Friday, July 11, 2014

'Full Steam Ahead' by Karen Witemeyer

Full Steam Ahead
Nicole Renard returns home to Galveston, Texas, to find her father deathly ill. Though she loves him, Nicole's father has always focused on what she's not. Not male. Not married. Not able to run Renard Shipping.

Vowing to find a suitable husband to give her father the heir he desires before it's too late, Nicole sets out with the Renard family's greatest treasure as her dowry: the highly coveted Lafitte Dagger. But her father's rivals come after the dagger, forcing a change in Nicole's plans.

After a boiler explosion aboard the Louisiana nearly took his life, Darius Thornton has been a man obsessed. He will do anything to stop even one more steamship disaster. Even if it means letting a female secretary into his secluded world.

Nicole is determined not to let her odd employer scare her off with his explosive experiments, yet when respect and mutual attraction grow between them, a new fear arises. How can she acquire an heir for her father when her heart belongs to another? And when her father's rivals discover her hiding place, will she have to choose between that love and her family's legacy?

Poor Darius is driven by nightmares of remorse and a sense of worthlessness, as he'd failed to rescue a perishing young girl from a sinking steamship. Since then, he's made it his mission to figure out why boilers explode, killing many innocent passengers. He needs a secretary but nobody will apply, as they fear his wild ways and fearsome experiments. I really like Darius. His self-deprecating humour is appealing and there are usually good reasons for his short fuse. But most of all, he is truly heroic in his lack of concern for personal acknowledgement, as long as the problems with exploding boilers are solved.

Nicole is equally driven, but her quest is to make up to her ailing father for having her instead of a son. She sets off to find him an 'heir' through marriage, and aims to safeguard his most precious material possession from those who seek it. It's a dagger formerly owned by Jean Lafitte, the famous pirate. Nicole goes above and beyond what any good daughter would normally consider her duty, but the plot hinges on her determination. Short of cash when her plans go awry, she answers the ad for a secretary, and discovers that her employer is a mad-professor type, or as she tells herself, 'an obsessed, eccentric, social misfit.'

Romantic sparks fly when these two get together. It's good to see a man respect a woman for her sharp intellect in an era when females often tried hard not to come across as bluestockings. I love the goal Nicole sets for herself before she even learns the full truth; to ease Darius' burdens and restore what he had lost. It's as good a purpose as any, and more so when you develop feelings for a guy who could possibly blow himself up.

The time frame is amazingly short, as they meet, fall in love and get betrothed within a couple of weeks, but such things do happen, and Nicole had intended to find herself a husband in that time frame anyway. I love how Darius' personal torture is brought to an end. It gives hope to anybody with deep regrets and 'if onlys'. The end concerning the Lafitte dagger is quite suitable too, although not necessarily what readers may expect.

I wonder if a sequel will be written. You would think any children of Nicole's and Darius' would have to have a good start in life, as both parents are intelligent, athletic, decisive, intense and physically attractive. They are the total package, just like this book.

Thanks to Net Galley and Bethany House for giving me a review copy.

4.5 stars

Full Steam Ahead available from Amazon

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