One wild and mysterious ghost town. Two second-chance love stories. And the century-old legacy that binds them together.
Upon arriving in Kenworthy, California, mail-order bride Juniper Cohen is met by the pounding of the gold mine, an untamable landscape, and her greatest surprise of all: the kind and loving man who awaits her. But when the mine proves empty of profit, and when Juniper’s husband, John, vanishes, Juniper is left to fend for herself and her young daughter in the dwindling boomtown that is now her home.
Juniper pens letters to her husband but fears she is waiting on a ghost. Perhaps worse, rumors abound claiming the man she loves could be an outlaw. Surviving in a ghost town requires trusting the kindness of a few remaining souls, including the one who can unlock the mystery of her husband’s disappearance—and Juniper’s survival depends not only upon these friends but also the strength of heart she must fight to maintain.
Present day. Trying to escape the heartache of his failed marriage, Johnny Sutherland throws himself into raising his children and restoring a hundred-year-old abandoned farmhouse in what was once known as Kenworthy, California, in the San Jacinto Mountains. While exploring its secrets he uncovers Juniper’s letters and is moved by the handwritten accounts that bear his name—and as a love story from the past touches his own world, Johnny might discover yet that hope and resilience go hand in hand.
Generally, I’m not into the Wild West gold miner kind of novels. For whatever reasons, my historical fancies prefer urban settings. But so many ladies at our church library, along with students on YWW who would ordinarily never read this book either swore by it that I gave it a try.
It really is a beautiful book. First off, I appreciated that it realistically represented divorce. Divorce is a taboo topic in Christian fiction (unless of course, they get back together in the end). It was nice to see all the emotions that divorce brings represented. We saw how it hurts the person involved. Instead of simply labeling Johnny an adulterer because he was divorced, the author showed how he had to make a hard choice for the good of his family overall. And it was a noble choice.
I felt like Johnny was a good character who broke a lot of the male stereotypes. While he liked the rock climbing and everything, he wasn’t constantly athletic. While he definitely wasn’t intelligent, he wasn’t like the brilliant genius. He struggled with big things and small things, but also was extremely capable. His voice was interesting to read.
As for Juniper’s side of the story, I was pretty sure I knew what was going to happen. The first chapter opens along the same lines of about a dozen other women’s historicals. But then she turns those expectations on their head and takes the story in her own direction. Her journey to forgiveness was real as well—showing that it’s often a jumbled confused mess and it can take a while to get where you need to be.
Sonoma was a good addition to the story. I loved how she represented her heritage and brought a new sort of joy into Johnny’s life. She was a beautiful character who greatly enhanced the story, even as a side character.
I learned a lot about the culture of gold mining towns and ghost towns as well. The world was very well immersed in the history, and it was very intriguing. California doesn’t seem to play a part in a lot of historicals, and the unique setting enriched the story.
Honestly, the only thing I was unhappy with was one scene with Sonoma. And it’s such a little thing. But seriously? Sonoma wasn’t smart enough to tell that it was a pine branch clunking underneath her car like that? Based on how intelligent her character was, I felt like that was really insulting to her and a surprising play into female stereotypes.
I also would have liked to see more of Oliver Conrad in Juniper’s story. He was played up to be really important at the beginning, and I loved that he represented people with speech impediments. But after the first five chapters, he kind of just dropped off the face of the earth and I wondered why we’d had all that set up with him.
The Gold in These Hills is gold of its own kind—a novel that addresses hard topics and emotions realistically and sympathetically, while also shattering stereotypes along the way.
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Hi there! Rachel again. Check out this section for book reviews and cover reveals of some of my favorites!