Title: Against His Orders
Author: Lindsay M. Joslyn
Publisher: MLR Press
Pages/Word Count: 91 Pages
At a Glance: It’s imperfections aside, I liked this novella as a purely escapist read.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: Just as Captain Logan Harris is about to secure peace for the Western frontier, the vengeful brother of his murdered lover shows up and threatens to destroy everything Logan has fought for.
Captain Logan Harris is about to make history. Before him stands the frontier’s most fierce Sioux warriors, ready to sign a peace treaty after years of bloodshed. Just as it seems Logan will be able to secure the West for safe passage and put his past behind him, a mysterious shot rings out and a lone cavalryman rushes the battlefield. Horrified, Logan recognizes the shooter as his murdered lover’s younger brother, Benjamin Langer. Forced to put everything he fought for aside, Logan must risk it all to save Ben’s life.
Review: I’m going to start this review off by giving a short list of disclaimers:
1.) If you don’t enjoy cliffhangers, this story doesn’t have a satisfying ending, but it does have a very satisfying To Be Continued for those like me who don’t mind being left hanging.
2.) If you enjoy long and languid, well-timed love scenes, this book isn’t going to satisfy that itch. That being said, however, I felt the urgency of the ill-timed and consistently interrupted scenes fit the historical and situational setting. They worked for me, where others may find them annoying.
3.) If you have racism triggers, this novella is not one that portrays Native Americans sympathetically at all as the victims of white supremacy. It’s not PC, by any stretch of the imagination, but if we trust written history, we also know this was a brutal time in the country’s infancy, and the author depicts it in an honest, if one-sided and biased, way. Let’s just say empathy for the plight of the Indians during the 19th century government land grab is nowhere to be found in Against His Orders.
4.) If you want authenticity in your 19th century medicine: amputation, recovery, or the survival rate of those who experienced what would then have been a life-threatening injury without antibiotics, there isn’t what I felt to be much realism in this story, and you’ll be asked to suspend your disbelief.
Now, knowing that expectations can make or break a book, and having passed all this along, and maybe offering you a means of approaching the novella armed with a bit more fore-knowledge than the blurb offers, I have to say I didn’t dislike Against His Orders. It isn’t meant to be a Dances With Wolves epic tale of life on the American frontier during the war with the Indians. It is, however, meant to be a romance, the story of two men reconnecting after years of separation and a devastating loss to both of them. Lindsay M. Joslyn offers just enough backstory to connect her characters, Logan Harris and Ben Langer, to Ben’s brother Nathaniel, and though Nathaniel is never portrayed as a living character in the storyline, his specter lives as an obstacle and, finally, a connection for Logan and Ben.
The barrenness of the Kansas grasslands gives this novella an almost dystopian/Alt U feel: harsh and unforgiving, and sometimes pitting its humans against Mother Nature, even as the humans attempt to lay waste to one another. The historical setting and the isolation of the fort and the miles of nothing surrounding it make for a feeling of alien-ness. There is a savagery to both the humans and the landscape in Against His Orders, and I liked the compare/contrast of it within the framework of this story.
Synchronic missteps, medical improbabilities, and Nature’s somewhat convenient interference aside, I found at the end I was pretty invested in Logan and Ben’s evolving relationship, as well as in the building suspense of the deadly confrontation with the Sioux tribe this installment of the series builds up to. It promises to be a bloody one, if what the author has foreshadowed here plays out the way we’re led to believe, and I’m looking forward to seeing where she takes these men and their story from here. It’s not a perfect execution of historical fiction but is an entertaining diversion, if you’re willing to overlook a few things while you’re reading.
You can buy Against His Orders here: