RedHeadedGirl is back, because there were… oh, I'll let her tell you. This is another request- Mari requested it AGES ago, and, well, it’s a classic Southern Rebel Boy meets Independent-Minded Northern Miss, sparks fly. And a whole bunch of other crap happens, too. SO MUCH CRAP. Including unexpected zombies. UNEXPECTED ZOMBIES IN MY CIVIL WAR HISTORICAL. It is not like peanut butter and chocolate. It is really not. Now, to be fair, these are voodoo!zombies, not braaaaaaaaaaains!zombies, but still. Unexpected zombies. Our heroine is Barbara, who lives in Sandusky, Ohio, and is the daughter of a doctor who’s with the Union Army. She’s been living with the local minster and his wife. When she gets word that her father has been captured and is being held in Libby Prison in Virginia, the kindly minster takes advantage of her grief and tries to seduce her, and when that does work, he goes to flat out attempted rape. His wife witnesses this, and blames Barbara for being a little slut that lured her husband into impure thoughts or whatever, and tosses Barbara out of the house. So Barbara runs off to the local Indian village, where she is known as Snow Bird (pale skin, brown hair, like a chickadee), but men from Sandusky have burned down the village and killed everyone, including the medicine woman who was more or less Barbara’s surrogate mother. (Because of course she’s got ties with the local native Americans).
The reason the men of Sandusky burned the village was because there was a prison nearby, and the Indians were helping the Rebel POWs escape. Barbara has a whole existential crisis over this, because the Rebels are bad and evil and stand against everything she believes in (like she even knows what she’s talking about) (oh, wait, she read Uncle Toms Cabin so she’s totally got a very clear understanding of exactly what was going on.) (okay, to be fair, she had as good a grasp on it as many, but still, the whole “omg, how can I love you, you’re a REBEL” thing gets tiresome after a while). So she meets our hero, who tells her to call him Ishmael, while he is mid-escape from the prison. She mocked him, he patronized her- they didn’t have anything to eat, but I think there was a connection. He continues on with his escape, and she goes back to the Reverend’s house (in the middle of the night to pack, and realizes that he took his name from Mody Dick. And then, because she’s got this idea that she’s going to go to Richmond, Virginia to bust her father out of prison, she hops on a boxcar to start her journey. Where Ishmael (or Trevor, which is his given name- Ishmael is his middle name) is of course stowed. They insult and patronize each other some more about the philosophy of owning slaves and he goes to sleep. She decides to whack him over the head with a barrel, which commences the making-out portion of the train ride, but as soon as she expresses reservations about the idea, he stops. It’s a sad commentary that this is kind of refreshing. (he then tells her that he’s pretty sure she will change her mind, and she’s like “not with a low down dirty scoundrel Reb I won’t.”) Anyway, at the next stop, they get out of the boxcar and buy tickets to ride the train properly, posing as a married couple. The train is then attacked by raiders, and all the men are killed and the women taken back to the mountain stronghold where they are apportioned off to the various men. Barbara is kept for the leader of the raiders, Meachum: he was in the Confederate army but got kicked out for being too big an asshole. (This is the point where I realized that Mari was right- there is a truly ridiculous amount of STUFF that keeps happening here. And we’re not even to the unexpected zombies yet.) (Of course, I keep talking about the zombies, so for you, gentle reader, they are not unexpected. It does kind of lessen the impact a bit.) Anyway, a bunch of stuff happens, and Barbara meets Tibba, who turns out to be Meachum’s daughter. Tibba tells Barbara that Meachum likes his women to be fighters, because it’s more fun to make them break- he’s got a little graveyard in the back of all the women he’s killed. Barbara, with the help of Tibba and, of course, Trevor (who Houdini;’s out of getting killed with his Hero Issue Plot Armor) escape . They try to get the other women out, too, but everyone else appears to get drowned when the bad guys burst a dam. Barbara and Trevor have an interlude in a cave where they have conviently found blankets and firewood. There’s making out and some heavy eptting and then Trevor is attacked by a fit of gentleman-ness and runs off because she’s a virgin and he has no intention of marrying her and she has no idea what she’s asking for. She’s pretty sad at this tunr of events and feels very rejected and pouts for most of the next day. They stumble on an encampment of Union soldiers, where they find that some of the other women, including Tibba survived. Trevor’s like “seeya babe, they’ll get you back to Ohio” and Barbara is like “BUT I HAVE TO GET TO RICHMOND YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND YOU’RE JUST A STUPID REB WITH STUPID REB IDEAS AND THINGS AND I DON’T LIKE YOU ANYWAY BECAUSE YOU ARE STUPID (god you’re hot).” Well said. Anyway, so Barbara and Tibba steal some uniforms (because what is a Civil War book without multiple stealing of uniforms?) with the intention of crossing the Alleghany mountains to get to Richmond. On Foot. Or something. And they crash into Trevor on the way, who is all “will no one rid me of the meddlesome woman?” (But he doesn’t have any knights around to hear him say that, so no one goes all a’Beckett on her ass, which would make for an original romance, that’s for sure. Someone get on that.) So naturally, there’s nothing to do but steal a hot air balloon and fly that to Virginia. They make it to a kindly couple in Virginia who gives them clothes.
, almost carachture-ish dialect for one of the women in Jamaica- “Is you see dead walk come darkness. Is you see them once already before.” It’s not as offensive as some of the dialect dialogue in Gone With the Wind, but it made me uncomfortable. It’s possible that there’s been a significant amount of research put into it (as there maybe into the entire Jamaica/voodoo/zombie section), and I just don’t know. But there isn’t any bibliography or indication of that. (I’m a nerd, I like sources.) But then there were the unexpected zombies, and that was unexpected, and then I just got utterly exhausted by the entire plot. As I told my BFF as I was fighting to finish the summary and keep it manageable (because, seriously, this book is not anything enough to warrant a 7 page review), it’s like 10 pounds of plot crammed into a 5-pound casing. A LOT happens. There’s the Ohio Section Part A, the Meachum’s Rebel’s Section, the Richmond Virginia Section, The Detour to Jamaica (now with Bonus Zombies!), the Trip to Canada and Ohio Part B. It’s EXHAUSTING. There’s potential here. Take three of those and expand them a little bit, add in a little bit more characterization and having Trevor and Barbara actually talk to each other some more, have a little bit more than just angst, and this could be really good. Angst is one thing (in proper doses) for YA vampire novels, but this was way too much. Woe, woe, woe, he’s a dirty Reb, how could you lust after him. Instead I feel like Toombs is throwing in more plot to substitute for relationship. I mean, it was nice to have someone actually explore the differences in political philosophies. Barbara wasn’t just a Unionist because she lived in Ohio, she’d actually done some studying and believed in what she read. So I’m not arguing with making the character an intellectual, not at all. I just feel like it could be better and less “You are wrong in all your wrongness!” (I don’t really get why these two actually like each other, or how they’re going to sort their shit out, but they end with an agreement that they will sort their shit out, so I’ll take it. As long as the sorting doesn’t involve anymore kidnapping, zombies, or prison breaks for a while. They both deserve a vacation.)