Daughter of Fortune

Got swept up in the story and devoured in a weekend. With translated works, I try not to be too picky about the writing itself, since they weren’t Allende’s words I was reading, but Margaret Peden’s. Thus free to float on the wind of the story, I gave myself up to the drama and frantically flipped through this to the end, where Eliza is free at last.
Eliza is an orphan left at the house of an English woman and her brother in Valparaiso, Chile, taken in and cared for by Miss Rose and Mama Fresia, the Indian cook. The sweater the orphan is wrapped in was knit by Miss Rose for her brother John, the sea captain, as we find out deep in the story. Rose is full of secrets, churning out romance novels that John then sells abroad, having lost her respectability to an Austrian tenor thus swept out of England and into the wilds of Chile in the 1830s. Eliza grows up, falls in love, finds out she is pregnant six weeks after her lover has left for the gold fields of California. She meets Tao Chi’en, the Chinese cook, who stows her aboard a ship bound for California, eventually finding out she was pregnant when she miscarries in the hold. Tao is also a doctor, nurses her back to health, she assumes the identity of a Chinese boy when she arrives in San Francisco thus eluding the curious stares from women-starved men. Once she gets her strength back, she becomes a Chilean man on the hunt for her “brother” (e.g. her lover). Her search is futile, and it turns out she and Tao are much better suited for each other.
Lots of strong female characters who shun marriage in this.