Dana Fuller Ross' novels of America's great expansion into the western territories is some of the most intelligent, well written and well researched historic fiction I have read. "California" is Book 6 in a series of 24 novels which truly bring history to life during one of the United States' most important and fascinating periods.
When the United States acquired California, settlers moved to the new territory at a rate faster than Texas or Oregon ever experienced. Eventual statehood was a given. Then in 1848 gold was discovered near Fort Sutter in California's Sacramento Valley. Americans and people from all over the world, infected with "gold fever," converged on California. Many of those seeking instant wealth were lawless rabble, outlaws. The flood of immigrants to California that began in late 1848 became a tidal wave as the great Gold Rush gathered force. Before 1849 ended, more than one hundred thousand newcomers would arrive, most of them single men, and more than 75% of them Americans.
Brigadier General Leland Blake was assigned to command a garrison of twelve hundred men at San Francisco's Presidio. He and his wife Cathy were veterans of the first wagon train to forge the Oregon Trail. His new job was more than difficult. Saloons and houses of prostitution flourished in the boom towns. There were not enough police or soldiers to enforce the law. Vigilance committees were formed as riots broke out and the rate of murder, robbery and general crime increased. California's permanent settlers, for whom the real gold was the produce they received from working the land, found that their lives were endangered as men, failing in their search for gold and starving from lack of food and money, plundered the countryside.
Many of the characters from the first five books appear in "California" and new ones, both historical and fictitious, are introduced. The author gives these characters tremendous depth and illustrates how life in the new land, along with new responsibilities, changes them and effects their relationships. Former Texas Ranger Rick Miller, now Sheriff of Sacramento Valley, tries to bring law and order to his new home and is driven by a need for vengeance against the men who destroyed his family. Lovely Melissa Austen, another who made the trip across the Oregon Trail, is forced into a life of prostitution. Whip Holt, his wife and many others also have a part to play in "California."
The history, characters, plot and subplots in this novel are some of the most exciting and dynamic so far. I love history, and while I have read about and studied this period in America's development, I have learned so much from reading the first six "Wagons West" books. I plan to continue until I read them all. A wonderful reading experience.