When Nicole Renard returns home to Galveston from an eastern finishing school, she's stunned to find her father in ill health. Though she loves him, he's only ever focused on what she's not. Not male. Not married. Not able to run their family business, Renard Shipping.
Vowing to secure a suitable marriage partner, Nicole sets out with the Renard family's greatest treasure: a dagger personally gifted to Nicole's father by the pirate Jean Lafitte. Many believe the legend that the dagger is the source of all Renard Shipping's good fortune, though Nicole is sure her father's work ethic and honorable business practices are the keys to their success. Before she can board the steamer to New Orleans, Nicole finds her father's rivals--the Jenkins brothers--on either side of the gangplank, ready to grab her and steal the dagger.
Quickly, she decides to instead travel north, to Liberty, Texas, where she can decide what to do next. Darius Thornton needs a secretary--someone to help him get his notes in order. Ever since the boiler explosion aboard the Louisiana, Darius has been a man obsessed. He will do anything to stop even one more steamship disaster. The pretty young socialite who applies for the job baffles him with her knowledge of mathematics and steamships. He decides to take a risk and hire her, but he's determined her attractive face and fancy clothes won't distract him from his important research. The job offer comes at exactly the right time for Nicole. With what Darius is paying her, she'll be able to afford passage to New Orleans in mere weeks.
But Mr. Thornton is so reclusive, so distant, so unusual. He can create complex scientific equations but can't remember to comb his hair. And his experiments are growing more and more dangerous. Still, there are undeniable sparks of attraction between them. But Nicole is leaving soon, and if she marries, it must be to a man who can manage a shipping empire. Darius certainly doesn't fit that description. And the Jenkins brothers have not given up on kidnapping Nicole and seizing the Lafitte dagger for themselves.
- Witty historical romance with an engaging glimpse at the history of steamboat technology
Karen Witemeyer’s latest novel, Full Steam Ahead, takes her signature blend of witty romance, faith, and history from the ranches of earlier books into the world of the steamboat. Specifically, to an 1800’s Texas plantation where a reclusive scientist performs explosive experiments designed to improve the safety of steam engines, and thereby prevent future casualties.
I find the history of technology and scientific advances to be pretty fascinating, so I thoroughly enjoyed that aspect of this story. It certainly didn’t hurt that the author incorporated those details in a vivid, and at times explosive way that complements the story well. And yes, I do mean “explosive” literally. ;)
Nicole and Darius make great romantic leads. They’re both intelligent and highly motivated characters with interesting backgrounds that just happen to make them perfect for each other... even if they don’t see it at first. But their chemistry… wow. I loved watching their romance develop, and particularly the way they impact each other’s faith journeys.
But that’s not all. Witemeyer also provides some thoroughly charming and entertaining secondary characters. Not to mention a pair of villains out to steal a treasured family heirloom who season the story with just the right dash of suspense, leading up to an exciting conclusion with a bit of an unexpected but surprisingly satisfying twist. Definitely worth the read.
Specific to the audio edition:
I must confess that when I read a couple of reviews by listeners who described the narrator’s voice as “old sounding” I was a bit concerned about whether this would be an audiobook I could recommend. It is, after all, a book about young people. Would the voices work? I re-read the book’s description, listened to the audio sample, and decided to take a chance on reviewing it. I’m happy to say I was not disappointed.
Carine Montbertrand’s performance perfectly captures the wry humor of the novel, and gives life to the characters’ voices and emotions. Her use of lovely French accents comes in handy for the voices of some of the secondary characters, as well as names of French origin. Both male and female voices sound authentic and entirely appropriate for their ages.
At times, I did detect a slight gravelly quality to the narrator’s voice, primarily at moments when her voice dipped into the lower registers during passages of narrative description, but I found this didn’t bother me at all, and even seemed to disappear into the background as I grew accustomed to her reading style and got lost in the story.
Overall, I found the listening experience to be a very pleasant one, and I am happy to recommend it. Thank you to Recorded Books for providing me with a copy of this audiobook for review purposes.