Betting It All by Cate Masters

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Norah Hawkins wants a new life as far from her old one as possible, but where can she ever find that chance? When a letter arrives promising her the deed to property in San Francisco, Norah packs her bags and flees the broken shards of her troubled past. With its anything-goes atmosphere, 1906 San Francisco suits Irishman Gerard MacKenzie just fine. He loves tending bar in Norah’s saloon, and verbally sparring with the shrewd businesswoman for more privileges and work. Her beauty, wit and sass make his blood boil with need. But disaster looms over their promising new lives when a terrible earthquake buries their dreams and threatens to shatter their future. Norah and Mac must rebuild their lives from the ruins and they’ll need each other more than ever, but can their ties to each other save them or tear them apart?

Publisher and Release Date:  Decadent Publishing, August 2013

RHL Classifications:
Time and Setting:  Late 19th Century/ La Belle Époque
Genre:  Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4 Stars

Review by Susan

Two strangers are set adrift in Cate Masters’ novel Betting It All.  Norah Hawkins, the daughter of a whore and a barkeep and Gerard “Mac” MacKenzie, the son of a coal miner and a piano teacher, are eager to leave their old lives behind and forge new paths for themselves.  Their vision takes them to San Francisco where the Barbary Coast is emerging as a hotbed for dreamers and mobsters.

Fearful of love, Norah vows never to marry and allow a husband to control her life.  She sets out to earn her living as the proprietor of an upscale gentleman’s club called A Touch of Class.  Fearful of manipulative women set on fleecing men of their savings, Mac has his reservations about Norah, whom he witnesses pickpocketing a matronly harridan on the platform of the train station.  Still, his heart won’t permit him to heed that warning and he inveigles himself into Norah’s life, first working as a bartender at her club then being the solid shoulder for her to lean on after the earthquake of 1909 destroys her establishment.

The ups and down, highs and lows, trials and tribulations which Norah and Mac go through mirror those of real life.  Their fears are slowly vanquished as they come to trust each other, replacing their apprehensions with love.  It’s a sweet romance with fragile moments, leading audiences to think the pair’s sparring will result in their separation.  The characters fears are palpable and their reconciliation is uplifting.  Their shaky bond is identifiable with real life situations, and their leap of faith into each other’s arms springs hope.

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