Title: Noble Metals
Author: L.A. Witt
Publisher: Carnal Passions
Length: Novel

Rating: 4.25

Robert Belton is working as a prostitute in a Seattle saloon, stuck in the city after he and his brothers lost all their money intended for the Klondike Gold Rush to gambling and whoring.  Although his brothers returned home, Robert couldn’t bear the idea of going back to Montana and instead is making ends meet selling his body to men traveling through the city on their way north to the Yukon in search of gold.

One day a handsome stranger comes in clutching a box he won’t let out of his sight.  Dr. John Fauth buys Robert’s services for the night, and Robert is immediately drawn to him even though he should be just a client.  When Robert finds out that John is on his way north and looking to hire an assistant, he offers to go along for half pay, looking for a chance to finally get out of Seattle and have an opportunity to seek his fortune.

The journey north is incredibly hard.  Even with the aid of their “mechs,” giant machines that walk and transport their supplies, the men must still walk hundreds of miles through bitter cold and difficult terrain.  But their biggest threat turns out to be other fortune hunters.  John is one of the few people making the journey not seeking his fortune in gold.  Instead he is looking for platinum to build a semiconductor, and in his box he protects so diligently is a device to help find it.  However, once the other travelers learn that the device can also help find gold, the men become a target for every thief along the way looking for an advantage in the gold fields.  In addition, John’s research rival has sent a team after him also looking to steal the device in hopes of beating John to his ultimate invention – a machine that allow people to communicate across lines that would allow them to both hear and see one another.

Despite the dangers, John and Robert are determined to keep going.  Long hours on the road together lead to friendship and ultimately love.  But while they have each other, the question remains whether they can ever make their journey safely.  And once they do, whether the university researcher and former prostitute can ever find a way to make a life together.

Miners make their way along
the Chilkoot Pass

This was a really interesting story and had a different feel to me than much of Witt’s contemporary work.  There are some steampunk elements with the mechs and John’s research, however at it’s heart the book really feels like a historical.  The story takes place in the late 1800’s and I loved the setting and time period.  I haven’t found many m/m books that focus on the gold rush and the detail Witt provides about the journey and the harsh environment was really fascinating.  The idea of walking hundreds of miles on foot through bitter cold just seems so daunting, but the promise of gold was a big enough lure to get thousands to try it.  I really liked the portrayal of the harsh day-to-day struggles combined with the thrilling aspects of trying to survive against the thieves out in the wilderness.

I also enjoyed the relationship between the two men.  Both Robert and John had a quiet determination and bravery to go forward despite enormous risks.  I enjoyed them together and thought they were a good match. I  appreciated that John could see past Robert’s prostitution and realize there was an intelligent and caring man underneath.  And Robert never wavers in his dedication to John, even at great personal risk.  This book wasn’t quite as steamy as we often find from Witt’s stories.  The bitter cold makes it a bit difficult to have a lot of good sexing and there is more focus emotional connection than the physical (although never fear, we get some juicy physical stuff too!).

I had a few issues though.  First, the story is told primarily in first person from Robert’s POV, but we also get John’s viewpoint from his journal.  The nature of journal writing led to a lot of narration and exposition in his passages as he is explaining in detail his feelings or events that transpired. I felt this slowed things down a bit for me and sometimes felt like too much telling and not enough showing. It was useful to get John’s feelings about Robert, but I would have liked it to have learned these things without so much narration.

I was also sort of mixed about the steampunk element.  I liked it’s incorporation into the story, but I felt like there wasn’t quite enough of it.  The book felt more like a historical with a few steampunk elements thrown in.  I guess I would have liked to see it taken a bit farther.

I definitely enjoyed this story however, especially the setting and historical elements which I found quite fascinating. If you are looking for a historical or steampunk set beyond the typical Regency era, I would definitely recommend Noble Metals.

Noble Metals will be released from Carnal Passions on January 4th.  L.A. Witt will be here on January 3rd to talk about both Noble Metals and her other upcoming release, The Given & the Taken

L.A.  is once again generously donating a copy of her book to one lucky commenter.  The contest will remain open until January 3rd at 11:59 EST.  To enter leave a comment below.

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