Charlotte Parker - Forty Niner Kindle Edition
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The tale: In 1850, Charlotte Perkins Adams escapes from a Boston insane asylum and travels to California to avenge her father's murder and to claim the gold mine she has inherited.
We're hooked. And we stay hooked. The story is well plotted and clearly written, which makes for a fast read. Charlotte's trouble begins early, along with questions that will carry us through the novel. We keep reading to find answers to the mysteries that dangle before us.
Evidently Rector knows her history. She writes convincingly of the era with its nuances as if she's lived it. Her sense of atmosphere and the details that suggest vigorous research hold the reader's interest. For example, we learn the tricks of a card sharp and the equipment needed for a black powder gun. We gain an understanding of major and minor characters from their descriptions and backgrounds. These people are realistic, refreshingly written about by getting away from stereotypes, such as everyone hating Indians or Jews. Back story comes at appropriate times. Incidents along the way illustrate the personality of the era, so it becomes a character in the novel.
It doesn't take us long to know Charlotte and to like her. She is strong and sympathetic, a caring person, but not perfect. Her breaking from revenge and building up to resuming it shows the author's insight, a revelation of the human spirit we seldom see in other novels. Yet we experience it in ourselves. And so the main characters evolve from weakness to strength, from fear to understanding, and from isolation to trust and love.
The story is so finely detailed, including love scenes, that one of Charlotte's problems is glaring by its omission. During her journey to California, she disguises herself as a man in a crowd of men. She obsesses over the fear of discovery, yet not once does she consider what women used to call the monthly curse. Also we need some reason to understand why her comfortable women's shoes don't give her away.
The first chapters are cleanly written, but into the novel, the typos appear, and eventually some bloopers show up. It's true that we are solidly in the head of the protagonist, experiencing all she senses. It's true that description is rich but not overdone. It's also true that reminders of Charlotte's aim and her concerns keep us in the story, and we continue to be fascinated. Nevertheless as her mind chatter continues and increases, some readers might consider it overdone. Deeper into the novel when two potential lovers are brought together, the mood slightly loses consistency when it takes on the element of a romance novel by shifting point of view and by describing the man as resembling a Greek god. Charlotte, we learned earlier, is built like a goddess.
The last chapter is strong. It builds to an exciting climax and a satisfying ending.
This book is such a pleasure to read, one risks being kept up past midnight.
The whole era of the gold rush is reflected here well and I like the way the characters were personified by their speech. I would have liked to have read more dialogue. The story flowed well but was slowed at points when the main character spent too much time in her own head.
I enjoyed Sandra Rector's writing and would like to read Evaleen the Queen, too.