Friday, May 18, 2012

Review: THE TRAIL OF CONFLICT by Emilie Loring

the trail of conflict book cover
This is the most accurate cover I have ever seen. The characters really are that wooden.
Original Publication Date: 1922

Genre: Romance

Topics: masculinity, love, independence


Mr. Glamorgan has a dream: to make so much money he can buy his daughters upper-class husbands. To that end, he buys Peter CourtlandT's mortgage and then threatens to foreclose on him if his son, Stephen, doesn't marry Glamorgan's daughter, Geraldine. You can tell the CourtlandTs are fancy because they have a T at the end of their name that makes no linguistic sense. Anyway, Stephen and Jerry marry, but Stephen's not very happy about it, and they don't have *whispers* THE SEX. Then Stephen's Uncle Nick shows up--a hilarious grizzled old guy with a talent for saying the most awkward thing at any given moment and not giving the tiny twitch of a rat's ass. Nick decides that what this couple needs is to eschew all of Glamorgan's money and move out to Wyoming where Stephen can prove he's a man, man (you would have thought being a hero in WWI would have done it, but nope!). So they do. Things happen, they fall in love, blah blah.

I've read more than a few Emilie Loring novels; my mom has a whole stack of them that I would make my way through on summer vacations. The vast majority are not in the public domain (not as far as I know, anyway), and I can see why no one bothered to renew the copyright on The Trail of Conflict. It's not one of her best. The writing is extremely uneven--pretty good one minute, then a lot of tell-not-show the next; narrative inconsistencies (when the novel starts, it's implied the story takes place in England, then suddenly they're in the US); and the plot is way more complicated than it needs to be. That paragraph only describes the set-up for the entire novel; the vast majority of it takes place in Wyoming. And there's even more plot once they move.

But I wouldn't have minded any of this if I had been able to connect to either Jerry or Stephen. Instead, I spent most of the book wondering what the heck was going through their heads. There's too much plot and not enough characterization, and both the main characters just seem to do stuff with no insight into why they are doing it. Is Stephen ever attracted to Jerry? I don't know! I guess it doesn't matter, since they're married anyway. And what glimpses I did get of their train of thought didn't exactly endear me to them. For example, Jerry gets rid of all her money on the way to Wyoming, then is like, "How am I going to survive without money?" Sweetie, you're moving to the home of a millionaire rancher. You're not going to starve. And where are you going to go shopping in the middle of Wyoming, anyway? Stephen, meanwhile was a total dick and kept calling Jerry "little girl." Guys pro-tip: NEVER CALL A WOMAN THAT.

I wanted to like Trail of Conflict, I really did, but I just couldn't spend another moment with the main characters. Loring has plenty of other books that are worth reading (I really like Here Comes the Sun), but none of them are in the public domain. So there you have it.

Find The Trail of Conflict at Project Gutenberg