I received this book from The Next Best Book Club in exchange for an honest review.
“‘We can’t spend our lives wishing…If we are small, then so are our wishes,'” (Angstman 108).
Out Front the Following Sea follows sixteen-year-old Ruth Miner, a headstrong young woman who reads and speaks of things a woman in 1698 shouldn’t know about. Orphaned at a young age when her parents died in a fire, Ruth was blamed for the incident and has been marked a witch by her town who treat her with much hostility. When things take a turn for the worst, Ruth flees her town and boards the Primrose where her childhood friend Owen Townsend is first mate and knows of her innocence. But with his proud French ancestry Owen may not be the best ally for Ruth and finds a new town for her to stay safely in until he returns for her. But Ruth’s life is full of adversity, from Quakers and highwaymen, Pequot Indians and soldiers Ruth must find a way to keep herself safe and away from the gallows. I was pulled in to this book knowing that Ruth was accused of being a witch, I’m a sucker for a good witch story so imagine my surprise when I continued reading and found that Ruth’s witchcraft is a surprisingly small part of the story. It didn’t disappoint me, Angstman has such an excellent writing style and created a compelling character with Ruth that I was much more interested in the challenges she faced and how she was going to get out of them than the witch storyline.
The research Angstman puts into Out Front the Following Sea is astounding, this is a novel that’s heavy on the history instead of the romance which I greatly appreciated. Life for women in the late-1600’s wasn’t easy even when women behaved as they were expected too, for a character like Ruth who breaks so many conventions of what a woman should be like her life becomes even harder and Angstman doesn’t shy away from that. From having difficulty bartering for food, to freezing cold houses and caring for elderly relatives, trying to keep oneself not only fed but healthy so sickness doesn’t kill you if starvation doesn’t, Angstman shows reader’s a bleak and realistic portrayal of life at that time.
And yes, there is romance. One of my biggest issues with historical fiction novels is that so many of them tend to use romance as a focus instead of the history, whether this is to lighten the often difficult and depressing subject matter or because romance sells I don’t know, but I actually didn’t mind the romance between Ruth and Owen in this one. For one thing it isn’t the focus of the book, yes the characters love for one another is evident and while there is a bit of pining for one another it doesn’t overshadow the characters motivations. While Ruth waits for Owen to return she focuses on building a life for herself and how she can survive, not staring out at the sea until he returns to her. It was wonderful to read a protagonist that takes action and thinks ahead.
My one criticism is that Out Front the Following Sea has a huge cast of characters and a lot of obstacles for Ruth, more than may be realistic. I still enjoyed reading it but I had trouble figuring out what was happening at some points, there is a lot of action which is enjoyable but so many plot points make it hard to come up with a good summary for this book that captures everything that happens.
Overall this is a wonderful book and a must for any history lover, Angstman’s care and level of research for this story is evident in every word and I’m excited about what other stories she has to tell.
Publication: January 11th 2022
Publisher: Regal House Publishing
Pages: 322 pages (Paperback, ARC)
Source: The Next Best Book Club (Thanks Lori!)
Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Romance
My Rating: ⛤⛤⛤⛤
Out Front the Following Sea is a historical epic of one woman’s survival in a time when the wilderness is still wild, heresy is publicly punishable, and being independent is worse than scorned — it is a death sentence. At the onset of King William’s War between French and English settlers in 1689 New England, Ruth Miner is accused of witchcraft for the murder of her parents and must flee the brutality of her town. She stows away on the ship of the only other person who knows her innocence: an audacious sailor — Owen — bound to her by years of attraction, friendship, and shared secrets. But when Owen’s French ancestry finds him at odds with a violent English commander, the turmoil becomes life-or-death for the sailor, the headstrong Ruth, and the cast of Quakers, Pequot Indians, soldiers, highwaymen, and townsfolk dragged into the fray. Now Ruth must choose between sending Owen to the gallows or keeping her own neck from the noose.