Some authors tend to end a long-running series with quick, slap-dash effort. No one who has even glanced at Heather Graham’s latest 471 page opus could accuse her of that. Triumph is the conclusion of Graham’s Florida series. It encompasses the last couple years of the Civil War and wraps up the story of the Mackenzies. It is broad, sweeping, and dramatic. Unfortunately, I would recommend it for almost no one.
The Mackenzies are a wealthy Florida family, with branches near Tampa and Key West. If you’ve read the other books in the series, you already know that the Civil War has divided the family. Jarrett, the Tampa patriarch, is an ardent Unionist, and the oldest son Ian is a Yankee colonel. Julian, the second son, is a Confederate doctor. Tia is the youngest sibling, and she too sides with the Confederacy. Triumph is Tia Mackenzie’s story.
Her story begins when she is traveling with a group of wounded rebel soldiers. They know Yankees are approaching, so Tia decides to act as a decoy, leading the Yankees astray while the wounded Rebs escape. This idea works, up to a point. The problem is that Tia isn’t wearing any clothes, and the man who catches her is Taylor Douglas, a Yankee cavalryman riding alone. Taylor can’t help noticing Tia’s abundant charms, and he is both amazed and alarmed by her daring. He ends up helping the injured soldiers and leaving Tia to her own devices. But a legend grows up about the mysterious “Godiva” who distracts union soldiers, and when Taylor turns up at Tia’s father’s plantation, she is terrified that he will tell her parents about her interesting activities.
I could drone on forever about the minutiae of the plot, but it’s a long book. Eventually Taylor and Tia are forced to marry, and the plot suddenly becomes strikingly familiar to anyone who has read a Civil War romance by Heather Graham before. The battles and minor details change, but the conflict always boils down to “You’re a Yank and I’m a Reb.” This may have worked okay for her earlier (and much better) One Wore Blue and One More Gray, but the sheer number of Mackenzies who marry their “enemies” gets to be silly after a while. If you can keep track of them all, which is no mean feat, you can count no fewer than six Mackenzie couples with mixed loyalties. I found myself wishing that Graham would break out of this mold and embrace the challenge of finding a conflict for a hero and heroine who are actually on the same side. No such luck here.
Even if the idea of the opposing loyalties intrigues you, there are other reasons to think twice before reading Triumph. First of all, you will never figure out who all the characters are unless you have read every other book in this series. I actually have read all the other books, and I still found myself constantly referring to the genealogy chart in the back. The huge cast of characters affects the quality of the novel in other ways as well. The characters are always bumping into each other on battlefields, in hospitals, in tents – well, basically any time they step out of their homes. They take advantage of every chance meeting by having repetitive conversations about themselves and every character who is not present. The reader gets to hear Tia tell all her relations – one at a time – about her marriage to Taylor. And when they aren’t updating each other on the latest developments in their lives, they are arguing about the war, usually in dramatic, over-blown language.
In her note in the back, Graham mentions that she will watch her mail to see if she should write any more books about the Mackenzies. Frankly, I think it’s time for her to move on to greener pastures. All in all, this book is a disappointing read, especially for readers who have read the other books in the series. Reaching the end seems more like a feat of endurance than anything else, which is too bad since some of the earlier books in the series are quite good. Graham always does her research and her knowledge of the Civil War is considerable. Those looking for a better Yankee/Rebel romance might try Surrender or Rebel.
Here are my ratings for all the books in this series:
- Captive B-
- Runaway B
- Rebel B+
- Surrender B+
- Glory C