Beneath the Golden Veil

Written by Melanie Dobson
Review by Cynthia Slocum

In this inspirational Christian novel set during the 1850s, the Harvard-educated son of a Virginia tobacco plantation owner acts on his abolitionist convictions and defies his family by taking a nine-year-old enslaved boy on a journey to freedom. Around the same time, another enslaved boy randomly runs inside the Golden Hotel in Sacramento to escape his owner, and the young woman behind the desk hides him in a secret room until he can be moved to a safe haven. The risk of serious consequences hangs over all of these characters.

Pursued by his brother-in-law, who owns Isaac, the boy he is escorting to Canada, Alden Payne changes course by boarding a ship for California. However, his brother-in-law soon discovers their destination and follows. When confronted by the sheriff about aiding a runaway slave, Isabelle Labrie, manager of the Golden Hotel, convinces him that she hasn’t seen one. Emboldened by the successful outcome, she vows to help more escape slavery; a mission that her abolitionist aunt and uncle have undertaken as well. Her commitment to use the hotel for that purpose leads to legal complications for her later.

When Alden and Isaac arrive in Sacramento, the two plotlines intertwine and long-held secrets eventually come to light, putting Isabelle’s life in danger more than once. With Alden’s help, and through the strength of her own faith, she emerges victorious, finally at peace with her past.

Themes concerning the God-given right to freedom, the greed for power, injustice, sacrifice, and love run through this well-researched book, which accurately depicts several aspects of California’s Gold Rush era. The story creates a believable world and flows smoothly, with enough tension, action, and emotion to balance the exposition used to convey a message. Its heartwarming, hopeful ending satisfies.