Well, I finally got my wish – a book I couldn’t put down. I stayed up till almost midnight reading Against the Tide by Elizabeth Camden. To be blunt, I picked the book because of the cover. I know. I plunged into the shallowness of cover intrigue for a brief moment in time. The cover did not disappoint.
In Against the Tide, Camden has woven a story of two lost souls who, though they love each other, seem unable to find a way to be together. Let me say up front, that while this is written as a “stand alone,” the character of Alexander Banebridge is actual the subject of her book The Lady of Bolton Hill. You might wish to read that book first, as it explains Banebridge’s character motivation and his transformation to a Christian faith. I did not read the first book and will now have to do so.
As for Against the Tide, Alex Banebridge is a man on a crusade to stamp out the opium trade. Not only does he manipulate and scheme at will, but he is not free to love. His life is dangerous, and anyone he cares about could be used as a pawn in his fight to bring down the opium trade.
As a side note, I confess I knew little about this time in our history, and I was intrigued and shocked at the availability of opium and its use in even cough syrups for children. This was not one of humanitty’s finer moments, to be sure.
Lydia Pallas is desperate for money to hang onto her home. Alex Banebridge’s offer to pay her for translation services seems like an answer to prayer, until her job with the Navy is jeopardized by her association with the man. When Alex forces her from his life, she has few options left, and her worst fears come true.
I really, truly, couldn’t put this book down. The plot is fast paced and the suspense enthralling. Having said that, however, I am only giving Against the Tide 4 out of 5 stars.
First, there were a few times I felt the author was “telling” me instead of “showing.” Granted, it is very difficult to keep up “showing” throughout a book. It’s one of the things I have to constantly fight in my own writing. However, I was jarred several times in the novel when I felt as if I was no longer in deep point of view but in the author’s narrative. Second, there were times I felt the romance was forced, which is probably a result of my analysis above and below. Both of those, however, would still have not kept me from giving a 5-star. They were small matters and did not take away from the overall intrigue and suspense.
I lowered my rating to 4-stars because of Lydia. She is a very intelligent woman. As a small child her only goal, even though she could not speak English, was to go to school. Because of her background, she can speak several different languages. She has a sharp memory and is a quick reader and fast learner as is evidenced when Alex gives her a crash course in antique books. However, she seems overly obsessive at times with being with Alex. She almost comes across as clingy. Given the nature of her backstory, though, and the fact that she makes her own choices and goals, this aspect could be overlooked. After all, Alex is a hard man who is able to compartmentalize his feelings even when it comes to Lydia. So when she later insists that she is brave enough to live in Alex’s world despite the danger, his enemies, and his almost constant travels, I just scratched my head and sighed. I actually thought “how could she be so daft?” No mention of the children that will result from “wedding and bedding” at this time period is ever mentioned, and Lydia is too intelligent a character to think that she can marry Alex, be in his world, and drag their children around behind him. In fact, neither Lydia nor Alex mentions the children that will result from their union or the danger those children would be in. Since Alex’s ability to lead a normal life hinges on the capture of one man, Professor Van Bracken, Lydia later insists they must find some way to bring the man down so that Alex can lead a normal life. Personally, this would have been enough to carry the story. Ignoring the natural consequence of a marital union was a huge flaw, in my opinion, to Lydia’s believability as a heroine.
Having said all that, though, this book is a must read. It’s the first book I’ve read in a long time that I have been unable to put down, and I actually found myself thinking of the characters several days after reading the novel.
And in the future, I will definitely be reading more of Elizabeth Camden.