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REVIEW: Gold Mountain by Sharon Cullars

Dear Ms. Cullars,

I can’t recall whose blog I was reading when this book was mentioned but I’m glad I found out about it. A Negro heroine and a Chinese hero in 1865? Sign me up.
Gold Mountain Sharon Cullars

“In 1865, the hope for gold has spurred many to seek their fortunes in California, the place the Chinese call Gum San or “Gold Mountain.” Amidst this backdrop, Quiang, a new Chinese immigrant, works the dangerous rails hoping to save enough money to send home to his parents. In town, Leah and Clara, two enterprising women from New York, have plans of their own to grow a restaurant and laundry business. However, both plans go awry when Quiang and Leah meet one fateful day. What starts as a budding attraction soon grows into tumultuous desire despite the cultural and language barriers between them.

Initially resistant, Leah succumbs to passion following a tragic loss that leaves her vulnerable and alone. With hopes for a future that now includes Leah, Quiang embarks on a perilous path as he leaves the railroad behind for a more profitable position as a courier for The Tong, henchmen for the dangerous Triad. Quiang soon finds that navigating the secretive life of a courier brings more danger than he has ever faced on the railroad, dangers that not only threaten to tear him and Leah apart, but may cost them their lives as well.”

The book begins in media res with a scene showing the dangerous job Quiang and the other Chinese workers do. It also makes clear how little they were valued and how much less they were paid. Leah and Clara are also outside the mainstream. They have more say in what they do but the work is also hard plus they’re women alone in a town mainly populated by men and have learned to keep a shotgun handy. Though you avoid info dumps about them and flesh out Leah and Quiang slowly over the course of the book, I would still have enjoyed just a little bit more about before they each reached the mining town. As well, the book moves quickly past their escape from the villain and jumps far into their marriage. It’s nice to know how well they’re doing, that the family has grown and to be left with a positive feeling about their future but I would like to have seen just a touch more – their wedding, their initial time in Colorado…a little bit more.

The detailing is nicely done and makes it easy to imagine the rough and tumble town. I like how you didn’t attempt to shoehorn foreign words and phrases into the dialog but instead used plain English for Quiang and the other Chinese characters leaving the reader to assume that they’d be speaking fluently in their own language. Neither Leah nor Quaing are looking for a romance or even merely a friendship with the other. Thank goodness there’s no “one night of love to last a lifetime” jump into the fire used to justify bringing them together too soon. As their relationship progresses though, both Leah and Quaing are also well aware of the societal views and challenges they could face as a couple.

At the halfway point, I was wondering how you’d manage to get these two together in the face of the odds against them. The story is well plotted and the events flow together in a way to lead Leah and Quaing to their destiny together. And yet, I still wanted more. It appears you’ve done plenty of research about life in the mining towns and the challenges which faced Negros and Coolies (your choice of descriptions) but even though these are slipped quietly into the threads of the story, they felt more like a stone skipping across the surface. Sort of a “Here’s something interesting about life then” but these will only briefly be mentioned then little more is said about them or how they affects the main characters again. Generally there are at least a few scenes in any book which seem like merely page padders to me but this is a book which I would have loved to have seen expanded. B-

~Jayne

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Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.

12 Comments

  1. Evangeline Holland
    Mar 07, 2012 @ 14:13:58

    Big fan of Cullars and of this book, and wish she wrote more IR/MC historicals because she is so good at it!

  2. Violetta Vane
    Mar 07, 2012 @ 14:29:42

    I loved this book. After I got over a few irritating formatting issues in my copy, it was fun and fast-paced all the way to the end. The history was integrated smoothly and the voices felt just right—not too modern and not too archaic.

    I also thought suspense was handled really well. There was one character who kept making me wince, because I was sure they were going to do something just awful to the heroine… and I turned out to be completely mistaken. I enjoy those sorts of reversals so much.

  3. Roslyn Holcomb
    Mar 07, 2012 @ 14:39:03

    Sharon Cullars is bar-none one if the best writers sriting today. She can alternately scare the hell out of me and have me laughing until I hurt. I still laugh my ass off when the ghost of her son whups the hero’s butt for boffing his mom! Gold Mountain is one of my all-time favorites. I love historicals and this one combines so many unusual elements.

  4. Danielle
    Mar 07, 2012 @ 14:40:16

    The description of this book is really tempting me. It also reminds me a little of the film (made for TV?) Thousand Pieces Of Gold, which, when I saw it a long time ago I liked very much. It starred Chris Cooper and (wait, looking up) Rosalind Chao. The heroine is an immigrant from China in a late 19th-century gold-mining community; she is put through a lot but is, if I recall correctly, a strong and individualistic character, and the developing relationship with the male love interest (Cooper) is complex and interesting.

    Is Gold Mountain only available as an e-book? Oh, and what is the heat level?

  5. Tina
    Mar 07, 2012 @ 17:06:15

    This book has been on Mt. TBR for awhile now. I am in a PNR/UF kick right now, when I sour on it I may just move this one up. Almost everyone on my IR discussion board sings this book’s praises.

  6. Merrian
    Mar 07, 2012 @ 17:43:31

    I long time ago I read a government commissioned report from around the turn of the 19th/20th century here in Australia that looked at migration and the recent plague outbreak in Sydney. There was huge anxiety in Australia at this time about Asian migration subsequently leading to restrictive migration and marriage rules that exisited in some form until the 1970’s.

    The report to the writer’s evident surprise noted in passing, that it was not uncommon for ‘lower class’ ‘white’ women to form longterm relationships with Chinese men because they were treated better by these men than by ‘white’ men.

  7. Jayne
    Mar 07, 2012 @ 18:12:20

    @Danielle: Yes, it’s out as an ebook from LooseID as that’s how I bought it. I loved “1000 Pieces of Gold” and did a Friday Movie Review of it last year. You might also want to look for another TV movie called “Broken Trail” – also reviewed here.

    ETA- I’d say the heat level is mild. There are sex scenes but they are not extended.

  8. Danielle
    Mar 07, 2012 @ 18:45:43

    @Jayne: Thank you, Jayne, re the availability and heat level. And I am going look for your film review straightaway, plus read up on Broken Trail :-)

  9. brenda
    Mar 07, 2012 @ 22:38:20

    I have to say, as a Chinese, I have no idea how to pronounce the hero’s name Quiang. It doesn’t adhere to any Pinyin romanizations of Chinese characters that I know of. Maybe it’s a dialect hmm

  10. KMont
    Mar 08, 2012 @ 12:20:33

    I read this one a while back thanks to a rec from Katiebabs and was pleasantly surprised. I agree on the needing more. What we get is so good that I too would have loved a more expanded story. It’s a very poignant feeling story, though, and nicely done for the length.

  11. Jayne
    Mar 08, 2012 @ 13:28:44

    @brenda: This is from the book.

    “He said her name with a rough pronunciation, cocked his head in question until she nodded that he’d said it right. Then with his free hand he pointed to his chest and said, “Quiang.” It sounded like chee-ong. She repeated it back to him, and he nodded.”

  12. Amber Green
    Mar 09, 2012 @ 06:43:53

    My guess is that the name was supposed to be Qiang, and someone corrected it because q always has to be followed by a u.

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