Territorial Rough Rider
The cover art and subtitle will lead browsers to think that this book is a Western. Although the action begins in Arizona, it’s really a Spanish American War novel. In 1898, too much sherry leads Peter Ormond to get back at his emotionally abusive father by stealing his prize gold coin collection. Before he can reconsider and return the coins, most of them are stolen. In the meantime, his father sends his black servant, Millard Johnson, to find Peter and retrieve the lost treasure. Both men are reluctant to face Ormond Senior without the coins, and sign up to work a horse drive to earn money. When fleeing an ambush by thieves, they jump a train, which is full of recruits for Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders. They decide that soldiering is also preferable to returning home, and join the recruits for their fateful journey that will lead them up San Juan Hill.
Champlin does an excellent job depicting the life of an army recruit, and the battle scenes are vivid. But memorable characters are lacking, and the plot has too many coincidences for its own good. I can’t recall a more ludicrous deus ex machina ending outside of a satire.