Desert Isle Keeper
The Glass Ocean
After reading and absolutely loving both Lauren Willig’s The English Wife and Beatriz Williams’ The Summer Wives, I was thrilled to see these two authors teaming up with Karen White, whose books have routinely been some of my favorites. I’m normally a little leery of author mashups like this, since some of the ones I’ve read have had a choppy, disconnected feel that didn’t impress me, but I was confident that these three would craft something wonderful. They’re all incredibly talented writers, and this novel, which is the second they’ve written together, is a true testament to their combined skill. It’s a dual timeline novel that explores a mysterious set of circumstances rumored to have taken place during the Lusitania’s ill-fated final voyage, and it kept me utterly riveted from beginning to end.
Author Sarah Blake is desperate for an idea for her second book. Her first one was a best-seller, and she’s hoping to keep her success going. Unfortunately, nothing she considers really strikes her fancy, and she’s beginning to wonder if she’ll ever come up with something great. Her financial situation is pretty dire, so the idea of not writing a follow-up book doesn’t sit at all well with her, and she begins combing through her family’s history in hopes of unearthing something that will spark her creativity. In a chest that once belonged to her great-grandfather – who died when the RMS Lusitania was sunk by Germans nearly one-hundred years earlier – she discovers something with the power to change history, if she can only unravel the web of secrecy that surrounds that fateful voyage.
To this end, Sarah journeys to northern England, hoping to enlist the aid of disgraced Member of Parliament John Langford, whose family archives might contain the only known key to the puzzle she is struggling to solve. At first, John is reluctant to allow her access to the papers, fearing she’s only trying to dig up dirt on his family, but he eventually gives in as long as she allows him to help her in her search. Of course, Sarah agrees to his terms, and the two of them are soon neck-deep in intrigue involving both their families.
In April of 1915, New York socialite Caroline Hochstetter and her industrialist husband Gilbert are preparing to board the Lusitania to journey to London. It’s not a trip she’s particularly excited about, but Gilbert, who has grown increasingly remote over the past few months, is adamant about the trip. He’s a very secretive man, so Caroline isn’t sure why the trip is so important, knowing only that it has to do with his work. She hopes the two of them can grow closer during the voyage, but it soon becomes apparent that some of her fellow passengers aren’t who they seem to be, and that everyone aboard the luxurious ship could be in terrible danger.
Tessa Fairweather is one of the Lusitania’s second-class passengers, and scrimped and saved to afford her passage back home to Devon. At least, that’s what she wants those around her to believe, because in truth, this is Tessa’s first-time off American soil. She’s headed to England in hopes of starting a new life far from the confidence tricks she grew up playing. Unfortunately, starting over ends up being a lot harder than Tessa anticipated, especially since her beloved older sister seems set on drawing her back into their old way of life. Before long, Tessa is involved in a deadly game of cat and mouse with a dangerous German operative who is also aboard ship under false pretenses. Is it possible that the handsome and wealthy Robert Langford could be Tessa’s salvation, or is he too preoccupied with his feelings for a woman he’s sure can never be his?
The story moves back and forth in time from contemporary New York and Devon to the days leading up to the tragic sinking of the Lusitania, and is told in alternating chapters from the points of view of all three women. At first, I worried that Sarah’s chapters wouldn’t be as interesting as those involving Caroline and Tessa, but I needn’t have feared. The authors have done a fantastic job creating compelling plot lines for all three main characters. Each woman is uniquely drawn with a personality that makes her easily distinguishable from the other two. Their lives, loves, and secrets kept me fully engaged, and I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to savor the story slowly or hurry up to see how things turned out.
The novel definitely contains romantic elements, but I hesitate to go so far as to classify it as a romance. Love is a reoccurring theme of the story, but that isn’t the real focus. Instead, the authors have chosen to explore many different types of love and how the characters’ lives are shaped by its various forms. Two of our heroines do get the kind of happy endings romance readers adore, but things don’t turn out quite so well for the third. I can’t say more without spoiling things for you, but definitely have tissues available as you read because you’re sure to need them, especially near the end.
I’m so glad I chose to read The Glass Ocean, and I’ve already purchased The Forgotten Room, the first novel these three talented authors teamed up to write. I strongly urge readers who love a historical mystery with well-drawn, authentic characters and a touch of romance to pick this up. I doubt you’ll be sorry you did.