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Oct 1, 2012

Queen of The Waves by Janice Thompson

A rags to riches romance set on the Titanic
Queen of The Waves by Janice Thompson
Summerside Press, October 1, 2012
Paperback 336 pages
Review copy provided for free from LitFuse in exchange for this review
Burton Book Review Rating: 3 stars

When pampered Jacqueline Abington secretly elopes with the family gardener, she asks another woman to take her place on the much anticipated maiden voyage of the Titanic. Tessa Bowen hails from a poor corner of London but has been granted the opportunity of a lifetime—a ticket to sail to America aboard a famed vessel. But there’s a catch: she must assume Jacqueline’s identity. For the first time in her life, Tessa stays in luxurious quarters, dresses in elegant gowns, and dines with prestigious people. Then a wealthy American man takes an interest in her, and Tessa struggles to keep up the ruse as she begins falling for him. When tragedy strikes, the game is up, and two women’s lives are forever changed.

From the synopsis I knew it would take a lot of faith in the storyline for me to enjoy this one. I absolutely love Titanic novels even though it was such a tragedy, there is something about it that I love to continue to explore in novels. The major issue with this plot point is that of a pig farmer's daughter impersonating a wealthy young lady in a very wealthy first class on the Titanic, with only two weeks 'training'. As a pig farmer's daughter, Tessa apparently has only tended to pigs and barely left the farm in her life so the believability factor is a major stretch. Impersonating the well-bred Jacquie, it is amazing that Tessa is able to form intelligent words and mingle with the best of the best who are traveling on the epic Titanic.

Tessa is impersonating Jacquie so that Jacquie can stay behind to marry Peter, Tessa's brother. Peter is the gardener at Jacquie's estate, and even though Jacquie should be engaged to a very eligible and sweet young man, she follows her heart and sends Tessa on the Titanic so that Jacquie can stay behind with Peter. Of course, the fact that a beautiful high society London girl falls in love with a lowly gardener is yet another unlikely thing to happen in real life. She hides her intentions from her parents, so while the story follows Tessa's journey to riches on the Titanic, we also follow Jacquie's possible path to eventual rags.

Ignoring the incredulity of the plot in itself, the events on the ship and the people described were all well done. There were several conversations with crew members and the staff of the Titanic offering details of the Titanic adding to the atmosphere which tingled with excitement. The normal mentions of the famous people aboard such as the Astor's and the Straus' were here as well, along with an eccentric fashion designer Edith Russell.

Jacquie sits at a hotel waiting for Peter to visit her, while on the Titanic Tessa-now-Jacquie catches the eye of Nathan Patterson, the same scripture quoting man who had admired the real Jacquie once before. He notices immediately their eyes are different shades, and another man Tessa-now-Jacquie meets remarks on this as well, but she somehow is able to reassure the men. Nathan's character offers a side story as well, with the odd relationship of his mother and another gentleman which offers a bit of mystery.

The total amount of believability required of a reader such as myself renders this story a bit contrived. There were no faults with the author's writing or the tone, and I really wanted to like this one, but I couldn't bring myself to feel invested in the characters, probably because of the improbability of the basis of the story. The plot twists of who will end up with whom were what kept me reading, and the emotionally charged ending with the sinking ship was my favorite part of the book. The awakening of faith in a merciful God for Tessa was another theme, so there is a strong Christian element with both Tessa's and Nathan's character and I only mention it for those who were strictly looking for a Titanic themed novel. Those who do not like the preachy tones of Christian novels will certainly get a dose of preachiness from another traveler who acts as a bit of a confessional for Tessa and Nathan.

I am intrigued by the American Tapestry series that Summerside Press has created: novels that focus on epic moments of our history such as the Oregon Trail, and an upcoming novel on the Alamo. Queen of The Waves has been well received in the historical romance market, and you can follow along the blog tour to gauge differing opinions. If you can easily get past the improbability of the rags to riches storyline, this could be an exciting romance set amongst a tantalizing setting of the great ship Titanic.