Sunfire Romance Novels
In the 80s, the world was lit by Sunfire!

Historical Disasters #2

The second book in this series is San Francisco Earthquake: 1906 by Kathleen Duey.

San Francisco Earthquake Front Cover (Credit: Sandy Young/Studio Y)

San Francisco Earthquake: 1906 Front Cover (Credit: Sandy Young/Studio Y)

Front Cover Blurb: From the ruins of a vibrant city, a love that defied the odds…

Back Cover Blurb: Panic in the streets!

Main Character: Sierra O’Nielle, 18; dark brown hair, gray eyes. She is an orphan and a chambermaid at the Palace Hotel. She is smitten with one of the guests and daydreams about him taking her from her job and drab boardinghouse forever.

Suitor #1: Cameron Slade, curly brown hair, dark brown eyes, with a scar on his left cheek. Both Sierra and Camille Harlan are head-over-heels for him, but he’s got a hidden agenda.

Suitor # 2: Joseph Harlan, 21; blue eyes, never learn his hair color. Joseph is the son of a wealthy rancher and comes to town with his father and sister, Camille. Ben Harlan wants both of his children to make good marriages, but Joseph really wants a strong, independent woman, not a bit of society fluff.

Setting: San Francisco, April 1906

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San Francisco Earthquake: 1906 Back Cover

On the Cover: The front cover shows Sierra in her housekeeper’s uniform with her elaborately braided hair (kudos, artist!) and, I assume, Joseph, standing under a chandelier in the hotel. The back cover image shows Joseph dragging Sierra through the streets while the fire rages around them.

Sunfire Counterpart: Nora (But I’ll have to write a comparison when I get to Nora. I know Nora’s character is generally viewed as negative since she’s a social climber, but overall that book is probably superior to this one.)

This book is very strange. One of its major flaws is that we get third person point of view from about 8 different characters: Sierra, Cameron, Joseph, Camille, Ben, Sierra’s landlady, some drunken neighbor of the Harlans’, workers at the hotel…it’s not very cohesive. I guess the author was trying to give us the perspective of how different people view the earthquake and its aftermath, but it doesn’t really work. The setup goes on FOREVER, the earthquake takes place on page 96 of this 195-page book. And it seems like most of the setup involves Sierra and her housekeeping cart or Camille and her corset.

There are lots of other problems with the book. Sierra is in love with Cameron right up until she finds his journal. Then she hates him but falls in love instantly with Joseph. To his credit, Joseph fell for Sierra at first sight, so at least he was into her before the earthquake strikes. And Cameron really never gets his comeuppence; he just kind of gives up and disappears. Ben accepts Sierra into the family after about two minutes. And who cares about the drunk neighbor or the hotel waiter? It’s all very disjointed and not very convincing.

Although the author doesn’t come right out and say that Sierra and Joseph slept together in the tent the night after the earthquake, it’s strongly suggested. Sierra thinks about how she “gave herself willingly” to him, and Joseph later remembers the “whole wonderful night,” which is an odd description of spending the night in a refugee camp. By comaprison, it is stressed that Cameron was a “perfect gentleman” with Camille and “never laid a hand on her.”

Next up: Gabrielle, which not only stand the test of time, but seems to have gotten better with age.

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2 Responses to “Historical Disasters #2”

  1. Hi! I have been LOVING these recaps. I’m more a child of the 90s, so I remember buying the “Disaster” series from the bookstore, but only found the sunfires in the library’s used books section (25 cents each, baby).

    Your blog has been a huge help to me as I write my master’s thesis, by the way, since I’m writing about the Sunfire series. I would love to talk to you more about it if you woud like–totally understand if you’re busy or whatever, but if you have time and are otherwise interested, please shoot me an email!

    Thanks so much 🙂
    Victoria

    PS – I typed in my email, but I’ll check back here in a couple of days in case you can’t see it for some reason.

    • Hi Victoria, thanks for your comment, and I’m glad you’re enjoying the blog! I would be happy to talk with you; I’ll email you tomorrow. In the meantime, doing a thesis on Sunfires is awesome!


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