June 11, 2014

The Pressure Is On

Full Steam Ahead by Karen Witemeyer

Release Date: June 3, 2014
Publisher: Baker Publishing | Bethany House
Pages: 352 pages
Source & Format: Publisher; Paperback
Amazon | Goodreads

Summary (from Goodreads)
Nicole Renard returns home to Galveston, Texas, to find her father deathly ill. Though she loves him, Nicole's father has always focused on what she's not. Not male. Not married. Not able to run Renard Shipping.

Vowing to find a suitable husband to give her father the heir he desires before it's too late, Nicole sets out with the Renard family's greatest treasure as her dowry: the highly coveted Lafitte Dagger. But her father's rivals come after the dagger, forcing a change in Nicole's plans.

After a boiler explosion aboard the Louisiana nearly took his life, Darius Thornton has been a man obsessed. He will do anything to stop even one more steamship disaster. Even if it means letting a female secretary into his secluded world.

Nicole is determined not to let her odd employer scare her off with his explosive experiments, yet when respect and mutual attraction grow between them, a new fear arises. How can she acquire an heir for her father when her heart belongs to another? And when her father's rivals discover her hiding place, will she have to choose between that love and her family's legacy?

Thoughts on Full Steam Ahead
Whenever I need a change of pace, I love diving into a light, fun Christian historical fiction. This was actually what I primarily read in high school, so there's always a bit of nostalgia in returning to these familiar stories. They're typically a bit predictable, but I almost always enjoy the diversion. I'd been reading a number of thrillers and heavier stories, so it was perfect timing when Full Steam Ahead arrived in the mail for review.

This story focuses on Nicole Renard and Darius Thornton. Nicole is an only child - a smart spitfire who is constantly reminded of the fact that she's not a boy. When her father falls deathly ill, Nicole returns home from school to be with her family. Suddenly, it's even more important that her father have an heir. With plans to travel to New Orleans to find a suitable husband, Nicole secretly takes along her family's prized possession and her dowry: the Lafitte Dagger. This treasure has special meaning to her father, and his rivals would like nothing more than to have it for themselves.

Darius Thornton, on the other hand, is a man with a mission. A steamship accident two years ago has left him obsessed with finding a way to find out what keeps causing boiler explosions. He's moved to a secluded farm and become a bit of an eccentric, separated from his family and the rest of the world. Their paths cross when Nicole's trip to New Orleans takes an unforeseen turn. She needs to hide out for a few weeks and earn a little money before she's on her way, so she jumps at the chance to be Darius's secretary.

I'm a little torn on Full Steam Ahead. I liked that the characters didn't seem like the standard hero and heroine. Darius is obsessive and has hidden himself away with a single-minded focus. Nicole is feisty, really intelligent and not afraid of a challenge. I think the two of them paired nicely together, and I'm always a sucker for stories where the characters butt heads a little bit. The book moved quickly, and there was just enough action to keep me turning the pages and looking forward to whatever would happen next.

However, there were some things I didn't really understand in the story. Nicole had a wonderful relationship with her father, but she's always aware of the fact that it would have been better if she'd been a boy. While I understand that the desire/need for a son as the heir is historically accurate, I did find it a bit hard to believe that there wasn't more tension in their relationship. A child wants to feel that they are loved unconditionally by their parent, and it seemed strange to me that there weren't more repercussions to that "you're not a boy" undercurrent between them.

The events of the book also take place over a very short period of time - just two weeks. It made everything, including the relationship between Darius and Nicole, feel very rushed. I know that couples wouldn't have dated in the way they do now, but it still made things seem off in the book. Because their relationship starts on false pretenses (Nicole doesn't tell Darius who she really is or what she's doing there), I struggled to root for them. They're declaring strong feelings for one another without really knowing anything about each other. Their physical attraction to each other seemed like it got more attention than them actually talking to each other. Even near the end, the action seemed to wrap up too quickly and their problems were resolved too easily.

I really enjoyed the book while I was reading it, but I think I started to notice more issues with it after I finished. I flew through the book and was engaged with the story and characters, but I realized I had some problems with the relationships (between Nicole and her father and Nicole and Darius) after I spent some time thinking about it. I'd probably recommend it with some reservations to people who already love this genre, but it wouldn't be a book I'd likely hand to someone who was new to Christian historical fiction.

So Quotable
"The work you are doing is important, and I believe God led you to it. It is one of the ways he is working good in your life. But when you continue clinging to your feelings of guilt, this God-given mission becomes nothing more than self-imposed penance."
*I received a copy of this book from Bethany House in exchange for an honest review. I was not compensated in any way for my review.

2 comments:

  1. I kind of hate when you fly through a book so immersed in it, feeling like it's awesome, and then afterwards when you think about it all these problems and red flags start popping up. It always ruins my enjoyment of that initial read a bit when afterwards, it doesn't stand up to any kind of discussion or analysis.

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  2. I would like to know, based on what you said in the last part of your review, what Christian historical fiction book or series you'd recommend! I'm curious, as I don't think I've read very many at all, and I have yet to find one that really immerses me in its story and characters. So feel free to recommend away!

    As for Full Steam Ahead, I really think that the characters, and the circumstances under which they meet, are pretty interesting. However, it does make me kind of wary since you realized that things felt a bit rushed or underdeveloped in terms of the character relationships. Still, I am glad you enjoyed this when you read it (because of course it's wonderful to enjoy a book you're reading)!

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