It’s the 1860’s in Victorian England. Impoverished upper class women have no chance at financial independence; they can’t work or start a business. Their only hope is to marry well or forever be cast in the role of the unwanted dependent relative. In this coming of age story, the unconventional Charlotte has other dreams. A scandal makes her a liability in the eyes of her unscrupulous and politically ambitious brother-in-law Charles, so he pays her passage aboard a brideship destined for the gold rush colony of British Columbia.
Full-figured and unfashionable, Charlotte sees herself as the opposite of her stunningly beautiful sister Harriet(Hari). Hari’s seemingly charmed life slides into ruin when she becomes addicted to laudanum and in a misguided effort to bear an heir for her husband, has an affair with her doctor. Charles discovers his wife’s transgression and forces Hari to escort Charlotte on her journey.
During the ocean voyage Charlotte begins to come into her own, feeling a new confidence and independence. She is attracted to the idea of remaining single when she reaches the colony, but is conflicted when she meets the alluring John Sheepshanks. On board ship she contends with a massive storm, a mutiny and a robbery perpetrated by a mysterious fellow passenger.
Pandemonium reigns upon the ship’s arrival in Victoria, British Columbia, as every red-blooded bachelor for miles around answers to the clarion call of “60 bundles of crinolines.” After a bleak winter in Victoria, Charlotte sets out on a harrowing coach journey to Barkerville, “the biggest town west of Chicago and north of San Francisco,” an ungovernable outpost where thousands of men converged in hopes of finding the next big gold-strike.
Rejecting marriage, impoverished and on her own after her sister’s death, Charlotte is forced to make a living by dealing cards in a high-stakes poker den. By overhearing talk among the gamblers, she quickly learns that the real riches in the gold-fields come to those who invest in mining shares, not to those who labour in the mines. After some disheartening failures, she eventually buys into a winning gold-strike and makes enough money to buy ranch land.
Amid a devastating fire in Barkerville, a private agent sent by Charles to kill Charlotte and retrieve a compromising letter, seeks to make her death look accidental by trapping her in a fiery building. But she shoots him and escapes through an attic window. Burned by a flaming curtain, she loses her grip on a ladder and falls, badly injuring herself.
After months of recovery, Charlotte is finally able to fulfill her dream of living independently on her ranch. She has become a confident woman of high social standing and relishes her new position, though she still misses John. After surviving his own trauma, John comes back into Charlotte’s life. They plan to marry and settle on the ranch after one last trip to England to say a final goodbye. The stage is set for Book Two.
Dubbed “the family story teller” from an early age, Leslie often made up tales in the back seat of the family car as she traveled the British Columbia backwoods campaign trail with her politician-father. During those “crazy car rides with Dad” she grew to love the people, the stunning landscape and the history of this unique part of the world, and she yearned to write about them. But recognizing that a career in writing would not pay the bills she chose finance instead. She earned a degree in Economics and Political Science from Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario...
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