Change of Fortune

Written by K. S. Jones
Review by Sarah Hendess

Twenty-two-year-old Quinn MacCann is so desperate to escape her abusive father in the Oregon Territory in 1849 that she marries the first man who will have her. No more than strangers, she and her new husband depart for California, where he gambles away all her money. When Quinn is accused in his unexpected death, she lights out for the Gold Country, finally landing in the new settlement of Fortune.

One of few women in the gold-mining town, Quinn is in high demand both as a wife and as a cook—even though she has few cooking skills. Regardless, she’s determined to become an independent businesswoman and strikes a deal with the owner of the general store to open a restaurant. But when her past catches up to her, she has to face up to everything she ran away from as well as the truths she neglected to reveal to the people closest to her.

Exquisitely researched, Jones’s first Gold Rush novel immerses the reader in all aspects of its setting, from the sights, sounds, and smells of the time and place to the attitudes of the prospectors not only toward women in general but also toward men of color. Some stumbles in characterization are disappointing, such as Quinn being unbelievably slow to learn from past experiences and the uneven development of the romantic subplot. The novel, however, redeems itself through enjoyable and humorous moments, such as when Quinn stops being horrified and starts being simply annoyed by the men of Fortune constantly soliciting her for sex. The climax also hinges on a clever setup, and the ending is wide-open for a sequel. Overall, this sweet read will leave readers curious to see where Jones takes Quinn next.