets to know the other women, she soon discovers that she’s not the only one looking to leave dark secrets behind. And when her past catches up with her, it becomes clear a band of sisters will do whatever it takes to protect one of their own.
I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
A huge 5 stars! This is long and I couldn’t help it! I loved this one so much. I was absolutely hooked when I read this on the very first page:
Attention Young Women of Marriageable Age
If you are an adventuresome young woman of high moral character and fine health, are you willing to travel to California in search of a good husband? Do you want to instill God and Civilization and Righteousness in the westernmost part of our country? The below-signed Ministers of the Gospel propose escorting a group of Eligible Women to the gold mines of Goosetown in the California Diggings, where hundreds of God-fearing men are seeking wives. You must be strong enough to withstand the rigors of a 2,000-mile trip. Only good Christian Women with the highest principles need apply…
I wish there was an accurate word to describe how much I loved this book. It had so much of what I love in it: the frontier, strong women, and a vivid setting. This is my favorite time period for historicals and I have the biggest book hangover now.
The setup: The year is 1852, and a wagon train with 44 women, 1 child, and 2 pastors sets out from Chicago to California. The pastors have organized this group of women to travel out to where the gold miners are set up in California during the Gold Rush for the sole purpose of marrying them. There is an interview process before the women are approved for travel, and most of the women have a secret underlying purpose for their relocation. These women are leaving behind things like abuse and mistreatment, tough jobs as servants or slaves, and spinsterhood or widowhood. They know the road will be long and hard, but they have no idea what difficulties lie ahead.
Maggie is a fabulous main character. She makes almost impossible decisions just to get to the point of interviewing for the trip, and then she makes hard decisions all throughout her journey. She goes through what felt to me like the worst of circumstances-more than once. At first, she clearly tries to remain under the radar and not attract attention to herself, but she grows stronger and more comfortable with herself as the trail goes on. She endures heartbreak and fear. She is tough in a way that I am not. She cultivates true friendships with the other women traveling with her, and I completely soaked up these relationships.
The setting all along the trail was such an enjoyable reading experience for me. The group traveled along the Overland Trail, which was well-traveled and a very real thing that you can look up and read more about. I kept taking breaks from the reading so I could research more about the various places mentioned: Independence Rock, the Forty Mile Desert, etc. It was fascinating to read about these very real places and to imagine these characters trudging along the trail-hot and tired and hungry and thirsty-stopping for a few minutes at places that seemed too wondrous to walk right past.
I couldn’t help but imagine that I was right there with them.
And I had emotions! There were a couple of places that I got choked up and two places where I lost a couple of tears. I’m not sure if everyone else will get quite as emotional as I did, but I was so connected to the time, the place, the people that I couldn’t help it. It’s just that the things that would happen to different women along the trail seemed so unimaginable to me as I sat in the comfort of my reading chair. I was overwhelmed and I love that the story got to me in that way.
This was my first book by Sandra Dallas, and HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE? It’s almost like she asked me directly “Hey Asheley, what are your favorite types of historical fiction?” and then created this story. Other readers that love the Gold Rush, the 1800’s, and pioneers will absolutely love this one. Readers that love strong characters that have grit and determination will love this one. I’m thirsty for more books like this! I read this as an early digital copy (from NetGalley), but I can’t wait to get a permanent copy to sit beside my Nancy Turner books on the top shelf of my bookcase.
Now: which Sandra Dallas book should I read next?