FULL STEAM AHEAD
by Karen Witemeyer
Bethany House Publishers, 978-0-7642-0967-3
PB, 348 pages, $14.99
In this 19th century novel, Nicole Renard has taken it upon herself to find a suitable husband to be the heir of her sickly father’s shipping business. She sets out on the mission, carrying her family’s cherished Lafitte Dagger, an object coveted by her family’s rivals. She must protect her family’s legacy. However, after seeking refuge with Darius Thornton, a man obsessed with his work and tortured by an event in his past, new fears come into play. How can she find an heir for her father when she has never felt more alive than when she is with Darius? To quote the book, “Love would be boring if it were simple.”
The character development is very thorough. There are some lovely monologues in which the characters expose their innermost thoughts, shining light into crevices of their personality which had not been obvious to the reader. It is always interesting to read a love story centered on two people who refuse to fall in love with each other. However, the book does not lack some of the cliché moments a good love story usually entails. They may be cheesy, but they are touching and delicate, just like the blossoming relationship between Nicole and Darius. A beautiful theme present is that Christ makes all things new, even the most tormented of hearts and the most stubborn of minds.
Though it is a historical fiction novel, some of the language and social etiquette seem too modern for a story set in 1851. The writing is at times repetitive, but never monotonous. The book clearly aims to empower women. The traumatic experience in Darius’ life does not seem strong enough to drive the guilt he struggles with for the whole book. It wasn’t until the following question was raised when the depth of his pain made more sense: “Is it God he couldn’t forgive?” It can be complicated to go back and forth between both characters’ inner dialogue on one page, especially when the book is written in third person. The readers know the young folks will end up together, so why can’t Darius and Nicole see it themselves? Realistically she would have thought at least once that he could be the heir to her father’s business. Many stereotypes about men and women are portrayed throughout the book, such as women being complicated and men enjoying challenges.
Leah Murphy of Cincinnati, Ohio, studies professional writing at Taylor University and is a book reviewer for Church Libraries.