05 November 2011

Gold Rush Groom (Jenna Kernan)

I figured, hey, if I'm gonna write a Gold Rush romance, I should know what else is out there, right? Hence: Jenna Kernan's Gold Rush Groom, also my first category romance (Harlequin Historical for September 2011). Somehow, despite having it on hold at work for weeks and then on my to-read shelf for a similar while, I did not notice until the moment I picked it up to read that it's set in the Yukon Gold Rush, not the California: 50 years later, totally different terrain. Oh well.

Still, I enjoyed the book. The heroine, Lily Shanahan, is believably plucky and adventurous (like the Modern Major General): when we meet her, she's been idling on the Alaskan coast for months, having traveled there determined to lead life on her own terms, escaping the States' proscribed, subservient roles for the daughter of an Irish immigrant. But now she needs a partner with whom to make the dangerous trek to the Yukon gold fields, and the men who come through mostly laugh at her. This wild frontier, too, circumscribes its women.

Jack Snow, on the other hand, comes from a once-privileged Connecticut family, ruined by his father's irresponsibility. He's come to Alaska armed with half a degree in mechanical engineering, confident he can use his skills to improve mining efficiency and earn the fortune necessary to buy his mother and younger sister back into society. He realizes quickly that he, too, needs a partner--Princeton has left him utterly unprepared for this frozen, mountainous landscape.

So they join together, BUSINESS PARTNERS ONLY OK, and set out, along with Lily's adorable Newfoundland mix (I know that a loyal pooch is a quick trope to establish a character as caring and trustworthy, but gosh, it's effective. Works much better for me than doting on a kid), braving rapids and hunger and exhaustion. Oh, and falling madly in love, obviously, and agonizing over the difference in their social stations that means they can never be together. OR CAN THEY?

Gold Rush Groom was a perfectly pleasant read (OK, except that Jack says "You're mine" during sex. I guess there are ladies who don't find that disturbing?), with hard-working and resourceful characters, easier to relate to than heiresses and nobility, I have to say. There was some odd stuff with time in the narrative--I'm sure that the trip from the coast to Dawson City really did take six months or more, but I found it harder to believe that nothing advanced in the relationship during the narrative lacunae. I also thought Lily's making money hand over fist as a cook and a singer was a little much. Category romance is, I think, supposed to be more ephemeral than single-title: yep, this fit the bill.

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