To be honest, this is a hard review to write. I love historical fiction, and this book had interesting history and a great premise. But, the writing left something to be desired. Before you think I’m being critical of the writing skills of author Yvonne Harris, however, read on.
First, the book itself. The story is set in the late 1800’s in Texas amidst the unrest of border issues with Mexico. Elizabeth Evans is a young widow moving from the political socialite world of Washington DC to the Texas frontier to help her brother run his newspaper. Accustomed to the life of servants and ease, Elizabeth has to adjust to the differences of El Paso. But, she is not soft nor is she spoiled. She is a southern lady like those I interact with and admire on a daily basis: strong yet still very feminine. Harris does a fantastic job of making Elizabeth’s character feel real.
Jake Nelson is a Texas Ranger of the sort that would make any Chuck Norris fan proud. He is tough, but human. Despite all his best intentions to the contrary, he is almost immediately smitten with Elizabeth’s beauty and strength. His struggle between the efficiency of life as a Ranger and the emotional stirring created by Elizabeth is a powerful one.
The two characters find themselves thrown together when Elizabeth’s ties to her brother’s newspaper pull her into the political tension between Mexico and the United States.
I see a good writer in Yvonne Harris. She has the skill and the research ability. She has the creativity. But, somehow there is a polish lacking in the unity of history and fiction, of character and story. I felt like she was almost limited by structure, and I found myself wishing I could have seen the story as it ran through her mind rather than reading the words that ended up on the pages. But, I don’t think this is a permanent struggle for her as an author. I think there is a lot of promise in Harris’ future writing, and she is definitely an author I will continue to watch for.
Bottom line: I’m not sure A River to Cross is a book I would just run out and buy. But, Yvonne Harris leaves me wanting more from her. Her name is definitely going on my “keep an eye on” list, and I look forward to reading her future novels as she develops as a novelist.