Across the Blue
Carrie Turansky is a new-to-me author, and I was pleasantly surprised by her clear storytelling and smooth writing. In Across the Blue, she brings us a story of the ingenious and daring men and women who plumbed the mysteries of flight in the early 1900s. Being from North Carolina – where the story of the Wright Brothers permeates the state’s DNA – I’m particularly interested in aviation stories, and in Ms. Turansky’s work, I’ve discovered another author to add to my reading list.
Isabella Grayson, a modern girl at the turn of the twentieth century, has set her heart on becoming a journalist. The Daily Mail is offering a large reward for the first aviator to pilot an aircraft across the English Channel. The prospect of this first flight fires Bella’s imagination, and she hopes that a series of articles about the race across the channel will launch her career. Her parents, however, have other plans. Her father has just purchased the large estate of Broadlands, and her mother expects Bella to marry an aristocrat to help improve the family’s social standing.
The first day the family visits Broadlands, a flying machine crashes on the property. The airplane has sustained some damage, but the pilot and his partner climb down unharmed and introduce themselves as James Drake, one of the competitors in the dangerous flying challenge, and his adoptive father Thaddeus Steed, the engineering genius behind the aircraft.
Although James needs to focus on his goal to be the first across the channel, the appearance of the very attractive and intelligent Bella Grayson offers serious distraction and begins to interfere with his plans. James knows he is out of Bella’s league financially, but he’s sure if he wins the prize money, he will be able to approach her and her father with a proposal.
Charles Grayson, an aviation enthusiast himself, is eager to see the workshop where the now dented machine was created. Bella joins him on his visit, which leads to an invitation for the two aviators to dine at Broadlands. At dinner and during subsequent encounters with James – some by chance, some planned – Bella feels a tug of attraction she cannot deny. However, her career ambition and consideration for her mother’s wishes lead her to agree that if allowed to write her articles, she will participate in the upcoming social season with no complaints and will accept a proposal from a suitable man by the end of the year.
The spiritual lessons in this book are woven neatly into the conversations between characters and in their own reflections. The first Christian lesson is that we are partners with God on earth. In our striving to succeed and to live a moral life, we do our part, and then must wait for God to do His. Several characters attest to the power of prayer to help center us on the right path, leading to the second lesson; with prayer and reflection, we can refrain from letting personal goals lead to selfish behavior as our true purpose on earth is to help others.
Although his love for his adoptive father runs deep, James longs to know more about his heritage, and a chance discovery of a letter written to him by his biological mother sends him on a quest to learn the true circumstances of his birth. The author uses James’ search for his history to illustrate the yearning, often well into adulthood, of adopted children to learn something of their birth parents, especially if their history is clouded by illegitimacy and a family reticent to discuss it. The treatment of the subject is thoughtful, and the revelations James discovers add a nice twist to the story.
The romance between James and Bella feels light and airy (pun intended) with classic conflicts. Social norms, family expectations, and traditional values are clashing with the dreams and desires of the new generation, and James and Bella are caught in the clash. In addition, James is uncertain whether Bella, in her striving to become a journalist, is only using him to gain entrance to the world of aviation and advance her career. Another complication comes in the form of aristocrat Mark Clifton who has gained the approval of Bella’s mother and has made clear his intentions towards Bella.
A second romance begins to bloom between Thaddeus and the woman whose barn and land they are using for their aviation work. Martha and Thaddeus have known each other for years, and Thaddeus’ slow awakening to Martha’s charms and her love is lovely to watch. Although there is much talk about airplanes and the problems faced by the team, the technology is easy to understand in this author’s hands.
Given all the wonderful things I’ve said about this book, you might expect a DIK, but one weakness kept it from reaching that status. There are six main storylines within the novel: Bella’s journalistic ambitions, the race across the channel, James’ search for the truth about his birth, the spiritual lessons, James and Bella’s love story, and the second chance at love for Martha and Thaddeus. All are given equal time in the writing, and in that mix, the rhythm of James and Bella’s story, the lead romance, comes through unevenly. Their conflicts never seem especially problematic, so that the inevitable ‘black moment’ seems mistimed.
Nonetheless, this is an entertaining book shot through with the brightness and excitement of the new era of flight, along with troubles and doubts presented in real-life terms, and an illustration of how a reliance on divine power can help us choose the right path for our lives so we can work with God to bring love into the world. I enjoyed the book, and I can recommend Across the Blue for fans of inspirational fiction, if not of inspirational romance.