The Toll of the Sea
Joby Lancer is the only survivor from the terrible shipwreck which claims the lives of over 400 men, women and children, but what or who is the man running from? This novel, the eighth from Theresa Murphy, contains parallel stories following the two women to whom this handsome survivor is connected and between whom he must choose. The first is the poverty- stricken Arabella, who marries the wrong man and is forced to struggle for survival in a harsh world. In contrast, the second woman, Sarai, owns the big house, is rich, single and enjoys smuggling for a cheap thrill. She is promiscuous; the stranger from the sea has awakened ‘Aphrodite, the Greek Goddess of love who had dwelt within her since puberty.’ There is, however, no need to worry about unwanted partners standing in the path of true love, as characters no longer needed change their personalities and values and disappear under the flimsiest of pretexts if required by the plot.
In a somewhat modern dance, partners move in together, walk off and depart, never to return. Events happen more for the sake of the plot therefore rather than any great verisimilitude. This author also clearly strongly believes in telling rather than showing and often repeating the idea in case the reader didn’t get it the first time. Choice phrases such as ‘it was impossible to share the earth-shattering passion that they had known and ever again be completely separated’ and that it ‘was as if they had stepped together, naked but for animal-skin loincloths, out of the first ever dawn’ may serve to give a flavour of the style. If you like the examples, you will probably like the book. Not one for me, though.