REVIEW: Across the Blue by Carrie Turansky
Set in Edwardian England and ideal for readers who enjoy Julie Klassen novels, this romance about an English aviation pioneer and the girl who falls in love with him is filled with adventure and faith.
Isabella Grayson, the eldest daughter of a wealthy, English newspaper magnate, longs to become a journalist, but her parents don’t approve. They want her to marry well and help them gain a higher standing in society. After she writes an anonymous letter to the editor that impresses her father, her parents reluctantly agree she can write a series of articles about aviation and the race to fly across the English Channel, but only if she promises to accept a marriage proposal within the year.
When James Drake, an aspiring aviator, crashes his flying machine at the Grayson’s new estate, Bella is intrigued. James is determined to be the first to fly across the Channel and win the prize Mr. Grayson’s newspaper is offering. He hopes it will help him secure a government contract to build airplanes and redeem a terrible family secret. James wants to win Bella’s heart, but his background and lack of social standing make it unlikely her parents would approve. If he fails to achieve his dream, how will he win the love and respect he is seeking? Will Bella’s faith and support help him find the strength and courage he needs when unexpected events turn their world upside down?
Dear Ms. Turansky,
Once again my attention is caught by a beautiful cover. I want Bella’s hat. I want it now. Early aviation and female professional ambitions promised an interesting story. I was also intrigued after reading the excerpt and learning that Bella’s family are New Money and trying to move up in Society. How was that going to affect things?
Isabella Grayson and her family are touring their newly purchased country estate – bought sight unseen by her self-made wealthy father – when a sound pulls them outside. James Drake picked the right estate to work near and crash land on. Instead of being angry at him that he had to bring his plane down on their pristine lawn, he discovers the new owner of the estate is not only an aviation enthusiast but also the owner of the newspaper that has offered a prize to the first person to cross the English Channel by plane. Learning that Drake needs the plane’s engine overhauled, Grayson offers the services of one of his pressmen and to pay the cost – something I found dubiously ethical given his newspaper is also sponsoring the prize.
Bella is thrilled that such newsworthy efforts are taking place near her home. She’s secretly longed to write for her father’s newspaper and this could be her chance. Her mother might be anxious that Bella has had two London Seasons without an offer of marriage – something both her parents see as another stepping stone up in their social ambitions – but so far Bella hasn’t found a man who is more interested in her rather than her father’s money.
The physical description of James’s mentor reminds me of Doc Brown from “Back to the Future” but Thaddeus Steed has been more to James than just a fellow aviation enthusiast. Steed helped raise orphaned James though he refuses to tell James anything about James’ murky parentage beyond the fact that he’s illegitimate and his mother died when he was only four months old. In Bella, James sees someone as interested in this new reality of powered flight as well as an intelligent and thoughtful woman. But with his past, he knows his chances of being accepted by her parents as a suitor for Bella are slim.
As Bella gets to know James and hears of the other competitors for the prize to cross the channel, she realizes it’s a topic she can use for a series of articles. To gain her parents’ approval, she is forced to agree to some terms but seeing it as her best chance, she does. As work continues by the men seeking the prize and notoriety, Bella seeks to help James unravel his past. But is the cost for both things the goals too much?
The book kept my attention for the first two thirds of the story. There is a lot of detail about early planes and the problems designers faced in keeping them in the air. Sometimes the planes just needed tweaks and at other points it was back to the drawing board. There are some brief references to how other countries were already thinking of what could be done with planes and the unrest in Europe. Mr. Grayson is just as interested as Bella in the challenge though also on his mind is need for government support and frustration that Britain isn’t doing more. There are aviation advances and setbacks while Bella begins to show her journalistic skills.
But after a while, things seemed to slow down then began to circle around a lot. While I’m sure to an enthusiast the discussion of straightening this wire and redoing the engine for the third time might be interesting, I can only read about it so many times before my eyes began to drift down the page seeking some different action. I also found the search for James’s past to be a mixed bag. He’s always longed to know who he is yet when some clues are discovered, he balks at following up on the most obvious one. It also seem that just when it was needed, some unknown person would just happen to enter the picture with more first hand information. Frankly this last section of the book dragged. Oh and there’s a whopper of an repeated error about the title of a British peer. An Earl would not be Sir Richard.
I wanted to like this book more than I did. Parts were good and held my interest but there just wasn’t enough story for the length. I also can’t help but wonder at historical details given the easy mistake made about the peerage. Ah well, I’ll just gaze at the cover and covet that hat some more. C