[book review] Between the Sky and the Sea by Lisa Williams Kline

Synopsis: Lavinia Onslow, who delights in the freedom of managing her father’s millinery shop in the heart of Savannah, Georgia, has decided she may defy convention and not marry after all. Yet, in the summer of 1838, on board the elegant steamship Pulaski, bound from Savannah to Baltimore, she exchanges glances with an intriguing young man. What can ensue from a mere glance? Quite a lot, as legend has it. That very night, the boiler of the Pulaski explodes and the ship sinks, drowning most of its wealthy passengers. As Lavinia struggles in the water in her heavy dress, calling out for her father and thinking she will surely perish, someone dives in to rescue her, pulling her up next to him on a makeshift raft made of two deck settees. When she composes herself, she recognizes the intriguing man. There they float, alone but together, surrounded by ocean, thirty miles off the coast of North Carolina, desperate for a life-saving miracle.

Always on the hunt for a good story, I stumbled upon this particular one just this week. The synopsis intrigued me, as I’ve been very interested in ship wreck stories over on YouTube as of late. There’s something about a survival story against a powerful element that intrigues me. And this is coming from one who has a distinct fear of open water! I’ve never been on a cruise, though a good portion of my family has, so I don’t know what having to think of such things is like. Perhaps I’ll learn from today’s read? Let’s take a look at BETWEEN THE SKY AND THE SEA by Lisa Williams Kline – out tomorrow, February 1st!

The Characters

The story follows the heroine, Lavinia, and the hero, Daniel. Told only from Lavinia’s perspective, she isn’t annoyingly portrayed as young twenty-somethings often are in historical novels. These two were the most thought out, fleshed out characters I’ve read in a long while.

Lavinia is a more grounded woman who knows what she wants, and isn’t the type to spend all her time looking for a husband. This serves this character well in a story of survival. Lavinia and Daniel built a codependent relationship over a tragic event, and even though there were all these little signs of things not quite right, she still sticks with him. I almost wish there had been more to the “her hero may not be what we think” subplot.

The Writing

Smooth opening. Didn’t take too much time to build up to the disaster, and the disaster also wasn’t the main focus of the story. It’s with this book I realized how much I prefer stories told in present tense. There were no choppy, short sentences, and no “was been,” “has been” or “had beens.” The author clearly did her research on what travel was like before 1840, and what the shipping industries were like. Even including comments from characters about a ship’s need for speed.

Normally I prefer my stories with a bit more action, but the pacing really slowed down midway through the book. So much so that I nearly stopped reading. Even though the pacing slowed, I also feel like the story ended too quickly, especially since some things were mentioned by other secondary characters much later in the book. Those little seeds of doubt were not visited again.

The Settings

I loved the idea of a milliner’s shop. Any time one is in a book it reminds me of Studio Ghibli’s Howl’s Moving Castle. Minus the creepy henchmen. And, you know, a magically enchanted castle. While I am not as familiar with Southern settings as I am with Northern ones, the author does know how to paint a setting. She takes us from Savannah, Georgia to the open ocean to sea faring towns and then back to New Orleans. I did appreciate that this story did not lend itself to a Mardi Gras setting, but rather focused on people and their actions.

Final Thoughts

While BETWEEN THE SKY AND THE SEA my not be my usual cup of tea, I think Ms. Kline should be very proud of her first novel for adults. This is a novel of missed opportunities, some regret and misconceptions. It could even be considered a sweet romance, in its own way. While her characters were very well thought out, and discussions of social injustices of the South of that time, I do think the pacing could’ve been tightened just a little bit more. For these reasons, I give this survival story 4 out of five stars.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I received an early copy of BETWEEN THE SKY AND THE SEA from NetGalley and Dragonblade Publishing. This did not affect my opinions.

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Budding #historian. Writer of #adventures and #sciencefantasy. Lover of mushrooms and libraries. Fan of #chocolate, #books and Pennsylvania history.

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