A Bridge Across the Ocean
A trio of young women figure out just what it means to let go of what lies behind and anticipate what lies ahead in A Bridge Across the Ocean, a tale of love, death and new beginnings. The story enthralled me so much that immediately upon finishing it I went to the computer to check the author’s backlist and was delighted to find she had written several other novels. There’s nothing quite like that feeling of having finished a good book and knowing that several more await you in the days to come.
World War II is over but its effects – both good and bad – linger. For French resistance fighter Simone Deveraux the end of the fighting means a new shot at life. Boarding a ship taking her from England to the American husband eagerly awaiting her in New York, she feels a stirring of hope for the first time in years. She longs for a fresh beginning away from the horrors that befell her during the last year of the war as the angry, desperate Germans took everything she held dear away from her. But her excitement about the journey changes to trepidation and then anger as the young woman with whom she shares a cabin greets her with a strong German accent that reminds Simone of the enemy she longed to leave behind.
Annaliese Lange is desperate to escape. Her budding career in ballet had been cut ruthlessly short when a well-connected Nazi officer fell in love with her while watching her perform in Sleeping Beauty. Frightened of repercussions if she said no and overwhelmed with his obsession, she soon finds herself the bride of a cruel, dictatorial monster. The allied invasion of Germany provides the perfect cover for her to make her escape and a series of unfortunate events gives her the opportunity to board the Queen Mary impersonating a war bride. If she can just survive the five day journey without discovery, she will finally have the freedom and safety she craves. However, her distinctive German accent has her fellow passengers eyeing her with suspicion and dread.
No good deed ever goes unpunished. Decades after Simone and Annaliese make their journey, ghost whisperer Brette Caslake visits the Queen Mary at the request of a desperate acquaintance. Brette’s friend has a young daughter who is convinced her recently deceased mother is haunting the ship. However, it is not the mother’s ghost who makes contact with Brette but the spectre of a young war bride who committed suicide just before the ship docked in America back in February of 1946. Brette’s determination to figure out what drove the young woman to such a shocking decision and help her spirit find rest will lead her on a course that will ultimately put a strain on her supernatural powers and her mortal relationships.
While the book gets off to a slow and mildly confusing start, the story takes off by the quarter point and really grabs the reader’s attention. Simone, Annaliese and Brette are all fascinating women who manage to be a surprising mix of ordinary, relatable and exceptional and I found myself liking and rooting for all of them. Each rises to meet the circumstances they are forced to deal with and overcomes tremendous odds not because they are superwomen but because they contain great strength of character. This shared depth makes our heroines seem almost like three sides of the same triangle – they have unique characteristics but the connecting thread of their stories is that inner fire, that drive to survive and excel.
I got caught up in the mystery portion of the tale as well. What exactly had happened on the Queen Mary? Who had done what to whom? Those questions began to consume me and while the big reveal of ghost’s identity contained a bit of a cheesiness factor, overall I was really pleased with how the puzzle was handled. I was also pleased that the stories mostly ended on very positive notes. I don’t want to give away what happens but the book has a happy ending overall.
Combining past and present, mystery and romance A Bridge Across the Ocean is composed of all the elements I love most in a book. The author’s excellent writing and world building make it a complete treat to read and the story is a wonderful tribute to the resilience of women everywhere. The slow start keeps it from being a DIK but the tale redeems itself many times over before it is done. I am happy to give it a whole hearted recommendation.