Bea Dot Ferguson, recovering from a miscarriage caused by her abusive husband, leaves her home in Savannah to spend time with her heavily pregnant cousin, Netta, in Georgia, however, her timing couldn’t get any worse as an epidemic of influenza is spreading through the town like wildfire. Bea Dot doesn’t even get to set foot in her cousin’s home before being whisked out into the country where she and Netta become the guests of Will Dunaway.
As the influenza worsens, Bea Dot relishes the prospect of being kept away from her husband and soon realises she’s beginning to fall in love with Will. Although Will returns her feelings, he is still haunted by his experiences in the First World War and the epidemic soon forces them apart. As tragedy strikes, Bea Dot is blackmailed into returning to Savannah where her husband keeps her imprisoned in her own home.
Dunaway’s Crossing sounded very promising from the blurb as it is set during the First World War, one of my favourite time periods, and also has the added interest of the Spanish flu pandemic which was one of the deadliest in history. Unfortunately, Brandon merely skims the surface of her chosen subjects and we learn next to nothing about the epidemic since most of it happens in the background. The flu epidemic infected over 500 million worldwide in 1918 and claimed the lives of an estimated 50-100 million people, many of whom were healthy young adults which was in itself unusual. By choosing to have Bea Dot away from the centre of town, much of the reality of the epidemic is inferred rather than witnessed, although we do get the odd chapter from Will’s point of view as he is recruited into building an endless supply of coffins.
Although Netta’s husband is a doctor, the only direct contact with those nursing the sick comes in the form of Lola who was actually hired to take care of Netta’s forthcoming baby. Lola is a prime example of how there is a lack of continuity in characterisation as a lot of characters only appear when required by the plot and then are unceremoniously dropped when they are no longer useful. The worst example of this is with California, Bea Dot’s housekeeper, who is prominent in the initial chapters and then completely discarded in the latter half of the book until we learn she has succumbed to the flu.
The characters of Bea Dot (awful name) and Will are engaging enough but I didn’t ever feel attached to them or invested in their romance, mainly as it happens so quickly and they don’t get to spend much time together. The abuse Bea Dot is subjected to by her husband is appalling but she remains a meek character throughout the story and never learns to stand up on her own two feet. Will, on the other hand, is far more interesting but the trauma he went through during the war is glossed over and more or less forgotten about which is a real shame as it would’ve been interesting.
When Bea Dot is forced to return home to her husband, the story descends into melodramatic territory as he restricts her movements and visitors. More dark secrets are revealed which add nothing to the story and Bea Dot’s ultimate revenge is entirely implausible. It’s a sweet enough story but it just lacks depth.