Elizabeth Camden. To the Farthest Shores. Bethany House Publishers, 2017. See here to purchase the book.
To the Farthest Shores is set in the early nineteenth
century. Jenny Bennett is a nurse at a Presidio army base, and she
falls in love with naval officer Ryan Gallagher. Ryan leaves and sends
her a terse break-up note. Six years later, Ryan returns with a
Japanese child, a girl named Lily.
Unbeknownst to Jenny, Ryan is a spy. The U.S. Government values his
knowledge of Japanese language and culture, for Ryan’s parents were
Christian missionaries to Japan, so he was raised in that country.
After departing from Jenny, Ryan seeks comfort in Japan in the arms of
Akira, a Japanese friend going back to his childhood. Ryan and Akira
are the parents of Lily, and Akira dies.
Another character in the book is Finn, another spy. Finn has had a
long fascination with Japan, and he is adept at recognizing the
geo-political significance of seemingly random details. The problem is
that he is an Opium addict. Ryan wants Jenny to help nurse Finn to
sobriety so that Finn can take over a mission. They go to Ryan’s house
at the seaside to do this, and Finn is not exactly the most pleasant
patient in the world!
There are other characters of note. Simon raised Jenny, after
rescuing her from the streets when she was a child. Simon has a good
nature, but he has an obsession with pearls, and he tends to squander
whatever money Jenny gives him on that. By the sea, there is Chester
and his daughter, Abigail. Chester got tired of being an attorney and
became a crab-hunter instead. Abigail has her eye on Ryan and wants to
be his savior, after reading too many romance novels!
The book largely focuses on the emotions of Jenny and Ryan. Jenny,
of course, is upset that Ryan left her years earlier. She wants Ryan’s
love, and she wonders if Ryan loved Akira. Jenny is also dealing with
guilt, which involves a sailor who had a scar on his face. Ryan loves
Jenny, but he feels that he cannot be completely honest with her about
why he did what he did, since his status as a spy is supposed to be a
secret. Even apart from that, however, he is a rather secretive,
reserved person. Some of this goes back to his upbringing in Japan,
when he was bullied and learned to stuff whatever emotions he had.
There is some intrigue. It seems that someone is trying to kill Ryan. Who?
Just to give my impressions, the book struck me as different from the
description of it on the Amazon page. The Amazon page dramatically
focuses on Ryan not wanting to jeopardize his mission, but the book did
not talk much about his mission. The page also states that Jenny helps
Ryan out of loyalty to her country, but I don’t recall that theme
looming large in the book.
As far as the intrigue goes, the resolution to the mystery of who
wanted to kill Ryan was underwhelming and hastily resolved. On the
mystery of why Jenny feels guilty, Elizabeth Camden should have
explained more clearly what exactly Jenny’s superiors were doing, and
This book did not have as much of a religious-spiritual element as
other Elizabeth Camden novels that I have read. Simon is a devout
Christian, but he does not really expound on religion. Forgiveness is a
major theme in this book, but, with some exceptions, that is not
discussed within a religious context.
I wish that, in the appendix, Camden had examined the historical
plausibility of a woman becoming a lawyer in the early nineteenth
century, since that is a prominent detail at the end of the book.
The book still deserves five stars, though. Camden is vivid in
presenting the backgrounds, emotions, and temperaments of the
characters, such that they become virtually palpable. Speaking for
myself personally, I liked most of the characters, but I had some
difficulty liking Jenny. She just struck me as rather self-centered. I
will also add that I liked Ryan better than other male protagonists in
the Elizabeth Camden novels that I have read: he was not bitter or
flirtatious, but was modest and diffident.
An interesting scene in the book is when Lily says in Japanese that
Jenny looks like her mother, Akira. That scene says a lot about Ryan,
in my opinion! But you can read the book and draw your own conclusions.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through Netgalley. My review is honest!