I loved this story. No. I freakin' loved this story. But I have to admit my bias because I have loved Ms. Cullars' work since her Again, her first published work back in 2003. From the first paragraph I became absorbed in her work until the very ending. I could go on a long babble about how much I love her and not even begin to express my love for her work. Why she is not being picked up by more epublishing and traditional publishing houses I have no clue.
Leah is a twenty-eight year old seamstress who has moved out west at the height of the California gold rush of the 1860s. She has left her staid and boring life in New York in order to become one of the first black women to own and operate their own successful business in the west. She has traveled to California to start her life over never expecting that her life would go the course that it ends up. I found myself instantly liking her character. She is smart, brave, but insecure and admits to her insecurities without being overly self-pitying. It is difficult to move anywhere let alone across country alone during a time when racial hostilities were at its most volatile. But she keeps up appearances in the small town, not only so that she will not start trouble with the rough miners and none too tolerant law enforcement, but to keep in the good graces of the small African American community as well. She has an inner strength to her that one has to admire for someone in her situation.
Quiang (pronounced Chee-ong) is Chinese miner whose only purpose in the town is to make enough money for himself and his family so that he can return home to his family. Because of unscrupulous mine owners and overt racism he has been reduced to make pennies and barely surviving in the small mining community. Here he meets Leah and while he can barely understand her he senses a kinship that quickly leads to a sexual attraction-never mind that he can barely speak English. Quiang is one of my favorite types of heroes: strong, brave, honest, affectionate, and silent without being obnoxiously broody. His silence stems from the fact that he speaks little to no English but he works very hard through the story to convey every feeling that he has. Once Quiang realizes that he loves Leah he quickly decides that he no longer wants to work in the mines and instead wants to pick up work as a courier for one of the local Chinese gangs. His rationale is simple: make enough money to get settled and then leave. Unfortunately for him that plan never works out for him.
What I love the most about Ms. Cullars work is that the angst that she creates for her couples is mostly internal angst. She does what a lot of authors who write interracial romance authors don't she completely took out the whole race issue as a reason as to why they could not be together. It is a trope that is overly used and something that completely turns me off whenever I read an interracial romance novel. While the couple had to suffer through a language divide and a thoughtless tragedy, I loved the clever and very believable way that they interacted. The premise is not new but that should and does not deter from how wonderfully written this story is. The story is 100 pages long but it is so well written that it can stand up to books that are twice or even three times longer. It packs an emotional punch that left me wanting more. My only criticism is that this was not long enough.