Sunday, February 3, 2013

New Review: Brenda Hiatt’s SHIP of DREAMS – Adventure Aboard a Sidewheel Steamer in 19th Century America—Simply Superb!

This was my first book by Hiatt and I was impressed with how well she portrayed an historic event through the eyes of a man and woman falling in love. I love historical romances that integrate real history and real historical figures (and do not just use historical settings as background “wallpaper”). This one does it very well.

SHIP of DREAMS is a romance, yes, but a romance wrapped around the true story of the sinking of the luxury sidewheel steamer SS Central America (aka the "Ship of Gold" for all the gold it carried) that went down in a hurricane off the Carolina coast in 1857.

Della Gilliland, seller of herbal tonics and the daughter of a gold miner, and Kenton Bradford of the wealthy “New York Bradfords” meet in San Francisco onboard a steamship as Della is fleeing a false accusation of murder (for one of her tonics). Seeking to hide among the first class passengers, Della introduces herself as Kent’s wife. Startled, he plays along with the ruse and finds himself falling in love with the beautiful Irish girl, no matter he is engaged to another woman, a woman he does not love.

Hiatt is a superb storyteller and I soon found myself absorbed—both in the romance and life aboard the steamship. Della is a strong, unpretentious, unselfish heroine and Kent is a noble man whose love for the adventurous Della changes him into a better man. The emotion between Della and Kent is believable, the chemistry real and the love scenes appropriate. The steamship travel from San Francisco to the East Coast via Panama and the hurricane that hit the ship are an integral part of the story and obviously reflect considerable research. All in all, I think Hiatt did an incredible job of bringing both the Victorian period in America and this incident in history to life. I highly recommend it.

The Central America sank in a hurricane in September 1857 (wreck pictured above), along with more than 550 passengers and crew and 30,000 pounds of gold, contributing to the Panic of 1857.

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