Thursday, June 5, 2014

Review: Full Steam Ahead by Karen Witemeyer

My rating: 5 stars / It was amazing


When Nicole Renard returns home to Galveston from an eastern finishing school, she's stunned to find her father in ill health. Though she loves him, he's only ever focused on what she's "not." Not male. Not married. Not able to run their family business, Renard Shipping.

Vowing to secure a suitable marriage partner, Nicole sets out with the Renard family's greatest treasure: a dagger personally gifted to Nicole's father by the pirate Jean Lafitte. Many believe the legend that the dagger is the source of all Renard Shipping's good fortune, though Nicole is sure her father's work ethic and honorable business practices are the keys to their success. Before she can board the steamer to New Orleans, Nicole finds her father's rivals—the Jenkins brothers—on either side of the gangplank, ready to grab her and steal the dagger. Quickly, she decides to instead travel north, to Liberty, Texas, where she can decide what to do next.

Darius Thornton needs a secretary—someone to help him get his notes in order. Ever since the boiler explosion aboard the "Louisiana," Darius has been a man obsessed. He will do anything to stop even one more steamship disaster. The pretty young socialite who applies for the job baffles him with her knowledge of mathematics and steamships. He decides to take a risk and hire her, but he's determined her attractive face and fancy clothes won't distract him from his important research.

The job offer comes at exactly the right time for Nicole. With what Darius is paying her, she'll be able to afford passage to New Orleans in mere weeks. But Mr. Thornton is so reclusive, so distant, so unusual. He can create complex scientific equations but can't remember to comb his hair. And his experiments are growing more and more dangerous. Still, there are undeniable sparks of attraction between them. But Nicole is leaving soon, and if she marries, it must be to a man who can manage a shipping empire. Darius certainly doesn't fit that description. And the Jenkins brothers have not given up on kidnapping Nicole and seizing the Lafitte dagger for themselves.

My Review

Karen Witemeyer never fails to fully engage me in her stories! The setting for Full Steam Ahead has a different vibe than her previous westerns, since much of the storyline involves steamboats and the shipping industry. The pirate connection made it feel slightly more exotic, especially as we see the influence on Nicole as some special... talents are revealed. From reading the book description I was worried that I wouldn't care for the "socialite" since I prefer down-to-earth characters, and I was pleasantly surprised! She is definitely not your average spoiled daughter. From her aptitude with math to her tenacity, grit, and compassion, she is a wonderful heroine. Even her flaws are endearing as her overconfidence and self-sacrifice land her in some sticky situations.

Darius Thornton is a complex character, and because of his name and obsessive work habit I came to visualize him as Richard Armitage from BBC's North and South (even though their hair color doesn't match). It's fascinating to me that characters I read about can have such vivid personalities, but their appearance is more ambiguous and vague. So it was a bit of a change for me to have such a specific image of Darius in my mind! The story is just as much Darius' as it is Nicole's, and begins with the tragic accident that spurs his all-consuming work with the dangerous steam engine experiments. That element of risk and passion is very compelling, and the chemistry between Darius and Nicole is explosive (check out my puns!)

Both Darius and Nicole help each other on a spiritual journey to learn that we can't redeem ourselves from our failures, but by surrendering to God and relying on His guidance, He will direct our paths for good.

(A copy of the book was provided by the author for unbiased review)

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