I have a confession to make.
Elizabeth Camden is one of my favorite authors. When I read The Lady of Bolton Hill, I decided that was the kind of author I wanted to be – an author that immerses her reader in the time period, fills the story with realistic romantic drama, makes the reader believe that all hope is lost, and then – BAM! – out of nowhere comes this shocking twist that the reader never sees coming.
I dreamed of the day that I could produce something as good as The Lady of Bolton Hill.
It is my pleasure to review Elizabeth Camden’s 2017 release, To the Farthest Shores, not just because she’s one of my favorites, but because this book is truly unique and different from her other novels.
Before my keyboard runs away with me, let’s take a closer look.
If you haven’t read a novel by Elizabeth Camden, you probably haven’t seen the exquisite covers. Most of her books have a photo her heroine, close enough that you can see their costume, get an idea of the mood of the book, and on some you can see their facial expressions.
This cover does not follow that pattern.
I almost didn’t read this one. I thought initially that it was a compilation book written by a host of famous authors in the genre. I happened to read the back of the book and got hooked (like most books by Elizabeth Camden).
Before I get lost in the correlations between the plot and the cover image, (which will inevitably lead me to cover the plot), let me say that I had not heard any buzz about this book when it came out. Going into this new novel journey, I had no pre-conceived ideas other than, “It’s written by Elizabeth Camden, so it must be good.”
Plot (Spoilers! Batten Down the Hatches!)
This is by far the most unique of Elizabeth Camden’s books in that it covers an uncommon, (and quite frankly often forgotten) period in American history. The time period – just after the Spanish-American War and just before World War I – reads like trip through early 20th Century America, complete with an intricate look at racial prejudice against Asian-Americans.
The plot centers around our heroine, Jenny Bennett, (who I’ll talk about more further down), and her work as military nurse. When Jenny meets Ryan Gallagher, the two fall in love and make plans only for Ryan to take an assignment in Japan, leaving Jenny and their dreams behind. Sending her nothing more than a hurried note to break off their engagement, Jenny is broken to the core even seven years later.
Honestly, this is one of the few books I’ve read that found difficult to read but I kept on reading it.
Like most novels by Elizabeth Camden, there’s hope that the two character will finally declare their love and live happily ever after – not this time. If you ever experienced a nasty break up, this book will drudge up all those feelings you never knew you had. You’ll find yourself, (like me), yelling at the pages, “Don’t do it, Jenny!” Yet somehow, I still rooted for Jenny and Ryan to end up together. I feel like I can’t compare the love story in this one to every other Elizabeth Camden novel I’ve read because their simply not the same.
To the Farthest Shore is a slightly darker love story, and I say that because Ryan not only left Jenny, he also had an affair, married another woman, and became a father. All of these things are incredibly difficult to forgive, and we watch as Jenny slowly lets him back into her life. It’s both painful and triumphant to experience.
As cliched as it sounds, the heroine makes the story. Jenny is the very bones of this story, but she’s human. At times, as I’ve said, it was hard for me to read this without yelling at the book. She’s strong, she’s determined, and as much as she would like to forget it, she’s in love with Ryan Gallagher. Over all, Jenny is inspiring, so much so, I found myself asking if I were in the same situation, would I have the courage, security, and emotional strength to forgive and give Ryan a second chance.
I’m still not sure I could answer ‘yes’ to all of those questions.
In fact, I know I couldn’t say ‘yes’ to all of those questions.
She overcomes great obstacles and seeks forgiveness, but she’s looking for it in the wrong place. Thinking that she can send money off to the family of a young man she helped wrong as a child, Jenny thinks that her note and money will wipe the slate clean – so to speak. Without giving away the beautiful redemptive theme of the book, I will leave you with this: as Christians we know that forgiveness cannot be bought.
Staying Power – Should We Judge This Book By Its Cover?
Honestly, I think that this is a different type of book by Elizabeth Camden. It’s darker, its hard to read at times, but it’s not so off-the-beaten-path that you can’t relate to the characters and enjoy the story. So yes, you should judge this book by its cover – meaning, since it doesn’t follow the typical pattern of Elizabeth Camden’s covers, it’s foreshadowing a book that doesn’t follow the typical pattern that we see from Elizabeth Camden.
The Bottom Line
I have to be honest – To the Farthest Shore is another exquisite work from Elizabeth Camden. Although there are a few of her books that I enjoy more than this one, it still has unique characters, a history lesson built into it, and is ultimately well written.
For more information, or to purchase the book, click here.