Set in the late 1800s, this novel focused on a period that is usually given a paragraph, at best, in a history textbook: the time of peace when the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence freely gathered information about the navies of other countries, and freely gave the same information about U.S. conditions. This was also the time when unsuspecting people were becoming addicted to opium through the wonders of such over the counter medicines as "Mrs. Winslow's Soothing Syrup", which was being marketed for infants and toddlers. It was a long battle for the reformers who saw the evil of opium.
It is in this world that Lydia lives. Lydia is a woman whose circumstances (and language skills!) could hardly be more different than mine, and yet who quickly entered my heart as a woman I both cared for and identified with in many ways. She was real, she was broken, she looked for answers and fulfillment in the wrong places, yet she possessed tenderness, ready wit, and a steely courage that won the admiration and eventually the heart of Alexander Banebridge.
And speaking of Banebridge, he was a genuinely satisfying hero. Not a one dimensional hero with a cape who comes in and saves the day, he is instead this amazing blend of a man who earns the nickname 'Adonis', and yet turns his back on what he could have had in the high society world and dalliances with the hundreds of women who would fall under his charms. This is a man who has found Christ, or to be more accurate, a man whom Christ has found, who yet battles every day with the demons of his past. A man with murky depths of secrets, and a usually suppressed longing for a normal life and someone to share it with. A man who puts the woman he loves into extreme danger, yet loves her passionately and truly through her worst days. He has those hard to define qualities that are in the makeup of every good man, in literature or in real life. (A few of his characteristics strongly reminded me of Sir Percy from The Scarlet Pimpernel)
This novel wasn't perfect. There were a few jarring sentences that could have been tightened up with some editing, and I wasn't completely satisfied with the way the spiritual journey of Lydia was handled. I also found it interesting how Bane had two reasons throughout the book for not marrying Lydia- first, his circumstances, and secondly, something to do with her. But that something to do with her was not that she wasn't a Christian. That didn't ring true for me. It would be one thing if he wrestled with that and pursued her anyway (plenty of Christians fail in this area, and it would have fit in the novel just fine) Instead, we have what almost appears a tacit approval of Bane's opinion that she was searching for God without knowing it, and she would eventually come to Him. That was the weakest point of the novel.
However, I still loved the book, and gave it five stars on Amazon. It pulled me in, the characters (even the secondary ones who are only given a few paragraphs) are well developed, and the story is still stirring in my head and heart today.
I highly recommend it for anyone who enjoys historical fiction -particularly some that is NOT from the oversaturated periods of the Civil War or America West-, inspirational fiction, and romance. It's well worth the read.
~Against the Tide was given to me for review by Bethany House Publishers. This is a fair and unbiased review; the opinions are my own~