Tides of Love
If you’re tired of the same old westerns and regency-set historicals, you might find a respite in Tracy Sumner’s Tides of Love. Set in turn of the century North Carolina, this book has a strong sense of place, and it’s a place and time we don’t often see. Adding to the originality is the hero’s occupation; he’s a professor of marine biology. The book has some rough edges, but the author’s descriptive flair and introspective characters make the book an enjoyable one.
Marielle-Claire Beaumont has loved Garrett ever since she arrived in Pilot Isle, North Carolina as a child. A French immigrant who only spoke broken English, Elle was a girl who needed defending, and time and again Noah stepped in to defend her and save her from accidents caused by her impetuous behavior. When Elle reached adolescence, her affections for Noah took a more serious turn. But a tragic argument between Noah and his brother Caleb caused Noah to leave town. For ten years he stayed away, supporting himself and earning an advanced degree in biology. But now he is back in town to help build a laboratory, and he will face his brothers – and Elle – and come to terms with his past.
Part of Elle has never stopped loving Noah, even though she’s been living her own life all this time. While he was gone she completed a year of college, and now runs a school for women ( in defiance of her father, who is withholding an inheritance until she marries). Elle knows that everyone on the island is expecting her to run right back into Noah’s arms, and it does sound tempting. But she’s not exactly the same headstrong girl she was before.
As you might suspect this is an old-friends-find-love kind of book, but these characters don’t take any shortcuts. Both of them are filled with angst about their relationship and problems with their respective pasts. There is a lot of thinking, puzzling, and introspection. Noah drags his heels for most of the book; he can feel himself falling in love with Elle, but he fights his feelings tooth and nail. I was of two minds about this, really. On the one hand, it’s kind of fun to see a guy who is determined not to love anyone fall hopelessly in love with the heroine in spite of himself. On the other hand, all his protestations get a little annoying after a while, and he almost starts to seem mean. Fortunately, readers who like a good grovel will be satisfied with his penance at the end of the book.
The beautiful and unusual setting is one of the best things about the book. The title, while apropos, is a bit corny. But Sumner’s descriptive prose brings the island setting to life; you can almost smell the sea and the fish. The time period is interesting, and so is the hero’s occupation. Since I really love nerdy heroes, I would like to have seen the biology details played up even more, but the information contained in the book is probably enough for most people.
Elle is a very likable character. She’s intelligent and ambitious, but she just can’t seem to help loving Noah. She’s also compassionate in her determination to help women who have even fewer options than she does. It’s easy to identify with her as she tries to choose the best course to take with her love and her career.
The flaw in this book is that the writing, while descriptive and beautiful, is sometimes hard to follow. Transitions from scene to scene are a little choppy, and often it was unclear how much time was passing, which is something that always unsettles me. However, Tracy Sumner is fairly new to writing, and I see this as something that could easily improve over time. Readers who like unusual settings – and a little angst in their romances- might want to give this one a try.