A young man living on a small farm not far from Boston heard the stories told by Zebulon Pike of a snow-capped peak far to the west, in a land thought to be owned by Spain. That young man wanted to see it for himself. So began the journey of William Wallace MacLeod, a journey that would eventually take him across a continent to a land fraught with turmoil and sought after by five nations.
This “A Land in Turmoil” series of historical fiction by author E. Paul Bergeron brings to life a time between Mexico’s independence from Spain in 1821, through the incursion by John C. Fremont, which led to the eventual annexation of California by the United States. It is a time marked by the height of the American fur trade, the tumultuous frenzy of a gold rush that swamped the land with fortune seekers from every corner of the earth, and the completion of a transcontinental railroad. The story of a sleepy people, unaware of the resources they possessed, living in a land hugging the shores of the Pacific Ocean.
Spain lost control of California when Mexico desired its independence, and Britain looked south from its Hudson’s Bay Company posts at the mouth of the Columbia River. France had received reports about this undefended land of immense possibilities, Russia already squatted north of San Francisco at its otter-hunting post at Fort Ross, and the gold seeking hordes of Americans flooded the “land of milk and honey.” The people of California realized their time as a territory of Mexico would soon end.
This first book in the A Land in Turmoil series, In the Shadow of Vargas, brings William Wallace MacLeod face to face with love and revenge as he battles the forces of politics and religion in Spanish-controlled New Mexico. In order to keep a promise to his trapping party employer and find the woman whose love for him has cost her freedom, he must escape from a certain death sentence and rescue the woman he loves.
MacLeod will eventually find himself in the land known as Alta California and all of the turmoil brought about by warring families, an inept government, and a religious system on the brink of failure. He will learn to view this land through the eyes of two opposing cultures, his own and the one he raises his son in—from the Mexican period of a laid-back life of raising cattle, gambling, and bloodless confrontations, to a time of vigorous expansion and exploitation. A people who, a mere forty-five years before, could not travel from one hacienda to another without governmental permission, were able to board a train in San Francisco and, a few days later, disembark in New York City.
William Macleod and his children will fight among themselves to hold that part of their past that lies threatened in this land of opportunity.