I don’t particularly enjoy romances that are overblown in the tragedy department. As far as Archer’s Crossing is concerned, overblown tragedy is an understatement of immense proportions – this book is stuffed full of misfortune from cover to cover.
Archer Owen is in a bit of a bind. He seems to have been falsely accused of a murder he didn’t commit, and with small town justice being the way it is, he is scheduled for a hanging as soon as the local law-man gets his butt back into town. Margaret Sheridan finds herself in the same small town where the hanging is to take place, which is no chance occurrence. Her twin brother was the man who testified to witnessing the murder taking place, and is thus responsible for Archer’s present predicament. Margaret came west from the East Coast to keep her brother’s reputation intact, but found when she arrived that he had already taken off for parts unknown. When Margaret finds herself being responsible for the meals of the prisoner (as her sister-in-law runs a boarding house that also supplies the prison with meals for a few extra pennies), she inadvertently puts herself in harm’s way and becomes a hostage. Thus Archer and Margaret begin the long journey to find Margaret’s twin brother and clear Archer’s name.
A shaky plot, to be sure. My dislike for the book goes even deeper, however. Margaret can only be defined as a “shrieking shrew.” There were pages in the book when she went on and on, until I wanted Archer to gag her (completely against my feminist sensibilities, I might add). Archer himself is no prize. He continuously goes off half-cocked, with not a real plan in his head. I also find any man who licks and sucks on a chicken breast for the sexual innuendo of it to be pretty unappealing.
This book did have a few decent moments. The friendship between Margaret and the caravan “sister boy” (a man who acts and dresses more like a woman than a man) is warm and touching. Margaret’s treatment of little Molly, an orphaned baby, is lovely to read. The leaders of the caravan – the Delany family – are full of generosity and common sense, which added a very nice touch amidst all the negative hoopla.
And hoopla there is. Head injuries, droughts, flash floods and dead oxen, Indians, Indian curses, sickness, and of course a potential hanging. Did I mention amnesia? Not that I don’t think life in early America was easy, but really!! I also keep thinking that maybe, if the two lead characters had been more likable I wouldn’t have minded all the hoopla. Then again, too much is too much in any book, don’t you think?