Friday, July 10, 2020

The Goldminer's Sister by Alison Stuart

In the 1850's gold was discovered in various places in Victoria. People left their homes to try their chances to find gold, to set themselves up for life on the basis of that one big find. And if that big find doesn't come today, then it will come tomorrow, or the day after, or when you move to a new mine. Even today, there are people who spend their lives either fossicking in the hope of finding a nugget, or doing large scale mechanical mining in the wilds of places like Alaska. Gold fever! And when you find that big nugget of gold, or hit that seam of gold inside a mountain, then what else is there but to shout Eureka!!

This book takes place a couple of decades later in the 1870's in a fictional town called Maiden's Creek in the north of Victoria. There is no alluvial gold left, but there is underground mining and if you can hit the right seam, there is money to be made, for the owners and the shareholders, and livings made by the hardworking miners.

Eliza Penrose comes to Australia after receiving a letter from her brother to say that he believed that he was on the verge of discovering something big, and when he does, he will no longer be beholden to his uncle who runs the mine at Maidens Creek. Her brother has struck out on his own, and is starting his own mine which looks very promising.

Her heart is soon to be broken as she realises that far from the chance of a new life, she is once again to suffer a bereavement and she is even more alone than before. Her brother has died, leaving most of his estate to his uncle. There are however things that just don't add up about Will's death and it isn't long before she becomes suspicious.  While Eliza does have some possibilities of working as a teacher, it isn't that easy to break into the tight knit community, especially when there are inbuilt prejudices against women in such roles.

It seems that one of the few people that Eliza can trust is her brother's friend Alec McLeod. Alec is a Scottish mining engineer who is responsible for the day to day running of the mine, ensuring the mine's safety. He and his brother, Ian, had moved to the town after the death of Alec's wife. Like so many others, the gold fields offered them a chance to start anew, leaving the past behind, or at least trying to. But is Alec as trustworthy as he seems, and can they, between them, figure out what is going on at the two mines and in the town?

This book features some of the same secondary characters from The Postmistress which I read and enjoyed a couple of months ago. As always, I do think it is best to read in order, but it is definitely possible to read this as a standalone novel! I do, however, think this is a better book!

The author gives us a really good glimpse into life in a colonial town and the dangers that face miners. Even now, various types of mining disasters still happen in mines around the world, so it is still a dangerous business.

I really enjoyed the secondary storylines including those about Annie and her daughter Charlie who live in a booze shanty on the edge or town. Eliza sees Charlie's academic potential but she is shunned by the other kids, and her mother doesn't see how sending the young girl to school can help change their lives. The thing that the author did so well in relation to Annie, and to a couple of the other secondary characters, is to not rely on obvious characterisations but rather to give these characters nuances. The bad guys weren't all bad. Annie wasn't just a fallen woman, and even the rude teacher who made Eliza's life difficult wasn't without some merit.

So, as a reader who has just a devoured a book that is gold, there is little left to do but shout Eureka! and give this book a grade of 5/5, only my second for the year!

 Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for my review copy of this book.

Goodreads synopsis

Gold is a fever. Will it lead her to love ... or death? A suspenseful romance set on the turbulent goldfields of 1870s Australia, for readers of The Postmistress and The Woman in the Green Dress.
'There are people in this town with the gleam of gold in their eyes and cold steel in their hearts.'
1873. Eliza Penrose arrives in the gold mining town of Maiden's Creek in search of her brother, planning to make a new life for herself. Instead she finds a tragic mystery - and hints of betrayals by those closest to her.
Mining engineer Alec McLeod left Scotland to escape the memory of his dead wife and child. Despite the best efforts of the eligible ladies of Maiden's Creek, Alec is determined never to give his heart again.
As lies and deceit threaten Eliza's life, Alec steps in - although he has problems of his own, as he risks his livelihood and those he holds dear to oppose the dangerous work practices at the Maiden's Creek Mine.
When disaster draws the pieces of the puzzle together, Eliza and Alec must save each other - but is it too late?


  1. Great review! Very sparing with the 5/5s this year

    1. I think I am usually very sparing with them.

  2. I have the opposite problem this year - too many books are getting 5/5 stars from me!

    1. Is there any such thing as too many great books Davida?

  3. I will see if I can get this in the US.