Thursday, March 15, 2012
Book Review: What Lies West
Carolina (Lina) Clark has to get out of town, and fast. Recently widowed, her husband had drunk or gambled away the meager assets in their little general store. If she leaves immediately, she can stay ahead of the creditors and salvage a few personal items. She manages to team up with two unlikely characters, strangers, who intend to travel west from Westport, Missouri. One, a young woman, Josephine, is a high-class madam. The other, a young man, Henry, dreams of joining the cavalry out West. They agree to pool their resources, join a wagon train, and team up as “family.”
The way west is rugged, full of hardships and danger. The three work together, meeting challenges with strength that surpasses their own expectations. They reach an Army post and Henry stays. When Josephine and Lina reach the diggings of the California Gold Rush, they see a future for themselves. The two woman manage to eke out a living among the rough miners and grimy surroundings.
When an opportunity to work in San Francisco is offered, the two women find themselves in comparative luxury; Josephine doing what she does best, and Lina working in a warehouse under the supervision of a cold, calculating boss, Edward Haarten. It doesn’t take long for Lina to prove herself worthy of important responsibilities. Haarten has more than a good accountant in mind and makes advances in that direction. Lina flees on a ramshackle cargo vessel that’s bound for a tiny Puget Sound settlement in Washington Territory.
Starting over yet again is harder with fewer opportunities in this small community, but Lina again finds her niche with a growing family-owned lumber company. In addition to finding a way to make a living, she also finds her heart’s dream in Robert Marr, the head of the family-owned company. Lina’s past catches up to her when Haarten’s long reach from San Francisco threatens to destroy not only her life, but that of the struggling lumber company.
What Lies West by LaDene Morton is a well-written historical novel with believable characters and realistic settings. It’s a large volume, but its 618 pages kept me captivated throughout. The novel was a well-deserved WILLA Finalist and is available as a trade paperback or ebook. To learn more about the author, visit http://www.ladenemorton.com/