Line by Line
Every time I pick up a new book by Jennifer Delamere, I find that her storytelling has gotten better. Her newest book, Line by Line, is no different. The novel is the first in a new series, Love Along the Wires, about three friends in 1880s London trying to succeed in business and in love. After a slow first chapter, the story takes off, and I was carried away by a love story about two people whose worthy goals interfere with what life and love insist on presenting to them. Line by Line is a sweet, smooth, page-turning read.
As a skilled telegrapher, Alice McNeil has sworn off marriage and intends to live single all her life as did her mentor and schoolmistress, Miss Templeton. After Alice’s experience as one of 800 female workers at the London Central Telegraph Office, she is ready for a new challenge and finds it at Henley and Company. Except for her irritating telegraphy co-worker, the position is all she could hope for. With only two telegraphers for the growing shipping company, the work demands every bit of skill and experience she possesses to keep up with the necessary speed and accuracy.
Douglas Shaw, number two man at Henley and successful dealmaker, returns to London from the United States with contracts for new cotton shipments well in hand. His goal in life has been to raise himself from his impoverished youth as the son of a shipyard laborer into higher social status. So far, he has obtained an esteemed position and has set his sights on marriage to a wealthy heiress as the next step in his life plan. Alice and Douglas meet on the job and later, over the one available copy of The Spinster’s Guide to Love and Romance which Douglas thought to purchase to learn how he might woo his heiress. However, Alice makes the purchase first so she can learn how to use “feminine wiles” to smooth out her working and personal relationships with men. Both Alice and Douglas pursue their dreams, all the while meeting at work and finding common interests that draw them together. Obstacles abound, especially the conflict between their original choices of life paths and their life experiences which continue to nudge them in other directions.
The romance between Douglas and Alice takes center stage throughout the novel, and it is delightful to discover how these two strong personalities finally reach their happily ever after. The main characters also carry the inspirational theme. Douglas and Alice discover a mutual love and reliance upon God as the Father and support in all earthly affairs, but they also accept that God has given them intelligence and skills with which they can solve many of their dilemmas.
The one part of the book that felt out of place was the first chapter. It plays two roles in the story – to introduce us to the main characters and their current situations and to introduce Alice’s friends who will be part of the upcoming books in the series. However, it dragged, with a narrative full of background and inner thoughts and not enough forward momentum. If I hadn’t read Ms. Delamere’s work before, I might have set the book aside, but with a little faith, I gave the author and the story a chance. Once Alice gets her job at Henley, the story sails along with smooth writing, chuckle-worthy humor, wonderful interactions, and characters who make a lasting impression. The time-period is described with well-chosen details, and who would have known that tapping out Morse code could have so many important social and business uses?! Except for the slow start, Line by Line provides all the delightful enjoyment that readers of sweet, Christian romance expect.