Monday, March 12, 2018

The Sea Before Us by Sarah Sundlin, 2018

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In 1944, American naval officer Lt. Wyatt Paxton arrives in London to prepare for the Allied invasion of France. He works closely with Dorothy Fairfax, a "Wren" in the Women's Royal Naval Service. Dorothy pieces together reconnaissance photographs with thousands of holiday snapshots of France--including those of her own family's summer home--in order to create accurate maps of Normandy. Maps that Wyatt will turn into naval bombardment plans.

As the two spend concentrated time together in the pressure cooker of war, their deepening friendship threatens to turn to love. Dorothy must resist its pull. Her bereaved father depends on her, and her heart already belongs to another man. Wyatt too has much to lose. The closer he gets to Dorothy, the more he fears his efforts to win the war will destroy everything she has ever loved.

The tense days leading up to the monumental D-Day landing blaze to life under Sarah Sundin's practiced pen with this powerful new series.

(375 pages)

I've found myself reading more Christian romance novels over the past year or so, and I'm not entirely sure why. It's a good light genre, very fluffy and escapist, though I have to say that the quality has been extremely varied (and leaned quite a bit on the side of cringe). I'm finding that the historical fiction ones are often better, though, and I'm always intrigued by the prospect of another angle on WWII, so I decided to review The Sea Before Us when I got the chance.

And honestly, I enjoyed it. At nearly 400 pages, it was long enough to carry multiple plot lines and let the reader spend quite some time with the characters. Granted, the plotlines were incredibly melodromatic and contrived, but they were still interesting and grabbing. Sometimes you just want a ridiculously dramatic read, you know?

There were only a few times when the book got to be too much for mine: the beginning, which shows Wyatt's dramatically horrible back story; the first time Wyatt visited Dorothy's house, when he spilled said entire shameful backstory to two strangers without any reservations; and Dorothy's cringe-worthy pursuit of her childhood crush. I can't go much more into them for fear of spoilers, but yeah.

I think my main gripe with the book was how little it actually felt like it was set in Britain. Besides the occasional touristy thing or stereotypical vocabulary (and obviously the WWII details–which were very interesting in their own right!), it honestly just felt like the characters and setting were someplace in America, which makes sense since Sundin is from California. Perhaps some of the tonal trouble stems legitimately from the fact that Wyatt is from Texas, but I have spent a couple weeks in both London and Edinburgh, the two main cities featured in the book, and am currently attending college in Scotland, and I really don't feel like the atmosphere feels very authentic.

This tonal issue bothered me just a little at the time, and more now that I'm looking back at the book as a whole, but I honestly did enjoy The Sea Before Us. I'm not sure I'll read all the books in the series, each of which will feature one of Wyatt's brothers, because I have to be in just the right mood to enjoy this level of melodrama. If I do, though, I'll be sure to let you know what I think of them.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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