As a child, Lydia Pallas became all too familiar with uncertainty when it came to the future. Now, she’s finally carved out a perfect life for herself–a life of stability and order with no changes, surprises, or chaos of any kind. She adores her apartment overlooking the bustling Boston Harbor, and her skill with languages has landed her a secure position as a translator for the U.S. Navy.
However, it is her talent for translation that brings her into contact with Alexander Banebridge, or “Bane,” a man who equally attracts and aggravates her. When Bane hires Lydia to translate a seemingly innocuous collection of European documents, she hesitantly agrees, only to discover she is in over her head.
Just as Bane’s charm begins to win her over, Lydia learns he is driven by a secret campaign against some of the most dangerous criminals on the East Coast, compelled by his faith and his past. Bane forbids any involvement on Lydia’s part, but when the criminals gain the upper hand, it is Lydia on whom he must depend.
Elizabeth Camden has tapped in to a new level of writing maturity and prowess with her third novel Against the Tide (Bethany House). While her previous works have been compelling in plot and character, this book takes readers to depths unanticipated, leaving a lasting impression on both the psyche and the heart.
The characters bared the very essence of their souls as they encountered and overcame perilous situations that drew them closer together and closer to God. Lydia’s unconventional childhood is tragically ripped from her when her family is lost at sea and she is forced to live in an orphanage with only her intellect and resilience as a line of defence against the perennial physical and mental abuse. Through perseverance, Lydia becomes a successful translator for the Navy and challenges the ingrained gender roles of her time with her superior work ethic and achievement. The trauma of her formative years drives her to try and control even the finite details of her life, leading to obsessive compulsive tendencies. She is a unique heroine with an indomitable character and vulnerable spirit that beseeches readers to draw closer and immerse themselves in her story.
Bane is the perfect character mirror for Lydia. Readers will recognize him from his minor yet critical role in The Lady of Bolton Hill as an audacious villain who is reformed by faith. The Bane readers encounter in Against the Tide is valiant and dauntless in his pursuit to rid the world of the heinous opium trade. His dedication to the cause knows no limitations as he attempts to atone for his involvement in opium smuggling when he was ensnared in the Professor’s crime organization. His inner demons inhibit him from committing emotionally to any person-whether in friendship or romantically. His current investigation necessitates Lydia’s translation skills and their encounters result in the first crack in his resplendent veneer. As their time together intensifies, the crack becomes a fissure that eventually reaches the very foundation of his resolve and crumbles his his emotional barriers.
The plot is enriched by witty dialogue that highlights the chemistry between Lydia and Bane as well as Lydia and her coworkers. Camden wields her cast of supporting characters with purpose, drawing on their personalities to compliment the stars and enrich the overall humanism of the story. She strikes a fine balance between entertainment and experience. Camden does not force the plot to further her theme; instead she allows conversations and enlightenments to happen organically, opting to show rather than tell. There is much to savour from the quiet moments of introspection to the heart pounding suspense and romance.
Against the Tide is an impeccable work of historical fiction that has relevant contemporary implications, especially in light of the current debates over the legalization of marijuana as a medicinal solution, similar to the mass use of the addictive opium in the book. Camden is able to have a modern conversation with readers through the lens of a historical plot. She addresses issues of addiction and recovery with sensitivity and empathy, thus allowing readers to have a visceral reaction to the characters’ struggles and the overarching theme of restoration.
**Disclosure: Review copy provided by Bethany House Publishers*