A Rage Against Heaven was published in 1978 and apparently drifted off into relative book obscurity, long forgotten by readers always on the hunt for another Civil War Novel. It was mentioned by a poster who began a thread at Amazon titled “Bar none the best historical fiction” (at this writing there are 8,087 posts). Very hard to find, but Michele at A Reader’s Respite, intrepid book shopper extraordinaire, managed to find a cheap copy, reviewed it here, and passed it along to me.

Philadelphia, 1860. Lew Crandall is “The Golden Prince” and has it all, wealth, looks and the hand of Elizabeth Butterfield. Lew finds some damning evidence against a powerful politician among his dead father’s letters and he unwisely exposes him to public censure. When Civil War breaks out, Lew leaves college and his wife behind in Philly and hightails it to Washington, where he runs smack dab into the unscrupulous pair he never should have ticked off in the first place.

Lew and Elizabeth’s lives take plentiful twists and turns and ups and downs in a soap opera of the very highest magnitude. Presumed death, crooked politicians, blackmail, a long side trip to Mexico with some evil banditos, a return from the dead, turmoil in Paris as the The Franco-Prussian War heats up, a kidnapping, jewel heists and more as Lew exacts his revenge against the baddies who done him wrong. I generally love a big old soap opera with lots of strum and drang, but unfortunately there’s a big drawback in this one – Mustard seems to be one of those male authors who throws in squicky sex just for the male fantasy fun of it, and much of it was entirely gratuitous involving secondary characters. It’s easy enough to show the reader a man is overly obsessive with young girls, I didn’t need a blow-by-blow rape of a child. I can grasp that a Southern female can care about her family’s slaves, she doesn’t need to lust after one of them. An author can show me a young actress is a slut without a detailed description of oral sex including a loose hair (no, I am not kidding). I’ll give you a couple of examples of the tamer stuff, but be warned I’m quoting verbatim:

“They came to each other in the middle of the room, and flesh kissed flesh. Breasts met chest, belly met belly, thighs met thighs. She smelled sweet; he was musky and warm…After a while he stood up. His big penis was gorged with blood, white blood and black blood. She looked at it. Then she put her hand to her mouth and spat in her palm. She reached down and took his penis, slicking it slowly.”

“He wore nothing under the pants but an erection….She felt his enormous penis going into her and she moaned with pleasure…Then, slowly, he began thrusting. Slowly, the sweetness began rising up the volcano. When they both erupted, they were both covered with mud.”

Ick. Honestly around page 160 the sex toned down and I was rather enjoying it but towards the end the returns from the dead/name switches really stretched the believability factor. One further warning – despite the historical settings I would not call this a historical novel. The Civil war happens, but it is merely a backdrop – several year’s worth of history are recounted in tedious letters. One of the main characters is involved in the Mexican revolution, but again it’s merely a backdrop to further the story. In the end, if you come across a copy cheaply I’d pick it up for curiosity’s sake as well as the chuckles you’ll get at the groaningly bad sex scenes, but don’t go out of your way for it either.