Against The Odds
by Gwyneth Atlee, historical (2001)
Zebra, $5.99, ISBN 0-8217-7034-9
The author's debut and her follow-up are bloated and bad melodrama full of overwrought crisis and predictably stereotypical characters, but her third book Canyon Song is good. Now her latest, the post-American Civil War romance Against The Odds hovers uneasily between the predictable but readable stuff that is Canyon Song and the bloated oh-mama-melodrama of her first two barely readable books. But ultimately, too much conflicts sink this story like that ship that hit the iceberg.
On the steamboat Sultana are two interesting outsiders. Gabe Davis is a Yankee who carries a secret: he isn't who he claims to be and who he really is... well, that's a Big Baggage on his part. Yvette Augeron is a Southern belle with also a secret: she is fleeing the scene of her sister's murder that would implicate her. As these two develop an uneasy attraction, the murderer in Yvette's Dilemma is also on board, waiting to get his hands on her.
And of course, the Sultana is going down, baby. Down, down, down... glug glug glug...
I really love Gabe and Yvette, I do. They have baggages, and boy, are those baggages heavy. But the author doesn't take the easy way out by doling out dull, credibility-free stereotypical psychology. These two will really have to work, and I like that. They also have chemistry and sexual tension. Character-wise, Gwyneth Atlee is on a roll in this one, a far cry from her early books that feature disasters in every sense of that word.
But the overdose of danger! peril! pitfalls! close calls! is really too much. When one danger is over, another springs forth, and another, and more, and more, more, more until I choke and scream for mercy. It is one thing to create dark, tortured characters, but it is another thing altogether to put them through clockwork dangers. This is not The Road Runner Show the last time I check. Maybe the author is in a bad mood and want to kill people vicariously in her books, I don't know. But the result is nothing short of frustrating for me, the reader. Ms Atlee teases me with dark, complicated characters, she hints at dramatic, poignant emotional healing, but instead, she gives me the non-stop adventures of Riverboat Charlie and his woman instead. Mad man! Bombs! Traitors! Fiends! Against All Odds promises more than it can deliver.
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