On the Trail to Moonlight Gulch

Written by Shelter Somerset
Review by Jessica Brockmole

After losing his lover in a tragic accident, 19-year-old Torsten Pilkvist fears he will never find true love again. Seeking a distraction from his mourning, he buys a copy of a matrimonial catalog, filled with advertisements from Western homesteaders looking for mail order brides from the East. Only intending to read it as a joke, Tory is drawn to one of the ads, from sensitive frontiersman and Civil War veteran Franklin Ausmus. He impulsively sends a letter, sparking a deep and touching correspondence. Desperate to keep the connection with Franklin, Tory conceals his true gender. But when Tory’s father puts an end to the correspondence, he strikes out on his own from Chicago for the Black Hills.

Franklin has no idea that the young man who wanders onto his homestead one day is the “girl” he’d fallen in love with, who broke off their correspondence with no explanation months ago. But Tory is hard-working and serves as a distraction, as Franklin pines for letters from Chicago. Not realizing that they already know one another, Franklin draws closer to Tory and begins to forget his “girl.” In the face of their burgeoning relationship, Tory worries that his secret could destroy everything.

Given the intriguing premise of a man masquerading as a mail order bride, I really wanted to enjoy this book. Unfortunately, the characterization and the writing didn’t carry this premise through for me. Though the setting was vivid and the action scenes were nicely paced, the romantic scenes fell a little flat. The author had good potential in pairing the earnest city boy with the older, reclusive frontiersman, yet their dialogue and actions lacked the realism necessary to convince me of their blossoming romance.