Normally, I love big, gritty historical sagas since they are just the sort of stories that make me want to suspend disbelief and fall into the twists and turns of a larger-than-life epic plot. Crosswinds opens with the promise of just such a story, but, unfortunately, it failed to hold up.
As Crosswinds opens it is the start of the Civil War. Cat Kincaid and her husband Tyler have moved from Wyoming Territory back to Ty’s native North Carolina. While Ty fights for the Confederacy, Cat lives on the family plantation with her husband’s sometimes straitlaced and inconsiderate relatives. Not surprisingly, Cat misses her much-beloved husband and worries that he will die before they can start the family she desperately wants.
Ty, for his part, is off in the mountains with his former Wyoming ranch hands that, for reasons that were difficult to follow, he somehow managed to convince to fight for the South along with him. I’m not sure how historically accurate this is (then again, this same book does make mention of someone arriving in North Carolina too late to enjoy the great victory at Manassas – a town in Virginia when last I checked), but it makes for good adventure. Ty is basically a good man caught in a war that he does not want to fight. However, his sense of honor keeps him going and makes him one of the more likable characters in this story.
Crosswinds is a big story, and it is definitely not a stand-alone book. Much reference is made to characters and plots from the earlier books in the series, so it can be tough to keep up without reading Holby’s earlier novels. Unfortunately, the shallow characterizations in this novel made it difficult to keep people straight. The characters are not well fleshed-out in most cases, and it appeared as though the author was relying upon character development from earlier books to carry the day here. I often got the feeling that I was supposed to see characters in this novel as fully-formed, three-dimensional people based solely upon references made to their adventures in preceding novels.
One example of this was the use of Jenny and Chase, prominent characters from previous books in the series. In addition to the story of Cat and Ty, author Holby also presents major updates on Jenny and Chase, who live in Wyoming on the ranch owned by Cat’s family, and Cole Larrimore, who figured in the second book in this series. Though these revisited characters play a prominent role in Crosswinds, they never come alive and seem flat as a result. The development of Chase especially seemed to revolve around references to situations he had faced in both previous books, making it difficult to know much about him as a person in the situations presented here.
In addition, the bulk of the story focused on what happens to various friends and family members in North Carolina and New York during the war. The frequent scenes showing Jenny and Chase out in Wyoming did not add much to the main story, and they made the action flow in a rather choppy fashion. While the reader can appreciate that Chase and Jenny miss their friends and family who went East to fight, that idea could have been brought into the story in less disruptive ways.
The main characters in this novel are basically likable, and if more care had been taken with their development, they could have been quite strong. There is certainly a lot of adventure – some incidents more believable than others – and, again, the book would have been a lot of fun to read if it was more well-developed. Instead, characters went from place to place and found themselves in many trying situations in what appeared to be an almost random fashion. As the story veered back and forth across the country, it was difficult to discern the ties which bound the characters and their stories. Without this, the story quickly became muddled and it was difficult to stick with it to the end.
Crosswinds could have been a very exciting and entertaining tale, but as it stands, I simply cannot recommend it. Those who, like me, love big historical sagas, will unfortunately have to look elsewhere.