Jake Chastaine is the man that China spurned years earlier--he was a dangerous, womanizing lay-about. He's back now to show everyone that he isn't the failure they had predicted, including her . . .
Comment: Another book by the author I had in the pile...
When this book begins, we meet China Sullivan, a young woman who believes her brother Quinn is leaving home to an adventurous life at sea because he was influenced by his friend Jake. China thinks this is a bad idea, especially since Quinn is the oldest brother who will need to deal with things since their father is at sea too. Still, Quinn and Jake leave and years later, when Jake returns, being captain of his own ship, everything is different. China is now taking boarders at her family house, her older brother had never returned, her younger brother isn't home and the father dead. He feels he might help by paying to stay in the house he was always familiar with, but with all that is happening, can they let go of past prejudices and find common ground now?
This is, I'd say, a sort of old school type of novel. The characters often behave as if their intentions and actions should be obvious for others when, often, it was not, but then a love declaration and an explanation at the end of the story solves everything... this to say, there isn't much development beyond the basics and the strength of the story is based on the plot and character's decisions but this isn't always as smoothly done as one might want.
China is a good enough heroine, trying to manage when things are complicated and she seems to be someone interested in doing the right thing, helping the family she has left. Still, she went through some heartbreak, especially caused by her brother's leaving. She, we learn, also liked Jake in a non obvious way, meaning she wasn't even aware that all the antagonism she felt could mean more than that. I liked her enough, and her desire to help sailors who suffered the actions of those who forced boys and men into the sea, even if that meant taking against their will.
In fact, a big part of the story is focused precisely on this and on how devastating it could have been for those who were left wondering about their fate or if knowing, but still unable to do anything about it. Historically it is known this situation caused many family problems, family members were lost...I both liked the author addressed this and some secondary situations related to it, but it was also a little repetitive and it took some enjoyment out of the read of the novel.
Jake is the type of hero who returns with more means than when he left. He is China's helper for a while while battling his feelings for her. To the reader this was always kind of obvious but the fun part of a romance is to see how the characters develop from one dynamic to another and, for me, this wasn't as romantic or well done as it could, simply because the characters didn't share much of one another unless in stressful scenarios or when the plot made it easier. Perhaps I'm being unfair, but I wasn't totally convinced about their feelings. It was written as such but to see it...
There were some things happening at the same time, some secondary characters gaining protagonism when the plot demanded it of them or to better explain why Jake and china went from one position/opinion to another but as a whole, I wasn't always very captivated by what was going on. I expected more emotions, more tenderness or even quiet moments where we could see how evolving things would benefit the protagonists but it wasn't always something well achieved.