Beneath a Golden Veil

Beneath a Golden VeilBeneath a Golden Veil by Melanie Dobson
Genres: Historical
Published by Waterfall Press on November 8, 2016
Pages: 354
Also by this author: Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor

 

Publisher’s Summary:

As elegant as the Sacramento residence she operates, Isabelle Labrie keeps her past concealed, like the treasure she hides under the Golden Hotel. It’s 1853, the heyday of the California Gold Rush. Isabelle is full of hope, staking her claim on the city’s refined clientele and her future on a sweetheart’s promise to marry her when he returns from the gold fields. Then, unexpected guests—fugitive slaves seeking safe passage to the North—force her to confront her past and reconsider her path.

While Isabelle learns to trust God’s provisions, a law student in Virginia must confront his father’s cruelty and rescue a young slave from his family’s tobacco plantation. As the two escape to freedom, and Isabelle risks everything to harbor runaway slaves, the past and present are set on an inevitable collision course—one that reveals hidden treasures of the heart.

I have come to expect compelling, quality writing when I start a new Melanie Dobson novel, and Beneath a Golden Veil completely meets those expectations. I’ve not read many novels that talk about California in this time in history that pay more attention to slavery rather than the Gold Rush. While that is portrayed as well, the foggy nature of California law regarding slavery is the more unique aspect of this novel, one that is brought vibrantly to life.

Though California was a free state in the 1850s, those that owned slaves could certainly still visit and conduct business there without repercussion and, sadly, of course, could still own another person as “property.” Isabelle Labrie, owner and proprietor of an upscale hotel in the city, knows that even though slavery isn’t legal there, there is still a huge risk in helping runaways on their way to freedom. She is a woman beyond her time, but not unrealistically so. Her demeanor fits the time period, yet her bravery is inspiring.

That Dobson chooses to base the key characters on real-life historical figures only adds to the realism of their actions.

California provides a strong comparison to Scott’s Grove in Virginia, where Alden Payne can’t condone his family’s actions as slave owners. As a law student and firm believer in the liberty of all, he rescues a young slave, Isaac, from his family plantation, fearing that Isaac would face the same fate as his childhood best friend. California appears to be a beacon of hope, and his journey there is fraught with danger and uncertainty. On top of this already harrowing journey, there is someone tracking them – Isaac’s former owner, who has allowed a near delusion to take over in his mind in his manic search.

The past and present of each character intersect vividly, and though some pieces begin to come together throughout the story, exactly how they are all connected does not become clear until the end. Isabelle’s true bravery is not fully realized until the latter half of the story, though there are certain hints that led me to realize it beforehand. Alden perhaps undergoes the biggest development throughout the story, making many personal sacrifices in order to do the right thing. That Dobson chooses to base the key characters on real-life historical figures only adds to the realism of their actions.

The story testifies to the horror of slavery, paying homage to those that fought against it and honoring those that had to live through it.

Since this is a story about slavery, there are several scenes and things spoken about that will sadden any reader. The author does not sugarcoat or make things appear pleasant when they shouldn’t appear so. I never thought that the language pushed too far, but rather it provides an authenticity to the narrative. The story testifies to the horror of slavery, paying homage to those that fought against it and honoring those that had to live through it. Through these characters, I both saw and mourned the loss of lives, liberty and untapped merit of those who never got to live in freedom.

Though this new novel didn’t replace my favorite Dobson novel just yet (that remains to be Chateau of Secrets), it is so worth the read. The only way that history will not repeat itself is by not allowing ourselves to forget it and by remembering and honoring those who lived through these horrific times. I appreciate that she tackles a bleak time in United States history with both sensitivity and realism. And definitely don’t skip out on the Author’s Note – it truly adds the richness of her research and the historical figures paid homage in the story. Melanie Dobson has a fan for life in this reader, and I eagerly await her 2017 release.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *