Writing historical fiction demands the writer have a talented pen – and a lot of patience. Any historical author worth their salt will take hours in preparation to research their subject or setting or the era, and as a girl who appreciates an anticipatory historical novel, I respect this. Elizabeth Camden is probably one of my favorite authors – this is her third novel and out of those, two have been relegated to a spot on that ever-growing keeper shelf. Many fans may remember Against the Tide’s hero – Alexander Banebridge or Bane as he is more commonly known – from Camden’s debut novel, which may have been published last year, but I feel like ‘Tide’ is the best in its genre from this year – comfortably so. Camden’s voice has matured to the point of expert dialogue and brilliantly written settings that intrigue and tease, never giving away “too much.” This is perhaps what will most impress aficionados of history – Camden’s “sense of setting.” It was interesting and leaves a reader loathe to turn the last page – the era was very well presented and it made everything more authentic to read (historical note) what one of Camden’s starting points was for this novel.
Woven into the period details is a deeper, subtle message of faith. The achievement of the message and its greatest asset is the hero. Using the “heroes are made, not born” adage to the best advantages, Camden formed Bane, an anti-hero into a very noble, swoon-worthy kind of hero who, while redeemed as a new life in Christ (this we never doubt), it was interesting for the observer to still pick up on some of his previous attitudes and “bad habits.” Bane was once always on the cusp of pure evil (or this is my recollection), even now while shadows cling to his person, he’s a better man. I am not sure I’ve seen it done so well before – the narrative thread (of faith) wasn’t prominent nor overwhelming but the discerning reader will “feel” the passion and grace Bane emulates. Pacing of the story also factors prominently in the “big picture” of the plot. Writing with an easy, pleasant prose, Elizabeth anchored the story in rich period authenticity, true but also important is the integrity of the characters; she never lost sight of their emotions. Doubling down on its fast-paced adventure was the pacing – even in the quieter moments. There’s excitement and still plenty of time to savor the hero and heroine’s “bonding.” Bane is not the only complexity in the story – Lydia is also, though hers is through innocence. As a reader, I didn’t expect all her story entailed and admired because her character was a risk and it paid off.
In the elements revolving around both Lydia and Bane as a couple, it surprised me how little the romance factored in – Lydia falls hard for Bane but an unusual amount of time separates them and the love story isn’t the easiest to “buy” given that timeframe; that being said, I never doubted her love for him, and likewise (despite his claims), his for her. Weaving a beautiful story that is facilitated by its accuracy of the surroundings, I was undeniably impressed with Elizabeth Camden’s third novel. It’s one I am sure to re-visit, and it leaves me breathless for her next endeavor…
Synopsis: Boston of 1891 is a city of hope and ambition, where mariners, merchants, and dreamers thrive in the cobblestone streets of America’s most historic city. Within the harbor of Boston’s naval shipyard, Lydia Pallas has become a trusted assistant to an Admiral in the U.S. Navy. Fluent in seven languages, she spends her days translating documents from all over the world.
Lydia’s remarkable language skills bring her to the attention of Alexander Banebridge, a mysterious man on a quest to rid the world of the scourge of opium. Only Lydia has the rare combination of language skills and courage he needs to advance his cause. A man as coolly analytical as he is relentless, Bane never bargained on falling in love with Lydia. As he battles the bittersweet love that grows between them, Bane’s mission will take Lydia away from everything—and everyone—she ever held dear.
It surprised me how little the romance factored in – Lydia falls hard for Bane but an unusual amount of time separates them and the love story isn’t very believable given that timeframe. That being said, I never doubted her love for him, and likewise (despite his claims), his for her.
Coming Next from Elizabeth Camden: After her father’s death, Mollie Knox takes over his watchmaking company and uses her head for business to solidify the good name of the 57th Illinois Watch Company. Her future looks bright until the night her beloved city is destroyed in the legendary Great Chicago Fire. With her world crumbling around her, Molly must do whatever it takes to save her company in the aftermath of the devastating fire.
Zack Kazmarek is an influential attorney with powerful ties to the political, mercantile, and ethnic roots of Chicago. His only weakness is Mollie Knox, a woman who has always been just beyond his reach. However, all bets are off after the fire destroys Chicago, and Mollie is in desperate need of assistance. Just as Zack finally begins to pursue the woman he loves, competition arises in the form of a hero from her past who can provide the help she needs to rise from the ashes.
While Mollie struggles to rebuild, the two men battle for her heart. One has always loved her, but the other has the power to save her. In the race to rebuild the city, can she survive with her business and her heart intact? – August 2013
With thanks to the INSPYs and publisher for providing a complimentary copy of this book for purpose of reading it.