Schofield's first novel (Refugio, They Named You Wrong, 1991) was set in 1880's Texas; this powerful second book begins a decade earlier—in the rich, muddy boomtown where a lonely gold-miner's daughter and her lover, an itinerant blaster, are forced to face off against the Machiavellian owner of two local mines. No one ever knew why gold-miner Zachary Coleman married his blue-eyed, coldhearted German wife, Anne—certainly not his two children, who suffered from her lack of maternal affection—but when she died, the family living in a valley outside Telluride fell apart. Young Zachary, Jr. (called Cole), rejected by his true love, Catharine DuBois, a local saloonkeeper's daughter, left for Texas to become a hired gun, and nine-year-old Gretel never forgave her brother for leaving her behind. Thirteen years later, Johnny Torres, the prodigal son of a Spanish gold-mine owner, wanders into town, takes a job in the Bonne Chance mine alongside the elder Coleman, and soon falls in love with Gretel—falls despite her solitary habits, her tendency to wear men's clothing, and her refusal to leave her isolated valley cabin for Telluride except in dire emergency. Shortly after the two become lovers, Gretel's father strikes gold and is almost immediately killed in a very suspicious-looking mine explosion. His death brings Cole home; Zachary's murderers, assuming that Cole plans to avenge his father's murder, attempt to kill him, too. As Gretel nurses her brother back to health, the Colemans and Torres try to identify the murderer—coolheaded Heinrich Braunn, the owner of the Bonne Chance mine, who married Catharine DuBois; or Buck Daunt, Zachary's closest friend and self-styled rival. Much gunplay, drinking, and lovemaking must occur in the mansions, whorehouses, and isolated cabins of Telluride before the culprits are revealed and destroyed. Stark, unadorned prose—a pleasure to read and a perfect match for this western's captivating setting.
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