Author: Leah Angstman
Age Category: Adult
Publisher: Regal House Publishing
Publish Date: January 11, 2022
Print Length: 334
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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 being 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.
I received a free, digital, advanced reading copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. My review is my own and reflects my honest opinion about this book.
I honestly don’t remember why I requested this book on NetGalley since I rarely read historical fiction these days. However, I’m glad I listened to that little voice because I ended up loving this book. I found myself incredibly invested in the two main characters when life events started getting dicey. Simply, this is a story about survival. It follows how a 17th century woman, Ruth Miner, endures when her community lets fear and superstition supersede any goodwill they may harbor deep down in their hearts.
This is primarily a plot-driven book. The reader follows Ruth on her journey to find a new home where she is unknown and can start anew. It begins slowly with only Ruth’s surroundings to give context as to where, generally, the story begins. I had to do a little bit of internet sleuthing to hone in on where her colony might be. But the plot thickens once Ruth leaves her home and moreso once she embarks on a fresh start in a new town.
Though the plot takes the front seat, the author characterizes Ruth through her actions. I always love a good show rather than tell. She is a tenacious woman in that she will do what it takes to see her through to the next day, particularly if no other options are available to her. She is inquisitive and science oriented, which is enough to send any woman to the gallows in 17th century New England. Her curiosity equips her with skills that prove valuable as life takes an unexpected turn. I do wish Ruth exhibited a little more emotion, but conversely she doesn’t really have the privilege of allowing herself to wallow.
I thought the author did a tremendous job describing fight and battle scenes. I usually have a difficult time picturing them in my head. But something about how Angstman wrote them made it easy to follow the action; I could picture the fight sequences how I might see them in a movie. These scenes were incredibly tense and Angstman wasn’t afraid to test her reader with tough character and plot happenings. There are scenes with descriptions of wounds and blood, so take heed. In these scenes the reader witnesses how pride in oneself and the motherland can lead a person to do despicable things to others. Moreover, the judgment that follows showcases group think and silent complicity.
The author also includes the Pequots, who are a Native American people of Connecticut, in the plot. Rather than writing them as a background presence, Angstman takes the time to indicate that they are present and the land was used by them before the settlers took it. Ruth befriends Askook, from whom she learns to speak his language. Though there’s no love lost between the Pequots and any group of settlers, they choose a side that best benefits them as tensions between the French and English increase.
There is much more I want to say, but I’ll end here to recommend this book to any historical fiction reader. Or, to be more precise, those who gravitate towards 17th century New England settings. From midpoint onward I was riveted and wondering if the author would deliver a happily ever after, or let the cruelty of humans deliver the final blow. You’ll just have to read OUT FRONT THE FOLLOWING SEA to find out.
Content warnings: blood, death, domestic abuse, torture/mention of torture, sex, fight scenes
Reading format: Kindle e-book