I am reading an historical novel by an author I’ve never read before for which I paid 99¢ and downloaded to my Kindle.
I don’t read a lot of historical fiction, but I’ve read a fair amount.
The story takes place in 1868, after the U.S. Civil War but before the transcontinental railroad is completed. The main characters are leaving New York City and heading west. Their ultimate destination is Utah. They start out on a train, but eventually (somewhere in Kansas I believe) buy a wagon and mules and join up with a wagon train.
I’m reading along, following the story, all is well. Until they arrive in the Dakota Territory and all of a sudden they are drinking lemonade.
I am yanked out of the story immediately. Lemonade? Under these circumstances? In this time period? In this setting? Is that possible? Believable?
I begin to ask the obvious questions: Where did they get lemons? If lemons were available, wouldn’t they be considered a luxury and therefore expensive? How did they transport them from…wherever to the Dakota Territory in a timely enough manner to keep them from spoiling?
I query my husband about this, figuring with a degree in U.S. History he should be able to shed some light on the situation. He points out that Florida was settled at that time and lemons would have been available. I agree, but we’re both stumped by the transport issue. Later he suggests that lemons are also grown in Mexico. Again I agree (I’m nothing if not agreeable) but point out that the distance from there to the Dakotas is about what it would be from Florida. Without preservatives or refrigeration what is the shelf life of the average lemon?
Back to the book. A short time later, one of the characters becomes ill with gastrointestinal distress and admits to drinking lemonade made by one of the other families in the wagon train. Okaaay.
They eventually arrive in Utah. They again drink lemonade.
Now it’s the Fourth of July and there’s a big celebration at a wealthy man’s ranch. Lemonade is once again served. (He at least could afford it, but I doubt he could move lemons across the country any faster than anyone else.)
I’ve tried to research this online. I’ve recruited a couple of friends to help me, but I’m coming up with nothing.
If you can shed any light on this lemonade, preferably backed up by facts, I’d like to hear from you.
As a last resort, I e-mailed the author to ask her these questions. I hope she sets my mind at ease and explains it all and offers me a peek at her research documentation. Because at the moment, all the lemonade in this book is leaving a sour taste in my mouth.
Visit me at www.barbmeyers.com