Brighter Than Gold
No matter how innocent the lie, it will come back to haunt you. Carson Fairfax finds out the hard way.
Upon hearing that his mother, the Countess of Atwick, is near death, Denver businessman Carson gets the bright idea to send her a telegraph saying he is engaged. When his mother regains her health, instead of telling her he only meant to give her comfort in her final moments Carson perpetuates the lie by sending letters to his mother telling her he is married. He even gets his friend Randolph, owner of the local paper, to write up a whole faux society page telling of the wedding. He had figured that he is too far from his English home for anyone to ever find out the truth. But with her near-death experience behind her, the countess has announced her intention to visit for Christmas. Now Carson has eight weeks to find an acceptable bride.
His friend Dolly Green (the name brings to mind Molly Brown, the talk of Denver society at the turn of the century) suggests Katherine Tucker. Katherine is the heiress to a mining fortune and owner of the Elms, a mansion in Denver’s fashionable Capitol Hill section. In other words, she is the answer to Carson’s dilemma, except for the fact that Katherine detests Carson’s line of work. Carson is a gambler, but a gambler with several legitimate businesses, particularly the Gentlemen’s Respite, an upscale saloon and men’s club. Katherine has been trying for some time to get the club closed down. Carson doesn’t really mind her efforts though. For starters, the publicity brings him more customers. Secondly, he’s been smitten with Katherine since coming to Denver ten years earlier.
After rescuing Katherine from an overzealous suitor, he learns that she is being pressured by her “uncle” Owen to sell one of her late father’s mines that is no longer producing in order to pay off the mortgage on the Elms. It is the only home Katherine’s blind younger sister Lily knows. But Katherine promised her father on his deathbed she’d never sell the Amanda Leigh Mine. Carson offers Katherine a deal. He’ll pay off the bank if she will become his wife for his mother’s visit. Katherine agrees on one condition: he sell the Gentleman’s Respite.
All this is only the beginning of a fast-paced and complicated tale. In the course of their marriage Carson and Katherine must not only deal with his mother’s visit, but his estrangement from his father, Katherine’s reformer zeal, Lily’s blindness, and a sinister plot involving attempts to steal the source of Katherine’s family fortune as well. It’s a wonder that no story lines were left hanging at the end. The author deftly handles the many threads and those she cannot answer in the course of the story are tied up neatly in the epilogue.
Unlike most romances, where the love a good woman changes the hero, in this story it’s the other way around. Carson changes little (though he does learn he shouldn’t fib), but with his patience and charm, he teaches Katherine to be more tolerant and understanding. Her love for him tempers her reformer zeal, and she learns that her attempts to change Carson were unnecessary. She also learns to trust, which is definitely put to test towards the end of the book when the villain makes an attempt to separate her and Carson permanently.
Carson is charming, but a little to good to be a true. He is patient, kind, understanding, successful in every form of business (mining, hotels, banking, and insurance) he tries, as well as being the youngest son an English peer. If it weren’t for his tendency to tell half-truths he’d be a virtual saint.
Overall I enjoyed this book. There was a bit much going on, and I do feel the author could have dropped one or more of the plot lines and still had a lively tale. If you’re looking for a light and easy read over the holidays this is a good choice to make.