I Do, I Do, I Do is a story of three women, three very different women, and how they move from mortal enemies to best friends.
Juliette March - gently bred, quiet, slender, very proper, at times prissy, as well as a very rich heiress in California who has allowed herself to drift through life at the whim and direction of others, especially Aunt Kibble.
Clara Klaus - earthy, quick to laugh, robust, apple-cheeked, practical in all things, an arm-wrestling Amazon extraordinaire, and a former owner of an inn in Oregon.
Zoe Wilder - honest to a fault, pretty but poor from a coal mining family in Seattle, struggling to shake the coal dust off her hems and prove she's as good as the "carriage people" who view her and the coal mining community with such disdain.
What do they have in common? Well, three things actually. An unusual ring, 'two bands of twisted silver enclosing filigreed silver hearts', a husband by the name of Jean Jacques Villette, and an overpowering desire to see that dirty, low-down lying bigamist just one more time. But that last part? Their purposes? Three different women, remember? So they have three very different reasons for tracking him down. Juliette wants to know why, Clara wants her money back, and Zoe just wants to kill him.
What does it take for Juliette, Clara, and Zoe to stop hating each other? Well,learning to deal with a little physical adversity like a steamer voyage to Dyea with a cabinmate who's 'dying' from seasickness, figuring out how to pitch a tent, cook on a fire and drive a sled with dogs as well as a harrowing vertical hike up the Golden Stairs (all 1500 of them) at Chilkoot Pass in below freezing temperatures goes a long way toward forging a friendship among these ladies. I loved their journey from fast enemies full of jealousy and backbiting to three women who genuinely, deeply love one another.
Of course, I Do, I Do, I Do also pairs each of these ladies up with the real man of their dreams along the way. Benjamin Dare, a widowed banker, is drawn to Juliette's restraint and lady-like grace. Bernard 'Bear' Barrett, saloon owner, finds his soul-mate in Clara, and Tom Price, an old family friend of Zoe's from Seattle, woos and courts Zoe whether she wants it/likes it or not.
This book has two of the funniest love scenes I think I've read in a long time. Maybe ever. Who knew that a woman could get so inflamed with desire just because of a snowy, damask table cloth being adjusted to an overhang of 'precisely eighteen inches'? Or that a centerpiece arranged at just the right height could be so arousing? And let's not talk about her reaction to the way he snaps open a napkin, the delight of service plates, crystal, and the placement of silver. And then there's the couple who literally bring a cabin down around their heads with a passionate encounter. Really those two scenes are totally worth the price of admission.
You might be wondering what happened with Jean Jacques. Well, this was one aspect of the book I found a little disappointing. I was rooting for a big showdown between the ladies and Jean Jacques. The resolution I wanted - watching him squirm and attempt to explain his actions to the Three Furies - and the resolution I thought Juliette, Clara, and Zoe deserved just didn't happen. The letters, the meeting with Marie, as well as the suggestion of other, er, 'cousins' like Juliette, Clara, and Zoe just felt so very anticlimactic.
I had a teensy problem with the resolution of Ben, Bear, and Tom's reactions when they learn of Jean Jacques and his connection to the women. The men had been so supportive throughout each step of the journey, and I admired how each one had been cautious in their pursuit of the ladies. Their reasons they felt betrayed and believed there was a lack of trust were reasonable and expected. The issues were ones that needed something more than banishing the ladies to the west coast as if they were naughty children being sent to bed without supper. Worse, the men immediately followed complete with a preacher in tow, ready to forgive and forget. Just too quick. In fact, it was resolved quicker than Clara slammed Bear's arm down on the table in their infamous arm wrestling match.
Still, I Do, I Do, I Do is a very good book, distinguished with writing that gripped me from the very first sentence, and populated with characters who made me laugh with them, cry with them, and cheer when they won. The details of the Klondike Gold Rush were plentiful and offered a very good portrait of the stampeders, the grueling trek these men undertook to find a fortune, the physical adversities endured just to get within spitting distance of a gold mine, and the diversity and ingenuity of the people not only making the trip but those that supplied materials, supplies and amenities along the way. I'm glad I have finally read a book by Maggie Osborne and look forward to reading more.