Marsha Canham, $3.99, ISBN 978-0-9877023-7-1
Historical Romance, 2012
After all this while, Marsha Canham finally returns to romance with a splash: The Following Sea is the third book in the author’s series about the seafaring Dante clan. The previous two books in the series were full of violence, sex, and romance, and this one aims to follow the same route. This book can stand alone easily, however, with a self-contained plot and minimal distraction from secondary characters from the previous two books, so it’s fine to dip your toes in here even if you haven’t read the previous two books.
This time around, we have Gabriel Dante taking the limelight. Fresh from the triumphant victory over the Spaniards (which took place in the last few chapters of The Iron Rose, our hero makes his way back home to Pigeon Cay in his newly acquired vessel, Endurance, but along the way, he stumbles upon what seems to be a deserted ship, her crew apparently perished due to a plague. He is about to blow up the ship sky high when he realizes that there is still a survivor on board: Evangeline Chandler, a 19-year old lady who is determined to locate her MIA father. Gabriel soon finds himself giving Eva a spot on his ship and helping her locate her father. There is also a treasure to be found, if they can figure out the clues in the letters Eva’s father sent her. Naturally, Eva has enemies who do not want her to stick her nose into where it doesn’t belong.
Compared to the previous two books in the series, The Following Sea is a disappointing read. The main reason for this is the romance. It’s… subtle, let’s just say, in the sense that for over half of this story, the characters barely seem to be into the other person apart from the occasional “Gee, hot!” mental lusting moments. Even then, those moments are brief, as if the characters are just going through the motions before moving on to subject matters that really interest them, such as the treasure and Eva’s father. And then, these two are suddenly necking and speeding out of the gate past second base. How did that happen again? The romance, therefore, feels rather perfunctory. These two characters come off as far more interested in the plot they are immersed in than they are with each other.
And really, it’s not a bad plot at all. But I say this with a caveat: there are many scenes here that function as information dump, telling me more details about the Spanish maritime matters of those days, life on board a ship, and more. I find these matters interesting enough to keep reading, but I suspect that some readers may not be as patient as me in wanting the characters to show some passion ASAP. This book packs in the action and violence mostly towards the later end of the book, so there are many moments when this story resemble a documentary about life on sea. It is a testament to Ms Canham’s ability that I feel a bit seasick just from reading this story, but you may beg to differ.
Because this story is more focused on the plot than the romance, it’s not too surprising that the characters are rather superficial at the end of the day. Gabriel is capable, a gallant kind of privateer when it comes to damsels in distress, and really, he’s a charming guy at many instances, but that’s not much to go on beyond that. Eva is a pretty realistic heroine in that, while she can be a tough and determined woman, she’s not some kind of amazing lady who instinctively displays flawless sea legs. She can also be quite naïve at times, and her insistence on helping the hero can be annoying because she’s clearly out of her depths, but on the whole, Eva is a decent heroine. It’s just that, like Gabriel, she doesn’t have the opportunity to show much depths.
The Following Sea is a pleasant way to experience life on sea vicariously, but I’m not sure that I like it that much as a romance novel. Oh well, but it’s still nice to have the author back in business.