When is a western not a western? When it's a sweeping Victorian drama played out against a backdrop of English countryside and American prairie by a cast of well-developed and unique characters. Englishman Simon Gaunt has gone missing in the American West and his brothers Charles and Addington have been dispatched by their father to find him. The motley search party, when it finally sets out, has swelled to several men and a woman and their individual stories blend into a saga that includes history, class, gender, religion and family. This is not just one for the men, it is a story about love, a romp, a gem and a joy to read.
Two horsemen lead the line of march. Captain Addington Gaunt, proud as a Cossack, towers on a sorrel bloodhorse while Jerry Potts slouches on a piebald, hammerheaded mustang. Two wagons following, each carrying a passenger and hired teamster, Charles Gaunt beside Grunewald, Mr Ayto next to Barker, spare horses tethered to the tailgates of the Conestogas. The little town of Fort Benton grows smaller as the procession makes a long clamourous climb out of the river valley of the Missouri, wagons juddering along the potholed freight trail .... Addington Gaunt twists around in the saddle to see the last member of the expedition clear the ridge. Lucy Stoveall, trudging with her head down, a gunny sack slung over her shoulder holding all her gear, two linsey woolsey dresses, a bone comb, her sister's daguerrotype, a bar of lye soap, and the Navy Colt. They move off.