Moira Cavendish may be the belle of Charleston, but her plans do not include marriage to the most eligible bachelor. Her brother Daniel is headed for California’s gold country to make his fortune and she’s determined to follow him and find their missing elder brother Jack (he hasn’t been heard from in over a year). Moira buys passage on Daniel’s ship without his knowledge and once at sea it’s too late to turn back and Daniel’s forced to make the best of it, along with looking out for her virtue – a virtue most especially at risk from handsome sailor Random Hawthorne. Random makes Moira’s heart go all a-flutter, but he always draws away from her at the last-minute (just what deep dark secret from his past is he hiding from?).
The voyage is rocky, but they all land safely in San Francisco, and soon find that Moira’s female status in a town filled with lonely men is a serious obstacle, one that she solves by cutting her hair and dressing in men’s clothing. She and Daniel set out for the gold fields in search of their brother (although Daniel’s more interested in finding gold and poker games), and they soon learn that three other mystery men are trailing Jack as well, hell-bent on discovering the secret to the Valley of Gold.
I really don’t want to tell much more, but let’s just say that our intrepid heroine has a most definite knack for getting herself into one pickle after another, leaving her in constant need of rescuing from the ever-so-handsome Random Hawthorne. “Stay put and out of trouble” or “don’t go out into dangerous conditions” are words that are not in Moira’s vocabulary and her “cute escapes” wear rather thin by the end. I liked the character of Random Hawthorne, although I couldn’t quite understand his immediate passion and true love for self-centered selfish Moira (it took her long enough to see the forest through the trees). Still, the mystery of the gold intrigued me and silly or not I had a hard time putting it down until the big reveal at the end. A nice, quick easy read for a rainy day when one’s mind isn’t up to more challenging tasks. 3.5/5 stars.