This is the third book of a four book series about the Civil War in the Far West. I enjoyed the first book, Glorieta Pass quite a bit but I did see flaws in it. The second book, The Guns of Valverde was much less enjoyable although still not a bad book. I've been delaying reading this third book because of that, worried that the series was deteriorating. However, I was way off base. This novel was thoroughly enjoyable and I'm now really looking forward to the last book of the series, Red River, which has just been published in paperback.
This is not a civil war book that is filled with battle scenes. Quite the contrary. We follow three main characters through the story. Jaime is a confederate soldier, formerly of the Quartermaster corps but he now commands an artillery battery. He's been with us since the first book. We also follow his sister, Emma, as well as a Union naval ship master, Quincy. Galveston, Texas is the scene as union ships set up a naval blockade and invade the town while Confederate forces fight back. There is really only one major battle scene in the book, at the climax near the end, but the mounting tension throughout the novel makes for a great story. The story builds for the first half of the book as the players move into place and we get to see elements of the society of the times. That's what I like about historical fiction, a chance to "live" in the times represented. There is lots of good characterization here as we experience day-to-day living with these characters, see their ups and downs, fret over relationships and hope for better times. Ms Nagle seems to have grown as a story teller with this entry and I plan to move the last book of the series up on my reading list. Interestingly, I recently wrote the author to see if she would be writing any more in this series or any historical fiction for that matter. She replied very graciously to say that she has recently published a "romantic fantasy" novel under the name "Pati Nagle" and that she had no further plans for this series...but you never know.
I also completed one more essay/story from Harlan Ellison's The Essential Ellison. This one was called "Gopher in the Gilly" and concerns a time when the author was 13 years old and ran away to the circus. He lives and works with them for three months before being arrested and spending 3 days in jail with a "geek," a psycho drunkard that found employment with the circuses in those days because they were willing to do anything, and I mean anything, for the job. The circus experience was not at all what the author, the "gopher" was expecting, and was a truly horrible time. The piece is a short and somewhat bitter commentary on the society of the day, and how a child's dreams can be dashed with hard core reality.
Next up, The Raiders, by Harold Robbins, the sequel to The Carpetbaggers.