Against the Odds
Against the Odds is well-written and even interesting, but ultimately forgettable. In the aftermath of the Civil War, a Southern lady and a Yankee POW find love on board a doomed steamboat. The historical flavor is nice, but the crisis-to-crisis pace is a little monotonous.
Gabe Davis is one of a thousand prisoners of war returning home aboard the Sultana, an overloaded steamboat. He is accompanied by three friends and a passel of enemies, and he wants nothing more than to get home and begin his life anew. Yvette Augeron is one of the few civilian passengers aboard the same steamship. She’s running away from her beloved New Orleans under suspicion of murder, trying to reach a distant uncle whom she believes will help her bring her sister’s murderer to justice. Naturally, that murderer, Captain Darien Russell, is also on board and will do everything he can to stop Yvette.
As if Yvette’s situation wasn’t complicated enough, Gabe is plagued by the rumors of his own cowardice. During a battle he had a vision that caused him to drop his arms and run. Although he returned to face his punishment, the men in his unit chose to drive him behind enemy lines instead and want further vengeance now. However, Gabe has the support of three fellow prisoners, a group of friends all trying to get home. These supporting characters were one of my favorite elements of the book. Even though it eventually becomes apparent that they will be the heroes of later books in the series, I appreciated that the friends felt more like characters in this book than they did like advertisements for the next. We never see Gabe struck by a friend’s dazzling violet eyes and streak of deviltry; instead we occasionally see things from their viewpoints to get a better sense of them.
Unfortunately, we also spend a lot of time seeing events from the villain’s point of view. This quickly became boring and repetitive, and never felt necessary. I think the intent was to chronicle Russell’s descent into madness, but it simply didn’t work for me. It didn’t help that I found every aspect of the villain’s plot to be implausible, from his original crime to the fact that he couldn’t find Yvette right away, to the various daring escapes and narrow misses.
Ultimately, however, the biggest problem that I had with this book was its crisis-centric plot. Yvette and Gabe have very little in common, and we only ever see them in the midst of one problem after another. I never saw any hint that their relationship had much to build on after all the turbulence had passed. I also found the book’s resolution to be very unsatisfying. We get a lot of background on both of their families, and the problems that they face, but neither situation is ever resolved.
I found the author’s voice to be strong and readable throughout. We know the Sultana will sink from the first page, and I enjoyed the tension of waiting for it to happen. However, I would have liked a bit more relief from this tension, and a little more time to spend with Gabe and Yvette under more ordinary circumstances.