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Pastora - Joanna Barnes Comments in the spoiler tags are slightly spoilerish, better safe than sorry."I don't suppose you'd care to come with me to California."Orphaned at fifteen and alone in the world, Lucy takes Caleb Bates up on his offer of marriage and a new life in California, although he's not exactly a loving husband she's handy cover for his new identity covering up his sordid past. Life on the trail isn't easy ('natch), but they do manage to make it over the mountains where they join a small settlement in northern California. Caleb plans to raise sheep - that is until Lucy receives word he's dead after an Indian attack although there's no body produced. Widowed at sixteen and mother to two young children (her own daughter Beth, plus Abel, an orphaned half-breed she adopted), Lucy gets herself a herd of sheep to raise (that's where the nickname Pastora comes from). After gold is discovered in '49, she's got enough smarts to realize those miners need warm clothes from her wool, and she partners up with a friend from the wagon train to open up a dry goods store. Life in a gold camp isn't the best environment to raise children in (especially Abel who can't stay away from the gambling dens), so Lucy and her partner close up shop and move it to San Francisco. Business at the new store booms, but Lucy hungers for greater financial security, and with a financial panic hitting the town it seems investing in the world's oldest profession is the most lucrative (she thinks she can keep that secret from family and friends - hah!). "You touch something filthy, the filth rubs off on you. That kind of money's tainted."Lucy may be down, but she's not out and she's got an empire to build. If you're familiar with California history I suspect you have an idea where things go, and those who aren't don't need a book report length recap of it all. Pastora doesn't quite come up to the awesomeness of [b:The Proud Breed|206868|The Proud Breed|Celeste De Blasis|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1217716948s/206868.jpg|2825113], [b:Lily Cigar|1834238|Lily Cigar|Tom Murphy|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1298469851s/1834238.jpg|1834188] and [b:Calico Palace|6547205|Calico Palace|Gwen Bristow|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1328757870s/6547205.jpg|2280881], but it still was a still a highly enjoyable read, and lots of fun new factoids for this history geek. Emperor Norton was one I hadn't heard of before, and added a nice touch of levity to the scenes he appeared in. Just one cautionary warning, although Lucy does end up having a romantic relationship, that's a minor element to the entire story and doesn't happen until well into the second half. If your tastes lean more towards romantic historical fiction, this book might not be the best fit for you.