Because of the Camels

Written by Brenda Blair
Review by Laura Staley

Sixteen-year-old Elizabeth McDermott is excited: she is making her debut into Galveston, Texas society, and her mother’s cousin will soon be in town with imports from the exotic East. The imports are camels, and Elizabeth has no idea that their arrival heralds enormous changes and will soon present her with three suitors. Because of the camels, her life will be changed forever.

This novel is based on the true story of the United States Camel Corps, the Army’s pre-Civil War experiment in using camels as pack animals in the Southwest. The story here is smoothly written and obviously extensively researched. The depictions of slavery are painful and perceptive. Some elements are surprising: for example, it’s hard to imagine a socially-prominent widow of less than six months setting up house with her lover without causing a major scandal in the 1850s. Adult fans of Texas history (and U.S. Army history) will enjoy the fascinating story of the Camel Corps, although they may be less enthralled with the strong teen romance element. Likewise, teen readers will enjoy the story of Elizabeth and her suitors, less so the novel’s political elements. But a slavery-related rape scene may make it problematic for younger teens