Eliza Waite

Eliza Waite chronicles a pioneer woman who suffers overwhelming loss in the remote San Juan Islands of Washington State in the late 1800s.

Learning to survive the loss is the proving ground for Eliza’s true journey of discovery: Risking it all to forge a life on her own terms in Alaska, against the background of the Klondike Gold Rush.

After the tragic death of her husband and son on a remote island in Washington’s San Juan Islands, Eliza Waite joins the throng of miners, fortune hunters, business owners, con men, and prostitutes traveling north to the Klondike in the spring of 1898.

When Eliza arrives in Skagway, Alaska, she has less than fifty dollars to her name and not a friend in the world—but with some savvy, and with the help of some unsavory characters, Eliza opens a successful bakery on Skagway’s main street and befriends a madam at a neighboring bordello. Occupying this space—a place somewhere between traditional and nontraditional feminine roles—Eliza awakens emotionally and sexually. But when an unprincipled man from her past turns up in Skagway, Eliza is fearful that she will be unable to conceal her identity and move forward with her new life.

Using Gold Rush history, diary entries, and authentic pioneer recipes, Eliza Waite transports readers to the sights sounds, smells, and tastes of a raucous and fleeting era of American history. With detailed attention to location, character development, and the constraints upon women of this era, Sweeney’s story entertains, informs, and uplifts.

ISBN: 978-1-63152-058-7
327 pages

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Eliza Waite Awards

Nancy Pearl Book Award
2017 Winner

WILLA
Literary Award
2017 Finalist
Historical Fiction

Sarton Women’s Book Award
Shortlist
2015-2016
Historical Fiction

“Sweeney’s debut novel is a beautifully written work of historical fiction tracing one woman’s life in the wilds of nineteenth-­‐century America. Readers will be immersed in Eliza’s world, which Sweeney has so authentically and skillfully rendered.”

Booklist

“The story moves briskly along, and as a portrait of a woman daring to live life on her own terms, Sweeney’s book is both believable and eye-­opening. A strong, heartfelt novel.”

Historical Novels Review

“Eliza’s adventures and her awakening are enlivened by real diary entries and authentic pioneer recipes evoking this unique era in American history. . . . If you enjoy well-­researched historical fiction with plenty of engaging plot twists, you’ll love Eliza Waite.”

Hungry for Good Books

Eliza Waite is a lively and compelling narrative of one woman’s quest to navigate the social turmoil of the late 19th century Pacific Northwest. Traversing the San Juan Islands, Seattle, and the Klondike, Ashley Sweeney offers an insightful look into the challenges and opportunities of the Gold Rush for charting a new course in life.”

Polly Myers, University of Washington History Department

“Meticulously researched, Eliza Waite transports us to the Klondike Gold Rush, where a resourceful young widow searches a more elusive prize: happiness in a re-­forged life.”

Pamela Schoenewaldt, USA Today Bestselling author of When We Were Strangers

“Cast off by her family and living in the shadow of unthinkable tragedy, Eliza Waite finds the courage to leave her remote island home to join the sea of miners, fortune hunters, con men and prostitutes in the Klondike during the spring of 1898. Ashley Sweeney’s exquisite descriptions, electrifying plot twists, and hardy yet vulnerable characters will captivate historical fiction fans and leave them yearning for more. Eliza Waite is a stunning debut!”

Kristen Harnisch, Award-­winning author of The Vintner’s Daughter and The California Wife