FICTION

A Transcontinental Affair

Lake Union: Amazon. Nov. 2019. 348p. ISBN 9781542004091. pap. $14.95. F
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Hattie Eames is delighted when a family emergency prevents her congressman father from accompanying her on the inaugural transcontinental journey of the Pullman Hotel Express in 1870. She can smoke, drink, wear trousers, and investigate railroad mechanics. In California, her fiancé, Leland, whom she hasn’t met, prepares for her arrival. Hattie grows increasingly dismayed at that prospect when she meets fellow passenger Louisa, governess for a rich family. With few marriage prospects because of a clubfoot, sensitive, artistic Louisa wants to escape poverty and her repressive father. Stockholders, politicians, and wealthy passengers enjoy luxurious surroundings, scenic stops, and excursions such as meeting Brigham Young. Hattie gradually realizes that the onboard “newspaper” is a public relations tool that explains away or ignores breakdowns, derailment, murder, and Indian attacks. Recognizing corporate corruption, she devises a plan to start a new life with Louisa. An author’s note explains the historical basis for the journey and the Union Pacific investment scandal.
VERDICT Marred by stereotypes, including a derogatory term for a Native American woman, as well as improbable plotlines, Daynard’s (A More Perfect Union) novel may have limited appeal for die-hard fans of historical romances set in the frontier West.

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