Publisher Bethany House continues its historical fiction line with “A Claim of Her Own.”
The time period covered is after the Civil War and small towns are being set up across South Dakota. Gold is being prospected in a nearby stream in the mountains. As in her previously reviewed book, “Unbridled Dreams,” (Nov. 7, 2008) author Stephanie Grace Whitson gives the flavor of the time period by using real people of the period. In “Unbridled Dreams,” she used Buffalo Bill Cody and the Wild West shows. Here she brings in Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane and mentions General Custer.
Claims are being registered and the town of Deadwood is not the best place for a 20-year-old woman to be. Mattie O’Keefe is there to search for her brother who has written her of a big fortune he has been able to find in the gold fields. She is also trying to hide away from her past.
Jonas wants revenge since Mattie walked out on him. “Men like Jonas didn’t let girls like her go. He’d be searching trains and stagecoaches, and she’d avoided both so far, stowing away in a farm wagon headed north out of Abilene at first and finally making her way to Sidney, Nebraska, where dozens of freighters left daily headed north to supply the mining boomtowns in Dakota.”
It is not easy for a woman to be alone in the mining town of Deadwood.
Getting there, she finds her life changed. Her brother, Dillon, is dead. His claim lies untended. Dillon had written her that he had found gold. She decides to mine it herself. She makes friends in Deadwood. And Jonas comes looking for her. Jonas is a well defined villain.
It wasn’t easy to keep a claim in those days. You had to be presently working it at least one day a week to keep it registered. There were lots of claim jumpers around and Mattie had a good one. Suspense is heightened as Mattie and Jonas often are in the same place at the same time but in different sections. For example, Mattie is in the kitchen at about the same time Jonas is scouting out the hotel.
The face-to-face confrontation up at the claim has one biting his nails.
The characters are believable. We have Aunt Lou, the towns’ cook for the Grand Central Hotel. There is the Swede who is a freighter for her own store in town. There is Freddie, her son, who is simple minded but useful for hunting. We have the preacher who has a past. We have Mr. English who helps run the goods store in town while Swede brings in the goods.
Books are like a cool drink of water. They can refresh a person. Dane can be reached at email@example.com.