Prism Book Group, November 2014 – 4 Stars
This short novel was a fun, fast-paced read and a worthy addition to Lovegreen’s historical Alaska New Adult series.
Seventeen-year-old Elizabeth Robinson wants her new life in Fairbanks, Alaska to be one adventure after another. It starts that way when she travels by dogsled to her new home and meets James Garrett during the journey. These are two very likeable characters that are drawn to one another and seem fated to eventually fall in love. However, the drama of everyday life also interrupts. While she enjoys helping her father in the general store and drawing pictures, Elizabeth also needs to help her mother with household duties and that takes a great deal of time. Meanwhile, James also works hard when he mines gold with his uncle.
Between a flood and a fire that devastates the town, a great deal happened in this fairly short novel and the author left the reader wanting more. For example, once Elizabeth and James arrived in Fairbanks, no further mention is made of the dogsled teams. What happened to the dogs? Who took care of them? As a teen, I enjoyed Navarre of the North by Elizabeth Birdsall Darling, a story about a famous husky who lived in Alaska and a great deal of time was spent in that book on the care of the dogs. Since they were a major part of transportation, and the main character in this book knew them by name, weren’t they important to her family?
As time passed, Elizabeth took on more responsibilities around her home. Housekeeping in 1906 is far different than that of today – yes, laundry did take up all of one day each week – however, it would have been interesting to know just how the clothes were dried. What about the ironing? That was also a time-consuming endeavor, rarely mentioned in the story. Yet, Elizabeth spent a great many hours learning to mend clothes, a much needed skill for this historical period and this lent an aura of authenticity to the novel.
Her determination to become a successful artist should appeal to readers. She isn’t willing to settle down and “give up” her dreams when she marries. Instead, she longs for the opportunity to attend art school and learn her craft. The author shows how much work women did at home in earlier days when they didn’t have the labor-saving devices we do now so it was little wonder that they couldn’t continue nursing or teaching or business careers. It also made sense that her family wanted Elizabeth to have a “suitable” vocation, i.e. marriage to an acceptable mate. After all, they are raising her to be a “real” lady.
Meantime, James was hard at work learning how to utilize utilize the “boiler” he’d brought all the way from Seattle to thaw permafrost so he and his uncle could mine gold. While this was interesting, more details about their everyday life would have added to the story. Still when the town burned, James showed both maturity and a depth of character when he wanted to put aside chasing his fortune to help rebuild Fairbanks.
Once again, Ms. Lovegreen provided a wonderful window into Alaska’s colorful past. Readers of the series will enjoy renewing their acquaintance with characters from previous books as well as this sweet romance between Elizabeth and James.