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Heidi Hart

By day, I'm a domestic violence prosecutor. By night, I read romance to restore my faith in love, relationships, and humanity in general. 

My Introduction to Inspie Romance

Against the Tide - Elizabeth Camden

I've never read inspirational romance, but I'm trying to expand my horizons and get out of the English Regency rut, and I was intrigued by the prospect of a book set in Victorian Boston. The heroine is a Greek orphan who works as a translator for the Navy, on the cover she is looking out at a ship in the harbor, and the book is called Against the Tide: I thought there would be sailboats, and I am a sucker for Tall Ships. Unfortunately, this book is not about boats: it's about opium and faith.


Lydia's parents and baby brother were lost at sea when she was at school one day, leaving her to be raised in an orphanage where the staff kept the kids in line by dosing them with Mrs. Winslow's Soothing Syrup. Now grown, Lydia still uses Mrs. Winslow's to sleep and treat headaches: little does she know, the medicine is full of opium, and she's been an addict since childhood.


Bane was kidnapped as a child and raised by a shadowy bibliophile named The Professor, who funds his mania for rare books by smuggling opium, and who kidnaps boys like Bane from harbor masters and customs officials to secure the success of his smuggling operation. Back in the day, young Bane was the Professor's protege and an active participant in the opium trade. Then he found Jesus, and now he's made it his mission to foil the Professor at every turn.


The dialogue in this novel seemed distractingly anachronistic, and there were some details specific to my native Vermont (where the Professor lives) that were flat out WRONG: there's no need to "build a bridge" from Vermont to Canada (they share a border without any body of water between them), and maple sap generally doesn't run at night (it's too cold).


These flaws really got under my skin, and I also felt the plot was predictable, but I kept reading to the end because of the novelty factor. I'd never read a historical romance set in New England. I'd never read an inspie (and the proselytizing, while surely not everyone's cup of tea and not especially subtle, was not so heavy handed that it detracted from the story, and besides, I gave some leeway because proselytizing is partly the point of this sub genre). More importantly, I'd never read a book where the heroine is struggling to overcome a narcotic addiction, and I think that part of the story was really well done and very topical to anyone who has ever struggled with addiction or tried to love or live with an addict. Given the prevalence of addiction in our society, I bet there are a lot of people who might find comfort in this story, despite its flaws.