• The Bossy Bookworm

Review of Out Front the Following Sea by Leah Angstman

Clever young Ruth survives the oppression and turmoil in colonial New England by using her wits. With rich detail about daily life and brutal ocean voyages.

In Out Front the Following Sea, new historical fiction by Leah Angstman, it's 1689 and King William's War is in full force between the French and English settlers in Ruth Miner's New England town.

Ruth is an independent thinker, which is a dangerous thing in this time and place. When Ruth is accused of witchcraft and of killing her parents, she flees the rigid rules of the stifling town she's always known. She stows away on a ship where her longtime, trusted friend Owen has secured a job.

But tensions on board the ship soon come to a head, and Ruth has to weigh her loyalty to Owen and her own safety--while he must do the same.

Angstman offers rich, sometimes excruciating detail of the difficulties of sea life, of being a largely powerless female during the era, and of battle and injury. I found all of this extensive description fascinating, even as it slowed the pacing of the story and felt as though it somewhat ballooned the story's length. The frequent shifts in point of view stopped me from feeling linked to the characters as fully as I might have.

"When the colors are gone, ye're left with some muddied water, and naught else. Then ye spend the rest of your life wishing for more paints, settling for muddied water."

The limitations and cruelties Ruth experiences because she is a woman feel realistically (and maddeningly) frustrating. Understandably, she repeatedly hitches herself to a male ally--or at least a man who can provide service or stability.

Complications abound. Friendships with the Pequot felt too convenient at first, then intriguingly complicated and fraught with challenges. There's a forbidden love, but oh, the lengths the couple must go to in order to try to be together.

I received an advance digital edition of this book, published last week, courtesy of NetGalley and Regal House Publishing.

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Leah Angstman is a historian who meticulously researched the time period of this book. She offers not only book club questions and discussion ideas, but colonial recipes, crafts, book club decor ideas, and more at this link.