By: Jodi Daynard
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Publication Date: November 2019
Reviewed by Diane Lunsford
Jodi Daynard's latest novel, A Transcontinental Affair, delivers an intriguing blend of history and storyline.
The story begins in 1870s Boston. The focus is the imminent departure of the Pullman Express Hotel. The train is about to embark upon its virgin coast to coast excursion. The cast of characters will make the journey nothing less than memorable. Esteemed Congressman Eames was all about impressions and always governing to what was proper and what society mandated. Contrary to her daddy’s views, Harriet (Hattie) Eames was all about comfort and what felt right to her. Hattie would board the train in Boston and her next stop would be San Francisco, California where her fiancé and future husband awaited her arrival. There was one slight detail to overcome, however. Congressman Eames was insistent his rebellious daughter would represent the family in the most respectable manner throughout the journey. In Hattie’s view, what difference did it make what she elected to wear? What was wrong with the tunic and ballooned trousers she opted to wear? Clearly, compromise would be the key. Daddy Eames eventually acquiesces to Hattie’s whim only if she agrees to take the two gowns her mother purchased for the trip. What neither of the two had the inkling to know was that Hattie’s attire would pale in comparison with what lie ahead.
Louisa Finch doesn’t have much of a future. Born with a clubbed foot and no prospects of a worthy husband, her father, Reverend Finch, believed a life of servitude as a governess was the best hope for a future for his daughter. Louisa is hired as a governess and will travel to her new job on the same train as Hattie. While Louisa is a talented artist and it is her passion, it certainly won’t pave or pay her way for a sustainable future. Recognizing there is nothing further Reverend Finch can do for his daughter, he bids her farewell. Louisa's new life will be that of governess to the two children of the wealthy and quite aristocratic Ringe family. It’s not the ideal dream, but it provides some hope for Louisa’s future. Early in the continental crossing, Hattie’s and Louisa’s paths manage to cross. As the train carries its passengers across the miles of track headed west, the two women are faced with challenges and ample twists and turns in their respective destinies that neither could have ever fathomed.
Jodi Daynard has done an outstanding job of capturing the history of the time that transcends from the first continental crossing of the Pullman Hotel Express to focusing on the demeanors and vast contrasts between a man’s world and the subservience of women in the late 1800s. Not only does she capture the history, but she also manages to infuse a storyline of risqué behavior and choices between two of her characters, Hattie and Louisa. There is a stark representation between ‘have and have not’ that is portrayed between the two young women, yet that is not the focus. Rather, Ms. Daynard focuses on what the two explore during their journey and how they come out the other side as a result of their choices. The dialogue and scenery are balanced beautifully throughout the storyline and never is there a moment where this writing bogs its audience down with overload of description or unbelievability. The twist at the end of the story is superb in that the reader may think he or she knows how the story will end, but Daynard is prepared for this. She effortlessly manages to pull the rug out from beneath her audience in a clever and believable way. I say bravo and certainly look forward to Ms. Daynard’s next body of work.
Quill says: A Transcontinental Affair is a fantastic delivery of historical richness and edgy situations that will keep the reader engaged from cover to cover.