Juliette March a wealthy heiress from California, Clara Klaus a resourceful innkeeper from Oregon, and Zoe Wilder a young beauty from a poor working class mining community in Washington can't be more different from one another. And yet they all have one thing in common. They are all married to the same man.
Following the trail of the husband who disappeared from her life (with a tidy sum of her money in his pocket), Juliette finds Clara and Zoe. All three women realize their circumstance when they each recognize the identical 'one-of-a-kind' family heirloom wedding ring they are each wearing.
At first the women are equal parts jealous and mistrusting of each other. But then they ally to find the cheating, bigamist and to get answers. Their erstwhile husband, the sexy Frenchman Jean-Jacques Villette, eludes them further when they discover that he is headed to the Yukon in Alaska to strike gold.
Despite the warnings of the hardships they will need to face, this does not deter the women out to catch their man. They pool their resources and outfit themselves for the grueling journey up North.
I feel like a broken record, but really Maggie Osborne's western romances are just a fun revelation for me. This one is yet another check in the win column. Each of the three women are very distinct in looks and temperament. Juliette is a sheltered, refined overly proper woman. She was a spinster when she married and despaired of ever marrying at all. Clara is a big-boned, apple cheeked woman with a deep laugh with a sharp mind and a pragmatic outlook. Zoe is a stunning beauty, very young and desperately ashamed of her poor background. At one point Juliette puzzles over their differences and wonders what this says about their missing husband and what he was really looking for in a wife.
As they squabbled over him in the beginning, trying to claim which one might be the 'real' wife, I couldn't help but wonder why none of them considered that they might not be the only three women he'd done this to? I also wondered why none of them, all very smart women in very different ways, didn't consider consulting an attorney? But MO, answers these questions in the course of the story as each of the women slowly comes to terms with their relationship not just with the absent Mr. Vilette but with each other.
Like in Brides of Prairie Gold, MO does a bang up job of detailing the arduousness of the journey the women make as they trek through Alaska, from the tumultuous crossing from Seattle by boat and then up the Chilkoot pass. According to quesconnect.org:
"The Chilkoot Pass trail was steep and hazardous. Rising 1,000 feet in the last ½ mile, it was known as the "golden staircase": 1,500 steps carved out of snow and ice worked their way to the top of the pass. Too steep for packhorses, stampeders had to "cache" their goods, moving their equipment piecemeal up the mountain."
The book includes all of this and more in great detail. It could have been tedious to read but it really wasn't it was fascinating and actually made me go and read a little bit more about the Alaska gold rush, a subject I've had zero interest in before.
Additionally the women each meet a man who arouse in her romantic feelings (and guilt). Each one feels she is really married and thus feels incredible guilt in wanting to connect with another man. Here I felt their reluctance to come clean with their respective romantic interests was a bit of a plot contrivance. But it made for a good emotional reveal when everything finally does come out in the open.
I have to admit I was incredibly curious to finally meet the elusive Mr. Vilette. Is he really a money stealing cad? is there more to him? Are there more wives? In the end, I actually enjoyed how the author finally handled the mysterious Mr. Villette and the resolution of the various romances.
Great book, nice meaty read filled with intelligent characters and great moments of humor. Recommend!