A Claim of Her Own

Written by Stephanie Grace Whitson
Review by Nancy J. Attwell

Desperate to escape an abusive employer, twenty-year-old Mattie O’Keefe makes the arduous trek to the gold-rush town of Deadwood, in the Black Hills of South Dakota, where she anticipates finding refuge with her brother. Instead she finds that her brother has died and she has inherited his claim. When Mattie decides to work the claim herself, her new friends––a female freighter and her mentally-challenged son, a merchandiser, a cook, and a family of prospectors––all work together to help her as she learns to pan for gold. The handsome street preacher, Aron Gallagher, also tries to befriend her, but Mattie, who recognizes the telltale signs of a gambler in his mannerisms, disdains him as a hypocrite.

Except for the villain, whose motivations seem somewhat forced, the characters have depth and appeal. Mattie’s transformation from a woman fleeing her past to one embracing her future is deftly handled, and the changes in the lives of the minor characters add considerable texture. What is more, Whitson’s decision to set this novel in 1876 allowed her to weave some fascinating history of the Black Hills into an already rich story. This book is a keeper for anyone who enjoys inspirational romance.