“Luke” Hamilton has always been sure that she’d never marry. She accepted that she would spend her life alone when she chose to live her life disguised as a man.
After working in a brothel for three years, Nora Macauley has lost all illusions about love. She no longer hopes for a man who will sweep her off her feet and take her away to begin a new, respectable life. But now they find themselves married and on the way to Oregon in a covered wagon, with two thousand miles ahead of them.
[Originally posted on Amazon 9/15/09]
I felt that Jae’s writing in Backwards to Oregon was very average in quality. There wasn’t anything very compelling in how she writes and especially in the second half of the book was much too repetitive for my tastes. I get really irritated when the same thoughts are expressed by characters or the same explanations are given over and over again. However, given that she is evidently German I think that even being an average writer in English is an impressive accomplishment.
Jae is a good story teller though and the story is what holds this book together and makes it worth reading. I enjoy adventure and old west types of stories, so this was right up my alley in that regard. Jae brings alive what it was like to be on the Oregon Trail and all the hardships people had to endure as they made their way west. I found a lot of the details of how the oxen and wagons were handled quite interesting.
The characters were also interesting, including several of the secondary characters. Luke, a woman passing as a man most of her life, on a spur of the moment decision asks Nora, a brothel worker, to marry him. The marriage is offered as a sort of business arrangement on the eve of Luke heading west. Nora will get the chance to make a new life for herself and her daughter in a place where no one knows her background. Luke will have a better chance at continuing to pass as a man with a wife and child along on a trip taken mostly by families, not single men. Luke doesn’t let Nora in on “his” little secret, so a lot of the story centers around the issues that creates.
If I could give half stars I would rate this book 3.5 stars. It’s not a really great book, but Jae’s ability to weave a good tale and create characters we care about rescues what could easily have been a 2 star dud. So while I can’t give the book a rave review, I can say it’s worth reading for those who enjoy this type of story.