Lucy Scott Mitchum, like most pioneer women in the mid 1800s, goes west to California when her husband, Noah, catches gold fever.

They pass many tombstones that mark the spot of those who will never see their dreams come true. Family heirlooms dumped at the foot of mountains serve as a reminder that life is more important than sentiment. Soon the constant fear of losing all they have in a fast-moving river or off a steep incline is replaced by fear of Indian attacks.

Lucy makes friends along the way, and when it is time for the wagon train to split-with only Lucy, Noah and their four-year-old daughter headed for California-she grieves for the lost company.

When they reach Salt Lake City, an older gentleman volunteers to go with them to Sacramento Valley. When their "friend" becomes aggressive, however, they are conveniently saved by his death on the trail. They later learn he was a murderer.

Noah, starting out as a greenhorn, finds his dream. Then tragedy strikes and Lucy must depend upon her inner strength.

AGAINST ALL ODDS reads more like a diary than a novel. It lacks any ongoing tension. Ms. Riefe is a wonderfully detailed writer and her research into the westward expansion is fascinatingly told and a good history lesson. But it is not a story that romance readers can savor. SWEET (Jan., 288 pp., $22.95)

Reviewed by: 
Cyndie Dennis-Greer