The Romantics


My assumption is that the title is intended to be ironic, at least in part, since there is very little that’s romantic about most of the events that take place in this book.   Generally speaking, legends of lost gold in the American West are only that — fictions that stir the hearts of those caught up in the quest, even when they know, in all likelihood, what they’re searching for exists only in dreams. The underlying emotion is greed, however, nothing nobler (or more romantic) than that.

It is 1879 in the Arizona Territory. Adrian Clark’s wife, a Mexican beauty he won in a poker game, has a map. They need a guide. They don’t need any of the following: a countryside filled with bloodthirsty Apaches, a troop of Mexican rurales, a perverted local outlaw gangleader in partnership with crazed ex-Confederate officer, each with a thirst for power, and a pair of loutish brothers with worse dispositions.

Brandvold has a nice sense of place, the wilderness itself, that displays a great love of the out-of-doors, but midst the puking and the whoring, you have to wonder: was the West settled by no one with more grace than this?   And to my mind, the dialogue is horrible, jarring in its inconsistencies, and yet — the characters do start to grow a little, and the action, if that’s what you’re reading for, simply does not stop.

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