Rant, Review

Review: The Last Cavalier by Heather Graham (1993)

Heat Factor: There is sex. Details are included.

Character Chemistry: She thinks he is a madman. He thinks she is a spy / prostitute. If this isn’t true love, I don’t know what is!

Plot: They go back and forth through a scary time portal.

Overall: This is some Confederate Apologist Nonsense.

I figured that this book would be ridiculous, because it’s a time travel romance. But I was not prepared for the level of nonsense that these characters spout. Here, for example, is Vickie, a 20th century woman, reassuring Jason, a Confederate Cavalry Officer, that the Civil War was not fought in vain, and that reenactments are awesome:

“No! No, it’s much, much more than a game! Don’t you see that? It’s history. It’s remembering, it’s keeping the heartache and the pain alive. It’s a way of honoring all that happened then. You shouldn’t be angry. You should be grateful. No man who fought died in vain. Not Yanks, not Rebels. You tested our nation. You broke it apart. You fought and died, and in the end, over time, you made it whole, you made it strong. What happened probably had to happen so that we could meet the twentieth century with the strength needed to survive, to arise a world power.”

I am not the historian of our bunch, and I am certainly not a Civil War reenactor, but this feels wrong. Yes, the Civil War broke the nation apart, and yes, tons of people continue to argue the details of battles and reenact them, but I don’t know that the Civil War is what made the United States strong and powerful enough to dominate the 20th century. (Or if it did, that was a good thing, but I guess this was written close enough to the end of the Cold War that world domination over Godless Communism was still a net positive.)

And in general, the main contemporary characters – Vickie and her grandfather – show a huge amount of sympathy to the Confederacy and pride in their Southern heritage. Again, this probably tracks, but I don’t really find it sympathetic in a romantic heroine.  

Anyways, the basic plot is that a time portal opens that connects some battle during the Civil War with a specific reenactment of that battle in the 1990s – the days of the week and the weather match up perfectly, so there’s some kind of time warp. Jason ends up going through it, and stumbles upon Vickie, conveniently wearing period garb while visiting the reenactor encampment. They have sex literally twelve hours after they meet because it’s true love, even though during those twelve hours he has kidnapped her and is convinced that she’ll rat him out to the dirty Yanks.

Vickie teaches Jason about the 20th century, and have I mentioned that it’s true love! She tries to convince him to stay, but he can’t because he has to save his brother and his honor. There is a completely stupid interlude in a hospital during which Jason calls his African American doctor a “darkie” (ok, probably accurate, but really? Why include this if you’re not actually going to deal with race or slavery in any meaningful way) and is a jerk to a nurse for no reason.

But he has to go back! But then Vickie follows him to say goodbye and they have some more stupid adventures where she’s caught by some Evil Yankees. There is some more back and forth through the Time Portal of DOOM and finally Vickie decides to go back to the past with Jason, where they will live happily ever after in a land of no penicillin. Not to mention that they’ll be living on a plantation in the Reconstruction-era South (granted, Virginia, but still) which seems like a TERRIBLE life choice. But it’s ok, because in the 1990s there is AIDS, which cancels out the no penicillin.

Also, according to this book’s logic, it doesn’t matter when you are, as long as you’re with the Right Person and have Love, which sounds nice on paper, but I don’t think it works like that in practice. (At least Diana Gabaldon is honest about the struggles Claire faces as a 20th century woman who ends up in the 18th century.)

Honestly, I maybe could have overlooked the terrible life choice of living in the past if Vickie and Jason had more believable chemistry. They claim that they’re in love a LOT, and have some steamy sex scenes (Jason is baffled by bras and zippers! Humor!), but they show their chemistry through that fake banter fighting thing that some authors do and I do not dig it. Like, there’s a scene where Jason promises to follow Vickie’s lead so that he won’t get tossed in a loony bin, and then immediately turns on his Southern Gentleman Honor and doesn’t follow her lead at all. And she hisses at him angrily. And this is supposed to be lovable.

It’s all cool though, because he protects her and she likes it. Therefore, after knowing each other for 24 hours, they decide that time and space are irrelevant, and they are Meant To Be. I wonder what their relationship is like when Vickie is knee deep in diapers without a washing machine, and Jason realizes that his wife has never cooked without a microwave, never mind on a stove that needs a fire in it.  


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