A recipe for true love or murder? Ingredients: one Southern belle, one Colorado gold miner, a wife wanted classified, and a fainting goat. Let simmer.
What's a Southern belle to do in 1863? Wife-wanted ads are always risky business, but Millie Virginia never imagined she'd survive the perilous trip across the Great Plains to find her intended husband in a pine box. Was he killed in an accident? Or murdered for his gold mine? Stuck in the mining town of Idaho Springs, Colorado territory, without friends or means, Millie is beleaguered by undesirable suitors and threatened by an unknown assailant. Her troubles escalate when the brother of her dead fiancé, Dominic Drouillard, unexpectedly turns up.
Dom is an ill-mannered mountain man who invades Millie's log cabin, insists that his brother was murdered, and refuses to leave until he finds the killer. Compelled to join forces with her erstwhile brother-in-law, Millie discovers the search for Colorado gold is perilous, especially with a murderer on their trail.
The Lucky Hat Mine interlaces the tale of a feisty heroine with frontier legend and lore making for an arousing historical murder mystery.
©2016 J.V.L. Bell (P)2016 J.V.L. Bell
I was asked to review The Lucky Hat Mine for Rosie’s Book Review Team. Because I was traveling, I wasn’t able to download it from Netgalley or even download the offered copy of the audiobook. But when I heard that the audio was narrated by Nancy Wu, I went straight to my Audible UK account and bought a copy. And I’m so glad I did, although the mix of humor, historical detail, and great story earned me some odd looks as I laughed out loud while walking the dog.
This is a western, both due to its historical period and initial tales of crossing the prairie by covered wagon. But author JvL Bell takes on almost every western trope and makes it her own. For example, in your standard Western, women come in two kickass models: good (frontier wives/ preachers’ daughters) and bad (dance-hall girls/Soiled Doves such as Big Nose Kate, Doc Holliday’s common law wife). Occasionally, the Soiled Doves—if they had a Heart-of-Gold—become good saloon owners (like Miss Kitty in Gunsmoke) or even wives. But Miss Permelia Abingdon Virginia—Millie to her friends—is a genteel Southern lady. Despite being raised in an orphanage, she’s worked darn hard to become one, memorizing and frequently quoting from her two bibles: THE LADIES’ BOOK OF ETIQUETTE and MANUAL OF POLITENESS: a complete handbook for the use of the lady in polite society by Florence Hartley, (actually published in 1873, whist the story is set in 1863), and TRUE POLITENESS, A hand-book of etiquette for ladies by An American Lady (1847).
But when the War of Northern Aggression (Civil War) makes Millie a virtual household slave to the LeGrand family, leaving her with almost no chance for marriage and a family of her own, she decides take an almost unthinkable gamble and become a mail-order bride. After enduring the horrors of a westward journey, she arrives at the gold-mining town of Idaho Springs Colorado to find that her proposed husband is in a pine coffin, “resting in the river” (because it was just too warm to leave him exposed to air)—leaving her to become “The Widow D” and heir to her dead fiance’s gold mine.
Idaho Springs’ woman-starved and gold-hungry residents immediately begin proposing marriage and offering to buy the mine. Shocked, Millie refuses all offers and moves into her dead almost-husband’s cabin. As she continues to rebuff proposals and receive ever-increasing offers to purchase her mine, Millie starts to carve out a tentative life for herself, befriending Mary, a black woman living in the next cabin, as well as her other new neighbors. But nothing in her etiquette bibles has prepared her for her unexpected new roommate—Dom, her dead fiance’s brother.
As the story unwinds with a side-mystery involving her mysterious parents, Millie survives proposals, attempts on her life, and a pregnant fainting goat. And she does it all with humor, appreciation for the people she meets, hope for the future, and a healthy dose of strong willed determination.
Narrator Nancy Wu is one of my favorite audiobook performers. In this one, she absolutely shines as she employs different accents and voice pitch to make the various characters come alive. I think most of the large supporting cast of characters could not possibly have seemed so hilariously real without Ms. Wu’s ability to give each their own voice. But it was the way she performed with obvious joy in the story and the humor that made the book really live for me.
There were many moments that had me laughing out loud, but perhaps the most moving one is where Millie, who is terrified of caves, goes into a collapsed mine tunnel to rescue her pet fainting goat Buttercup.
I love the way Millie’s character develops, from a young girl relying on the etiquette she’s learned to grow beyond her life as an orphan, eventually becoming a strong-willed (but always proper) woman who takes charge of her own destiny. The other characters in the book were also amusing, but not well-defined. My only real disappointment was in how the story seemed to end suddenly. The romance that grows between Dom and Millie is sweet, but her incessant wonder/worry about just what a husband’s “rights” might be stops a little too abruptly. I would have liked to see her move beyond the bedroom to embrace her new life and destiny.
