by Cindy Holby, historical (2004)
Leisure, $6.99, ISBN 0-8439-5279-2
There's a marked improvement in Cindy Holby's narrative techniques in Crosswinds, her latest in her ongoing Western saga. The author has trimmed down the repetitious backstories, stepped up the pace, and overall, the plotting and characterization have a more fleshed-out feel to them. The author also attempts to introduce issues like patriotism as the Duncan clan and their extended family of the Kincaids are swept up by the War Between The States. The more successful emphasis on human drama makes this book easily the most romantic entry in Ms Holby's series so far.
Readers unfamiliar with the author's series should start with Chase The Wind and work their way from there though as it is easy to get lost here.
The main storyline revolves around Ty Kincaid and his wife Catherine as he enlists with the Confederates and has to deal with his increasing disillusionment with the war. Catherine will have to try and keep the family together while Ty is away. In New Orleans, Cole Larrimore is searching for his missing niece while elsewere, Jenny Duncan, still happily married to Chase The Wind, will have to confront a man from her past to put her demons to rest once and for all.
There are still problems with Ms Holby's style - Crosswinds, while trimmed down compared to the previous books in the series when it comes to unnecessary descriptions and repetitious backstories, still suffers from more unnecessary descriptions that it should have. The author tends to get carried away especially by the descriptions of war campaigns without actually connecting these scenes to the storyline. These scenes are interesting to read but their disconnection from the characters or the storylines make them come off as wordy clutter to a story already packed with a large cast and many concurrently-running plots.
What I do enjoy in Crosswinds though is Ms Holby's willingness to introduce complicated and difficult situations in her story. Ty and Catherine are good examples of where Ms Holby did a good job: these characters really come to life as good people conflicted by all kinds of emotions as they try to survive the war, and sometimes they have to do things they are not proud of to survive. Crosswinds ends on a bittersweet note but this ending works very well indeed because it's simultaneously inspiring as well as sobering, plus it also captures the "another day may come, but we will be strong to keep living" mood typical of those grand Western epics Hollywood used to put out decades ago.
If Ms Holby can really trim off the extraneous detours her stories tend to take, she'll come up with a really good Western epic one of these days. In Crosswinds, she manages to pack a few good and hard emotional punches, so in the case of this book, she nearly succeeds in doing so.
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