Nothing slows Lillian Avery down–not her personal challenges and certainly not America’s entry into World War II. She finally has a chance to prove herself as a pharmacist in Boston. The demands of her new job energize her. But society boy Ensign Archer Vandenberg’s attentions only annoy–even if he is her brother’s best friend.
During the darkest days of the war, Arch’s destroyer hunts German U-boats in vain as the submarines sink dozens of merchant ships along the East Coast. Still shaken by battles at sea, Arch notices his men also struggle with their nerves–and with drowsiness. Could there be a link to the large prescriptions Lillian has been filling?
As the danger rises on both land and sea, the two must work together to answer that question. But can Arch ever earn Lillian’s trust and affection?
Arch crossed his ankles, the blades of his skates flashing in the sun, and he watched the skaters pass.
The silence wasn’t uncomfortable, but she didn’t want him to feel obligated to keep her company. Nor did she like the idea that he might want to keep her company.
“I’ve been meaning to ask you about . . .” Arch stopped, and a smile spread. “Never mind. I have a better idea.”
“What? What were you going to ask me?”
“Another time.” His face grew serious. “But I do have something to ask. Why can’t you skate?”
Lillian gripped her hands together. “What do you think?”
“I was thinking. Your foot – pardon me, please – but your foot bends when you walk, as if it were hinged.”
“It is.” Her shoulder muscles tightened. No one asked about her prosthesis except small children – who were rebuked by their mothers.
Arch stared at her prosthetic foot, not with morbid curiosity, but like a boy inspecting a gadget. “How does it . . .” He glanced up to her, and his face reddened. “I beg your pardon. I was ogling your leg. How rude. Please forgive me.”
The incongruity, his expression, the humor of it all swelled into a burst of laughter.
“What’s so funny?”
Lillian couldn’t talk. She waved a hand in front of her face. “No one has ever – ever ogled that leg.”
Arch grinned. “Well, I find it interesting. I was trying to figure out how the foot returns to position after each step, and then it occurred to me how it must look to a passerby. ‘Why, that officer is ogling that lady’s legs. Shame on him.’ ”
When her laughter receded, she stretched out her artificial leg. “The ankle is hinged. A spring inside returns the foot to position after each step.”
“A spring. I should have known. So why doesn’t it work with skates?”
“It . . . it just doesn’t”
“I don’t see why it wouldn’t. No spins or jumps, of course, but gliding should be fine.”
Lillian studied a skater’s feet. “I don’t know. I never thought about it.”
“Would you like to try?”
Arch tucked his hands in the pockets of his navy blue overcoat. “I though you were the adventurous sort.”
“I – I was.” That’s why she had only one leg.
“What’s the worse that could happen? You could fall. I’ve already fallen twice.”
Could she do it? She hated falling in public, but here everyone took spills.
He nudged her with his elbow. “I’ll skate backward in front of you, hold your hands.”
She glared at him.
He laughed and inspected the trees behind them. “All right then. I’ll find a stick. You hold one end, and I’ll hold the other. You won’t have to touch me and catch my diseases.”
“Oh brother. That’s not necessary. We’re wearing gloves.” She folded her legs beneath her and stood up on the pier. “Come on. I need to rent skates.”
One of the things I enjoy about Sarah’s novels is the authenticity of her settings. Whether it be in the air (as in her first two series), on water (in this series), or even in the pharmacy (as in this novel, and On Distant Shores) she gives enough details to bring that setting to life without overwhelming the reader. And there is just something about the WWII era that I love. Even so, I was a little disappointed with this latest offering in the Waves of Freedom series, largely because of the direction things took in the second half of the novel.
Readers of the first novel in this series, Through Waters Deep, will already be a little familiar with Archer Vandenberg, the hero of this novel. He’s the heir to the Vandenberg wealth and his father’s insurance company, but he wants to be career Navy; to live a simple life free from the trappings of wealth. And he’s tired of society girls who are only interested in him for his money.
Enter Lillian Avery, the sister of Arch’s best friend and fellow naval officer, Jim Avery. She’s a pharmacist, and has a prosthetic leg as a result of a childhood accident. She has just been given a position with a Boston pharmacist – albeit very reluctantly – and she’s keen to prove herself. She’s less keen on being the object of Archer Vandenberg’s flirtations.
The first part of the novel progressed nicely as Lillian began to warm to Archer in spite of herself, although I sometimes felt we were told more of the character’s thoughts and motivations than was necessary. The suspense plot was also set in motion, on Archer’s side with the awareness of his own and his crew members’ combat fatigue symptoms (now called PTSD), and on Lillian’s side with the large prescriptions for Phenobarbital coming through the pharmacy.
Then, a little over halfway through the story, a really clichéd plot device appeared that made me bury my head in my arms. When I summoned up the courage to go on, it got worse – because Archer acted on it in the dumbest way possible (something which I thought was out of character for him). Lillian then reacted in the dumbest way possible, and then when they both realized how dumb their reactions had been, they wallowed in self-recriminations and their belief that it was too late to fix it (while dealing with their respective life-threatening situations). It even seemed as though Arch and Lillian’s histories had been tailored specifically to set up this conflict, which meant the whole thing came across as being contrived as well as frustrating.
Worst of all, I wasn’t convinced that Lillian had really grown in the end. Without spoiling the ending, all I can say is that Lillian claimed that she was now making a conscious decision not to shut people out, yet she was still doing exactly the opposite. I felt she got her happy-ever-after despite this, not because she had changed.
I loved the setting and the suspense plot was interesting, but I felt we lost the real Archer in the second half (until right at the end), and couldn’t get past my frustration with the characters and the corny outworking of the romantic drama to give this the four stars it would otherwise have received.
I received a complimentary copy of this novel from Revell in exchange for my honest review.
Release date: 3 May 2016
Author’s website: http://www.sarahsundin.com/