An ex–Civil War soldier–turned-preacher aids a young woman in danger by marrying her, but their troubles aren’t over.
Waiting for the train that will take him to his new job as preacher, Capt. Harry Richardson encounters a young woman in danger. Sarah Franklin, a teacher, begs for his help in escaping her pursuers, who want to force her into a marriage arranged by her scheming guardian. Snowballing circumstances—the innocent girl’s plight, Harry’s sense of responsibility, the villains’ relentlessness, suggestions of darker crimes afoot—make an impromptu wedding seem the best solution to protect Sarah. It helps that Harry and Sarah share an instant attraction, and after a few probing questions for one another, Harry asks, “Will you marry me today on this train?” Harry’s friends, who had accompanied him to the station, get in on the act, and together, they organize an onboard wedding while dodging gunmen from town to town until they can see Harry and his new bride safely home. Using many elements from Victorian melodrama, Durbin’s debut novel handles characterizations well, with both heroes and villains being more than just cardboard cutouts. The camaraderie between Harry and his friends is believable and helps define his character while making Sarah’s trust more understandable; he’s the kind of man friends would do anything for. Durbin also complicates the plot in interesting ways beyond the forced marriage. It’s a shame, though, that the story frequently bogs down in long to-do lists: e.g., “I can take this load to the railroad, send that other telegram, drop the basket at the hotel tomorrow, and then make the return trip with that bunch from Choestoe.” The dialogue doesn’t sound especially Victorian, and some other details are off, such as a wealthy man being noted for habitually wearing a three-piece suit—common attire in 1875.
An enjoyable Victorian-style melodrama, although the story is slowed by logistical details.