The Golden Bride by Kimberley Woodhouse
Widowed after a short and somewhat disastrous marriage, Olivia is determined to start a new life with her brother in San Francisco. The only problem is that San Francisco in the middle of the 1840s gold rush is a dirty, lawless shanty town and no place at all for a good and Godly woman.
It should be noted going in that Barbour Press is a specifically Christian publisher, and the degree of evangelical fervor does vary between books. I'd put this one at the more fervent end of the spectrum, with the heroine starting a Bible study group and lots of quotes from Scripture, so if that's not your thing you may want to give this one a miss.
If you do decide to read on, though, you'll discover a strongly written and well researched story which will immerse you deep in San Francisco's boom town origins. The author doesn’t shy away from the ill treatment many, particularly children and Chinese immigrants, received at the hands of the unscrupulous, and real facts about the city's founding figures are nicely interwoven with fictional characters to make this a history lesson you'll thoroughly enjoy.
The romance between Olivia and Joseph, her love interest, is very slow burn, which fits nicely within the context of the story as Olivia comes to terms with her past and chooses direction for her new life. I really enjoyed the way Olivia had plenty of agency despite her movements being necessarily curtailed for her own safety. She acted with common sense in accepting reasonable restrictions, something too many too-stupid-to-live heroines don't do.
I'm happy to give this five stars for the quality of research and the believable romance. The only caveat I have is that evangelizing isn't to your taste, you might want to give this one a miss.
The Golden Bride is available now.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book for review through NetGalley.