The setting is particularly effective. Not only does the author provide detailed word pictures of the area, but she fills in with a number of amusing and historically-accurate stories and details. Overall, The Lucky Hat Mine is an engaging, funny, clean romance. With fainting goats. Who could resist?
"This story has it all!"
I really enjoyed this book. It had mystery, romance, and was filled with humor (thanks in part to the fainting goats). I liked that the book is filled with strong female characters. Its funny that the main character refers to her hair as "auburn with a few streaks of red" because as a child, whenever someone commented about my red hair, I would tell them, "My hair is not red, its auburn." My husband would probably attest to the fact that life with a redhead is very similar to how it is portrayed in the book. All the characters were entertaining and I loved Millie's reaction to them.
I listened to the Audible audio version of this book narrated by Nancy Wu. She did an EXCELLENT job with the narration. All the voices were really unique and really demonstrated her range well. I had never listened to anything she has narrated before, but I will definitely be checking out more of her work.
If you like mystery and romance, but like to laugh, too, I highly recommend this book. This is the first book I have read by J.V.L. Bell, and I enjoyed it so much that I want to see more from this author.
Yes, I would recommend this to anyone who like historical mysteries set in America.
I like Millie and Dom equally. I enjoyed their banter and all their little arguments. I found it quite funny in places.
The side characters were also well written and provided much amusement. The darker characters were menacing enough that the suspense and intrigue had me on the edge of my seat. I really enjoyed this book and would certainly look out for more by the author.
The narration was very good and I found it easy to listen to.
I voluntarily received a review copy.
"Quality writing in a mail order bride concept"
A very entertaining and well-written mail order bride'ish story mixed with mystery/suspense. I don't like mail order bride stories, but this one is really quality work, when it comes to the writing.
However, besides the entertainment and action of this novel I didn't really care for the characters or events. Many things isn't believable at all and I don't need to waste my time. I had hoped for real history and real people.
Narrator Nancy Wu did a wonderful job and I'll check out more of her work. She nailed the suspense, voices and emotional aspects of this story.
*This book was gifted to me in exchange for an honest review.
I loved the Lucky Hat Mine. It made me laugh and taught me some fun Colorado History.
Buttercup, of course!
The runaway stage coach and meeting Dom.
"Hilarious, endearing and intriguing."
Review originally published at Lomeraniel dot com slash Audiobookreviews
I was offered a copy of this book in audio format from the author in exchange for an honest review.
1863. Decided to escape a life serving a family, Millie Virginia answers a wife-wanted ad and leaves New Orleans in a very dangerous trip towards the mining town of Idaho Springs, Colorado territory, to meet her future husband, somebody she does not know apart from a couple of letters and a picture. After all her expectations, upon her arrival she finds out that her fiancé was found dead at his mine one week before, and against all common sense, she decides to stay at his house and accept the mine that he has left her before he died. Soon after, Millie starts receiving threats to her life and then suddenly one day, Dom, her fiancé's brother appears at her cabin, not knowing about his brother's death. Dom will turn Millie's life upside down and together they will discover that perhaps Millie's fiancé's death was not just a terrible accident.
This was a book that I really enjoy from beginning to end. The characters got me completely hooked. Millie was naive, but also ver strong willed, and with a temper. I loved the way she started to know her fiancé, by the things he left behind at his cabin, his clothes, his books and the special stove he bought for her. I also loved the way Dom made her evolve and find a world that she did not imagine before. Mary's character was also endearing, but the rest of characters were flat, and just a background for the main story.
I usually shy away from love stories. It is not that I am not a romantic person, but I dislike shallow romances just for the sake of it. This was different. The characters were deep and they evolved with the story in a way that it almost felt natural, and even though romances are the parts I tend to dislike in a book, I really enjoyed this one. Millie and Dom felt real people to me, with real motivations and reactions. I will miss them now that I have finished the book.
Another important character in this book was Buttercup, the fainting goat Sarah gave to Millie during her trip. After a while she became an important part of Millie, and I found her adorable in a way that only pets can be. Buttercup was the first reason for Millie to evolve, this is why I think she was an important character inside the story.
It is quite clear that there was a lot of research done to write this book, and I learned that Bell is a Colorado native who spent much time hiking through ghost towns and learning old history. This is what gave depth to the book, Bell really knows what she is talking about.
The narrations was beautifully done. Nancy Wu did not only give a distinctive voice to all the characters, but she delivered a very special interpretation of Millie. I had to laugh hard at the times she repeated again and again about her auburn hair with red streaks. I think Wu really caught the exact tone for this novel and this character, and the result was spot on.
Hilarious, endearing and intriguing, this book has everything for everybody to enjoy it. It made me laugh, it made me cry, and I am sure it will stay with me for a very long time.
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