#1 This is a long review, so pull up a chair and grab a bowl of popcorn. You’ll be here awhile. #2 When I read a review, I want substantial information. So I will not skimp on the details. Which may mean some spoilers, so watch out.
Synopsis: Esme Shaw was certain she had moved on, content to work in her mother’s chocolate shop for the rest of her days as a spinster...then Captain Henri Lennox, the man who broke her heart (or the man whose heart she broke; jury’s still out on just who did the breaking) returns to town, igniting a love long buried and dreams long forgotten.
When I first saw the cover of A Heart Adrift and read the blurb in one of Laura Frantz’s newsletters, my heart was lost, swept out to sea. I mean, a novel about chocolate and privateers and lost love—how could I not love it?
Not to mention that ‘tis penned by Laura Frantz, the queen of perfect prose and colonial romances. Everything that woman writes is positively gorgeous, each sentence like a piece of Esme’s chocolate, the flavor unique to the setting and characters!
So right off the bat, from before I even cracked the book open, I was in love. And I only grew more so as time went on. (And boy, did it go on! I savored this novel, lemme tell ya, takin’ a good two weeks, probably, to read it. I am ashamed of myself, but then no one ought to eat the whole bag of chocolate in one settin’. Wouldn’t do your stomach any good and on top of that, you’d be out of chocolate. You do catch my drift, don’t ya?)
What amazes me is how immersive Frantz’s writing is. One novel, she can take you to a fort frolic in the wilds of the Kentucke frontier and the next you’ll be keeping bees in Scotland or watching the shores of Virginia. The beauty of her writing remains, but the style varies ever so slightly story by story, which is not only astounding how she so effortlessly accomplishes that but also so unique and exquisite, making each book an experience all its own. Even though there were no colonels or Indians or frontiersmen in A Heart Adrift, Frantz didn’t seem the least bit out of place but instead wove your very soul into Indigo Island and York and all Virginia with her lovely descriptions.
Speaking of descriptions, Frantz has the most perfect balance of description, action, narrative, and dialogue—especially on the descriptive note. Her word choices are...augh...enviable is really the only word I can think of right now because I so sorely wish I had her repertoire of words! She’s able to select just the right ones to infuse the story with such a tangible essence, a fragrance almost, and to craft the clearest descriptions.
Suffice it to say that the woman could write a computer manual and I’d devour it.
And you’re probably ready for me to move on to something else, aren’t you? Very well, then.
Let’s talk characters.
First off, all of Frantz’s heroines are literally perfect. I’ve read seven of her novels and I have yet to so much as dislike a single one of her heroines. They all possess this beautiful strength—the gentle but unyielding spirit of a pioneer, the stubbornness of a mule paired with the faith of a mustard seed, and the values and heart of a true follower of Christ. Most heroines, even—no, especially in historical fiction these days have this manufactured strength that comes off as so forced and disrespectful and arrogant. But not Frantz’s. Hers have a true strength, one that comes from God and is honed by the hard lives they lived, and the gentle and meek spirit Peter described as beautiful. They’re realistic, relatable, authentic, and loveable.
Esme was the pinnacle of that. I loved her giving spirit, her desire to do good, as well as her independence and her respect for authority and humility in allowing herself to depend on others when she needed to. Not to mention she acted her age! For the first time in history, the spinster heroine was mature, intelligent, and responsible. Not crazy or almost there. Not immature and flighty. Not whiny and self-pitying. Nope. Esme had her junk together, y’all. Even in her discontent, she was satisfied. Even in her uncertainty, she was sure. Even in her adversity, she stood strong.
She was basically the model woman, something basically every heroine fails to be. I get the whole “let’s make the heroine relatable,” but a heroine who goes through similar struggles as the reader and actually trusts God and presses on would be way more inspiring and relatable than one who just...wallows.
As for her heroes?
Well, her heroes exude strength and masculinity, and not in a crass, hotheaded, or macho way...but they’re not overly sensitive or beta males either. They’re just as realistic, authentic, and genuine as the heroines, accurate portrayals, I should think, of the men of their eras. They’re quiet in a calm, levelheaded way and tender in a Christlike way, something I wish not just fictional heroes but real-life men would be!
But of all her heroes...of all the heroes in all the novels I’ve ever read...Henri Lennox was different.
Henri Lennox had peace.
That...was probably not what you were expecting, was it?
