Don’t be fooled by that cover. If you can get past the overdose of pink… um… something and what looks like a turtle shell on that poor heroine’s head, you will be treated to a rather endearing story. This is a good marriage of convenience story. How good? I’m not even a giant fan of this trope, and I really enjoyed this book.
The story takes place in Treasure Creek, Alaska during the Gold Rush. Lana Bristow left a comfortable place in Seattle society to come north with her husband. After his death, she is left alone in a small Alaska town, trying to make ends meet for herself and her toddler son. It turns out that her finances weren’t as comfortable as her husband led her to believe so things are rough indeed.
Mack Tanner, her late husband’s business partner, was apparently the saver of the operation while Jed Bristow was obviously the spender. He lives simply but comfortably and since Jed’s death, he has proposed to Lana numerous times out of a sense of duty. As the book opens, Lana accepts Mack’s proposal, more from a sense of desperation than anything else.
As tends to be the case in these stories, the couple make it clear at the outset that this will not be a typical marriage. Lana will raise her son and keep a good home for Mack and Mack will see his friend’s widow and son provided for, but that’s basically it. On the one hand, I did like that Mack treated Lana dccently and didn’t throw her financial situation back in her face. However, I did occasionally get annoyed as Mack seemed to view Lana as a vapid socialite far beyond the point at which she had quite clearly proven she was nothing of the sort.
In some ways, Mack is a little too perfect. He’s the successful businessman, beloved of the whole town and somehow involved in just about every good idea blooming in Treasure Creek. On top of all that, he goes walking around town at night praying for the residents. At first I thought he might be a little too good to be true. However, he shows himself to be human enough to be likable. For instance, as he begins to fall in love with Lana, his insecurity shows a bit as he has difficulty bringing himself to trust her. He wants to do what is best for her, but it takes him a while to realize that if he wants to do what is best for his family, he needs to bring his partner into that decision.
Lana, for her part, seems to bloom after marrying Mack. The marriage isn’t what she wanted, but as she lives with him and sees projects such as a local school being built, she starts to see hope in Treasure Creek. And in the creation of the local school, she sees a place for herself as she discovers that she really enjoys teaching and trying to reach her students.
The relationship between Mack and Lana had very real tensions to it as they navigated their developing feelings for one another as well as building a family. I found myself deeply drawn into that side of the story, as well as the historical tidbits showing what a wild place Alaska was at the very end of the 19th century. The one thing that really marred the story for me was the suspense subplot that developed at the end of the book. It felt tacked on and unnecessary and without throwing in spoilers, I will simply state that the portrayal of a disabled character in the story made me uncomfortable at times.
While there was a jarring note to the book, I did enjoy the main romance overall, so I would give this one a qualified recommendation.