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It’s 1886, and Chicago is booming, but for nineteen-year-old Torsten Pilkvist, American-born son of Swedish immigrants, it’s not big enough. After tragically losing a rare love, Tory immerses himself in the pages of a Wild West mail-order bride magazine, where he stumbles on the advertisement of frontiersman and Civil War veteran Franklin Ausmus. Torsten and Franklin begin an innocent correspondence—or as innocent as it can be, considering Torsten keeps his true gender hidden. But when his parents discover the letters, Tory is forced out on his own. With nowhere else to go, he boards a train for the Black Hills and Franklin’s homestead, Moonlight Gulch.
Franklin figures Tory for a drifter, but he’s lonely after ten years of living in the backcountry alone, and his “girl” in Chicago has mysteriously stopped writing, so he hires Tory on as his ranch hand. Franklin and Tory grow closer while defending the land from outlaws who want the untapped gold in Franklin’s creek, but then Franklin learns Tory’s true identity and banishes Tory from his sight. Will their lives be forever tattered, or will Torsten—overhearing a desperate last-ditch scheme to snatch Franklin’s gold—be able to save Moonlight Gulch and his final shot at love?
On the Trail to Moonlight Gulch by Shelter Somerset is a rollercoaster ride from the very beginning! I have never read a book by this author, but I like M/M and historical romance, so this seems like a perfect match. This novel is set in 1886 and begins with Tory (Torsten Pilkvist) is Chicago. Tory still lives with his strict immigrant parents and helps them run a boarding house and bakery. Immediately Tory meets a man who he thinks is “the one,” and he couldn’t be happier. However, great tragedy strikes and Tory is left alone and adrift once more.
During his grief, Tory picks up periodical for mail-order brides and feels compelled to start a correspondence with one of the gentlemen who advertise. Franklin Ausmus is a Civil War veteran who has isolated himself in the beautiful Black Hill of Dakota Territory. The closest town to Franklin’s oasis is Spiketrout and it was established as a boom town during the Gold Rush. However, the gold that used to be so abundant in streams has all but dried up, leaving the townsfolk and those with gold-fever desperate for more easy gold. Franklin has a stream and pool on his land that is filled with gold, but having seen what happens to those drunk on gold, Frank chooses to leave the stream undisturbed as it’s been for many years.
Frank is a gentle many who longs for a woman to love and is drawn to Tory’s initial letter and quickly comes to rely on their correspondence. This story reminded me how much we in the modern world rely on instant communication. These two men wait at least 10 days between letters and yet the communication is vital for both men. When Tory’s parents put a stop the communication, Tory takes a big leap of faith and sets out on the thousand mile journey to find the one person with whom he feels a connection to in this world. (Remember the railroad was still not complete, so this journey was dangerous and included days of travel on a stagecoach.)
When Tory arrives in Spiketrout without warning and with Frank still believing Tory is a female, Tory is at a loss. The book and developing relationship between Tory and Franklin is good and we get to meet Frank’s Indian friend Wicasha. I don’t want to give too much away, but the story is filled with drama, greed, love, friendship and the eventual triumph of good over evil. I really enjoyed this story and if you like historical romance of the sweet M/M kind, this is a book for you.
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