Gold Dust
by Gail Murphy, historical (2008)
Samhain Publishing, $4.50, ISBN 1-59998-696-5


As you can probably guess from the title, Gold Dust is set in San Francisco in the time when everyone and his dog were panning for gold.

Sarah Delaney follows Ben and Anne McBride all the way from New York to San Francisco where she hopes to settle down and open a clothes shop. Actually, Sarah has run away from her aunt and uncle to follow Anne, one of the housemaids, and her new husband all the way here in order to avoid being married to an unpleasant man. She has been financing the trip for her two friends as well as for herself, but Ben and Anne are far from grateful. Alas for poor Sarah, it isn't long before Anne and Ben take off with her money, leaving her stranded in town with only a few dollars and nobody but Josh Lawton, our hero, to turn to.

The first time Josh encounters Sarah, it's when she nearly loses her balance after crashing into him. He picks up her bags for her. The second time he encounters the poor dear, he'll have to help her pick up more than her bags. He doesn't understand why Sarah won't just pack up and go back to New York or why marriage to this Robert Stanfield fellow is so terrible, but since Sarah is determined to stay in town and make something out for herself, he won't be seeing the last of her so soon.

Instead of joining the others in hunting for gold, Josh intends to make his fortune by selling supplies to those folks. He soon finds himself up against the local not-so-nice folks who view him as an upstart poaching on their territory. And of course, Robert rather predictably shows up eventually, so love is not going to be smooth sailing all the way for Sarah and Josh.

Gold Dust is a very easy and very pleasant read. What I like about Sarah is that while she's stuck in a familiar predicament that every heroine leaving the big city for some place less urban finds herself in, Sarah is smart enough to look for a job the right way. She knows what she can and can't do and she doesn't try her best to put herself in stupid dangerous situations. Josh is her sensible counterpart - he's hardworking, nice, and cute. What's not to like? The two characters have a pleasant and pretty convincing romance. Because these characters are on the whole sensible, there aren't much fireworks in terms of reckless passion and melodramatic gestures, but I for one am grateful to encounter two sane and likable main characters so I'm not complaining.

By the way, there is no "Malaysian" in the 19th century. Malaysia as a country comes into existence only in 1963. Calling someone "Malaysian" in this story, therefore, is a historical boo-boo on the author's part. It's a small boo-boo, really, but still, this is not the first time I see an author use the word "Malaysian" in a historical romance set in the 19th century and I can only wonder whether there is some kind of universal misinformation about Malaysia.

Okay, that aside, Gold Dust is a most pleasant read.

Rating: 85


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