Moon in the Water
Moon in the Water is an uncommonly lush and lovely historical romance. Most of the story takes place aboard a steamer on the Mississippi River, a very nice setting for the gentle love story that unfolds there.
Owning a riverboat seemed like an impossible dream for a steersman like Chase Hardesty. Then James Rossiter, owner of the company Chase works for, makes him an incredible offer: ownership of the Andromeda, his newest and most advanced steamer, in exchange for marrying Rossiter’s daughter Ann. As soon he meets Ann, Chase can see why her father is willing to make the deal. The unmarried young woman is clearly pregnant with another man’s child.
Ann Rossiter wants no part of her stepfather’s arrangement. When she discovered she was pregnant she did her best to escape his overbearing control, only to be dragged back to St. Louis. She doesn’t want to be married to this man she doesn’t know, particularly just so he can own a riverboat. But she also isn’t given a choice in the matter, and they are married.
As far as Chase was concerned, the deal was for Ann to remain in Commodore Rossiter’s house in St. Louis while he takes the Andromeda up to the Montana territory to deliver freight. Ann may have been forced into a marriage without her will, but for the sake of her child, she has no intention of remaining in her stepfather’s house. She forces her way on board the Andromeda and installs herself in the captain’s quarters. Chase tells her he’s sending her back as soon as he can find her passage on another ship. But he soon finds getting rid of his new bride will not be so simple.
This is a rich, emotional story that is engaging from the very first page. The author wastes no time drawing the reader into the lives of her hero and heroine, quickly establishing their respective dilemmas and the emotions that fuel their choices. Because their motivations are laid out from the start, the reader can mmediately relate to them and empathize with them. This isn’t a story that takes a while to build momentum. It’s there from the start.
Ann is a sympathetic heroine, especially once the cause of her pregnancy becomes clear to the reader. She’s never had control of her own life, first sent away to boarding school by her stepfather, then manipulated into a marriage by him. But she’s not weak, and over the course of the book she discovers that she is stronger than she believed. The scenes where she finally sticks up to the villains of the book are highly satisfying.
In Chase, the author gives Ann the hero she needs, and even better, the one she deserves. Chase grew up as one of a number of adopted children, so there’s never any doubt that this is a man who will be able to accept a child that’s not his by blood. That might seem a little too perfect, but it’s also nice to know that won’t be an issue. Despite his bluster toward her in his attempts to get her off his boat, Chase is also very kind and considerate, a good man for a heroine who needs one.
While there are some dramatic scenes, what struck me most about this story were the warmth of the characters and the gentleness of the love story. Chase’s huge family has the potential to be yet another cloying romance brood, but they’re so charming they don’t seem stereotypical. The steamer’s crew is populated with some likable personalities who take Ann under their wings. There’s much sweetness to be found in the love story, as Ann slowly warms to the man who is her husband, who treats her with such kindness, and who defends her against a cruel stepbrother who lives to torment her. The evolution of their relationship is so tender and feels so natural that, by the time they consummate their love, it couldn’t feel more right. Ann and Chase are both well developed, both with hopes and fears they need to conquer. The way the author weaves them into their characters and into the love story is nicely done. The writing is lovely and lyrical throughout.
The book is very nearly a keeper, and during the first half I would have predicted it would be. It would have been a keeper except for the author’s handling of a few things. One is the identity of the father of Ann’s child. The reader will be able to deduce this within the first few chapters, yet the author keeps Chase from finding it out for far too long. This seems like something he really would want to know more about as they grow closer and feelings of love develop, but he never seems to push the issue and Ann keeps silent. Her reasons are believable, but the result is that the issue looms over the story, casting a pall over the proceedings until it finally is revealed very late and in a very melodramatic way. It’s an exasperating moment which comes close to ruining the powerful one before it, and I hated the way Chase’s reaction unwittingly affects Ann.
As likable as Chase is, he also isn’t the sharpest tool in the box at some moments. His handling of certain issues is questionable. For instance, when someone on board the ship is injured, it takes Chase forever to figure out there are suspicious circumstances involved. When he finally puts it together he wonders, “Why hadn’t he made that connection before?” I had no idea, since it seemed really obvious. A self-sacrificing decision Ann is determined to make is also an unnecessary and annoying distraction.
Those are really just quibbles. This is a very high B+, and I suspect for many readers this book will earn a place on their keeper shelves. It really is an excellent book and a rewarding love story.