Five Star, Apr 2009, $25.95
In 1852, on the lam from the law as he is wanted in several states, Sam Ransom arrives in the gold camp town Muddy Flats, an apropos name for a place with mostly tents at the foothills of the Sierras. He buys dinner at Zee’s Stew Kitchen where he gets a kick out of observing the feisty petit woman order the big men around like they were her children. Sam also saw the “Help Wanted” sign so applies for the job. Zee Gray is reluctant to hire him as she learned the hard way that handsome men are lazy or bullies. Still she gives him a job without consulting with her partner and only true friend Chinaman Lee Yung.
That night, a frantic Caleb arrives at Zee’s tent needing her help as his woman Sue Ellen is in labor and not looking good. Zee and Sam arrive to save the baby Mary but Sue Ellen dies. Zee takes the newborn with her while Sam assists her by constructing a bottle nipple and offering a shoulder for a bereaving Caleb whom he just met. As they fall in love, Zee knows she must tell Sam about her family ruled by a Massachusetts martinet brimstone preacher who tossed her out; Sam knows he must tell Zee his full name is Sam Ransom Glover, part of an outlaw family.
This is an engaging California Gold Rush romance starring two caring likable protagonists with each containing a family history that makes a relationship difficult for either to fathom. Sam is the more fascinating character as he believes he is not worthy of his beloved, but his actions with two babies, and tweener Pauley prove otherwise as does his work ethic. Although there are no major conflicts between the lead couple even when his outlaw past arrives in Muddy Flats shaking her nerves because he never told her, fans will enjoy this vivid look at life in a California gold camp town.