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Sarah Delaney did not want to marry the man her family had picked out for her. Her only way out was to leave. When a former servant of Sarah’s aunt and uncle married and prepared to leave for San Francisco, Sarah jumped at the chance to go along. She and Anne would open a clothing shop while Anne’s husband would pan for gold. Sarah had no reason to mistrust Anne. But her faith in the McBrides proves misplaced. While Sarah bathed the McBrides stole her money and then disappeared. The only person she “knows” is a stranger who saved her from being run down by a wagon. She has no choice but to ask for his help.
John arrived in the city the same day as Sarah. Fortunately, his luck is better than hers. Still, the best advice John Lawton can give Sarah is to go back home to New York. It isn’t what Sarah wants to hear, however. He figures she is a spoiled girl who is accustomed to getting her own way. John won’t sugar coat the facts. He shows her what options a single young woman in a mining town include. Sarah refuses to back down. To her, living on her own in a strange place is preferable to marrying the man back in New York. John, however, does not want to get stuck playing babysitter. He sets up a place for her to sleep and then goes about his business. But things are not over between John and Sarah.
Sarah manages to find herself a job helping with laundry. She can take care of herself now. After being at the mercy of her previous guardians, Sarah is not sorry to see the last of John Lawton. Or so she tries to convince herself.
John decides not to follow other newcomers to find gold, instead he builds a business as a supplier to them. There is a disreputable supplier already in business who isn’t taking the competition very well. John finds himself a target, but he too is stubborn and doesn’t back down from threats. When he finds out where Sarah is working John pays her a visit. Soon, the two are stepping out together and enjoying each other’s company. Feelings for one another are changing and deepening, however, John’s business competitor and Sarah’s jilted would-be fiancé, refuse to be ignored.
Gold Dust by Gail Murphy is an enjoyable read. It is set during the time of the Gold Rush in San Francisco and has believable, yet entertaining, characters. John and Sarah are sensible and determined. Qualities this reviewer admires in a hero and heroine.