Sunday, May 6, 2012

Unsinkable by Paige Turner

Title: Unsinkable
Author: Paige Turner
Publisher: Total e-Bound
Cover Artist: Posh Gosh
Genre: historical
Length: 141 pages


The world had never seen anything like the RMS Titanic - enormous, opulent...and unsinkable. The Ship of Dreams.

Ted Dorley, confidence man, is looking for a new life in the New World, and relishes the opportunity to mingle with the great and the good of the day on board the RMS Titanic.

He expects to find fortune, and perhaps to find fame, but he doesn’t expect to find love in the arms of dark-eyed cellist Robert Briceaux, one of the Titanic’s band of dedicated musicians.

When the ship strikes an iceberg close to midnight in the middle of the Atlantic, passengers panic and the crew try to keep calm...as the band plays on. As the Ship of Dreams disappears into the calm, black waters of the deep, has Ted lost his new-found love to the icy embrace of the ocean?

Reader Advisory: This book contains a ménage scene between three men.

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The Titanic sank 100 years ago, but the mystique lives on. This time we have a romance between a passenger who is not anything like his projected persona and a member of the orchestra.

Not being a Titanic scholar, I can’t answer to every fact here, but the feel is right and the few things I did look up matched, so I’m going to leave it to the more knowledgeable to do an accuracy critique. One of the things I did check was whether any of the musicians survived. Sadly, no. So the next question is—how did we get a happy ending here?


Not going to spoil it for you. Suffice to say Ms Turner pulled it off.

This is a true whirlwind romance, since the two have only four days from launch to iceberg to fall in love. Ted Dorley tried to talk his way past a picky doctor to board the ship at all, even though he had a ticket, and ended up stowing away. He’s the con man with the heart of gold; paying his passage and still having to sneak are consistent for him. He’s particular about whom he’ll rob, a veritable sea-going Robin Hood, and he makes it a point to rescue the gullible from the predations of another con artist. He meets the charming cellist, Robert Bricoux, one of the eight musicians in Wallace Hartley’s pick-up shipboard band.

The two hit it off very quickly, falling into bed much faster than they share their secrets. Robert has his fair share of sorrows; being on board ship protects him from an abusive and vindictive lover back in France. He barely knows how to respond to Ted, who is caring, careful, and willing to let Robert tell his stories in his own time.

The two veer away from a straightforward falling in love during a pre-sinking lifeboat romp where they acquire a third person, Howard Brand, who seemed to be a thinly disguised version of the real Marconi operator who was known to survive, though the chronicles don’t recall his sexual exploits as much as his willingness to send Morse code. Howard makes the threesome and later some non-sexual companionship—he can be the wise friend who speaks sense. I didn’t find the third man in the lifeboat to be a problem in and of himself, though I did question the others’ happy acceptance of a third during the extremely early stages of finding each other followed by wild jealousy and declarations of love.

The ship, the iceberg, and the sinking have become set pieces since the history is widely known; here, most of the major incidents known to common culture are woven in, breaking Ted’s heart for good measure. The known bravery of the orchestra, who played until the ship stood on its bow and sank figures strongly—Robert and his cello are heroes to Ted, offering comfort and calm in the face of tragedy. The action is woven together from the historical sources, giving both men a place in it.

I liked Robert quite a lot—he finds his way through a terrible situation and finds some real love in Ted. On the other hand, Ted was a bit too much of a paragon—he was a con man but he had to be a nice conman, who would never steal from someone who couldn’t afford the loss. The third man, Howard, makes a bit of sense considering that the readers know how limited their time is but that the passengers on ship have no reason to expect anything but arriving in New York a week after leaving Southampton. Only the readers know how short their opportunity is, and it gives us an added urgency for wanting them to move the relationship forward. Of the three, Robert had the most unique character but still slightly generic voice. A secondary character, Albert Nourney the bad con man, actually has the most distinct personality.

This story works for the new characters against a familiar backdrop; it’s a good solid effort, weaving a lot of period detail into the story without being infodumpish although sometimes the details are more vivid than the men. Still it matters that Robert and Ted find their happy ending. You just have to read to find out how they did it. 3.75 marbles

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