Well, ‘tis true. Henri was going through a lot of crap—reuniting with his ex-fiance, returning to a home he hadn’t been to in years, struggling with his future, getting caught up in the middle of a war, and a whole lot of other things I won’t mention due to spoilers (but it was definitely crappy). And yet, through it all, he was at peace. He himself was a peaceful character.
Y’all, I loved that.
I have literally never read a character so at peace. Like, there was no drama. (And by drama, I mean that excessive conflict and torrents of emotion that come from a place within a person so messy and volatile that no man should dare release its contents. But they do. Hence the drama.) That was a good thing. Sure, Henri had his struggles and his moments of emotion, but he was never overcome by them. He still retained his faith and his inner peace.
So. Beautiful. Too beautiful and honestly too complicated for me to explain.
I want all characters to be like that now. It was the most amazing and refreshing thing to see—er, read.
Oh. And he was a French-Scottish privateer with his own island who loved book and chocolate and had his own lighthouse. He was in his thirties and acted like it. And, to top it all off, he was this Wentworth-type romantic. That right there would’ve been more than enough to make me fall for the guy.
(The ma belle, though. *clutches heart*)
Speaking of...the peace, I mean. Not Wentworth. We’ll not be getting into Persuasion right now, although we can pause to agree that this definitely counts as a retelling. I mean, Anne even had a sister a lot like Eliza, and if the ocean was a person, it’d be Lady Russell. Just sayin’.
Plus, ‘tis quite obvious that the man does love as deeply—if not more so—and hold on as tightly—if not, again, more so—than the woman, if Henri is of any indication.
Anyway. Where was I? Ah, yes.
May I mention how much I love Frantz’s faith elements? The lovely themes and messages are so genuine, so intricately woven into the story, so real and lived-out that they’re not even elements. They’re simply one with the story, and you can’t separate them from it. Now that is how you write a Christian novel. You don’t force it or water it down; you let it flow freely as it should, as God wills it, and as befits the story. ‘Tis as simple as that!
Makes you wonder why more authors don’t write Christian fiction that way. Could be because they themselves don’t live that way.
But that’s a sermon for another day!
Before I close, a round of applause for all the supporting cast. Quinn, Eliza, Esme’s father, Ned, Cyprian, Lucy, Alice...all the secondary and minor characters were lovely! I did so appreciate the way Frantz weaved Eliza and her story into Esme’s toward the end, even giving her a bit of an arc and Y’ALL. THAT SCENE AT THE END. WHEN ELIZA DID THE THING THAT I CAN’T TELL Y’ALL ABOUT BECAUSE OF THEM DURN SPOILERS. Y’ALL. Just...y’all.
That was way too good.
Also. HUGE SPOILER RIGHT HERE. But can I just say that I totally shipped Eliza and Ned? If it weren’t for Ned already having a fiancee, they’d’ve been perfect for each other.
Aaaaand the spoiler is gone. *sighs*
Now, at long last...my only qualm. The entire story was perfection until toward the end, when, like, fifty things happened in rapid succession with very little foreshadowing or build-up. They were also resolved way too quickly. I’m not saying that was necessarily a bad thing, because those events didn’t need to be drawn out over half the book, but the pacing at the end wasn’t consistent with the pacing of the rest of the book. And I know that, for the first time in forever, that wasn’t because I speed-read (*cough* skimmed *cough*) the ending.
So, had it not been for that one minor thing that in no way detracts from the overall epicness of this story, A Heart Adrift would’ve been completely perfect.
As it were, ‘tis only 99% perfect. Alas. *sighs*
Long story short, the cover and blurb were right. I did love this.
Also, if anyone could toss me a life raft and pull me to shore, that’d be great.
Disclaimer: A complimentary copy of this book was provided by the publisher, publicist, or author, including NetGalley. All opinions expressed are my own.
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About the Author
Laura Frantz is passionate about all things historical, particularly the 18th-century, and writes her manuscripts in longhand first. Her stories often incorporate Scottish themes that reflect her family heritage. She is a direct descendant of George Hume, Wedderburn Castle, Berwickshire, Scotland, who was exiled to the American colonies for his role in the Jacobite Rebellion of 1715, settled in Virginia, and is credited with teaching George Washington surveying in the years 1748-1750. Frantz lives and writes in a log cabin in the heart of Kentucky.According to Publishers Weekly, "Frantz has done her historical homework." With her signature attention to historical detail and emotional depth, she is represented by Janet Kobobel Grant, Literary Agent & Founder, Books & Such Literary Agency of Santa Rosa, California.Readers can find Laura Frantz at www.laurafrantz.net.