By Lynette Sowell
Abingdon Press, 2013
Kelly Frost, a textiles conservator, is invited to the Massachusetts coastal city of New Bedford to restore a 150-year-old Mariner's Compass quilt. But there is one stipulation: she must live and work in Gray House, a former whaling captain's home, where the quilt is stored. There she meets Army veteran Tom Pereira, the caretaker of Gray House, whose heart seems as hard as the rocky Massachusetts coastline.
Over the long-lit months as Kelly works to restore the quilt, she and Tom grow closer. And as she reads stories in a daily journal penned by Mary Gray, she learns the secrets of the quilt and Mary's own sad tale of regret. Then Tom learns secrets of his own family's past, and both Tom and Kelly learn they are tied to Gray House in ways they never imagined.
Each stand-alone novel in the Quilts of Love series features a quilt with a meaningful story behind it, and Lynette Sowell weaves a haunting story in Tempest's Course by paralleling the life of contemporary textile repairer Kelly with that of Mary Gray, wife of a whaling captain in the 1850s. The way Kelly compares the poor decisions and regrets in her own life with those of the ill-fated Mary is one of this story's strengths.
As with all the books in this series, the featured quilt is a major character - a Mariner's Compass quilt in this instance. Lynette brings much interest to the storyline through Kelly's expertise in the art of textile repair, which is another strength of this story and something that I found fascinating. The Mariner's Compass quilt was covered with old glue, burn marks, literally disintegrating - and it was amazing to literally stand beside Kelly and watch the intricate steps she took to make repairs.
Whaling captain's house with observation room
New Bedford, MA
The historical whaling town of New Bedford, Massachusetts is also beautifully drawn - from Gray House, the captain's home with its tiny observation room, to the city harbor. I've always been drawn to New England settings, so this was especially enjoyable for me.
My favorite character was Tom, a wounded Army veteran who struggled in his relationship with his father. "Family reminded you of what you'd done right, and didn't let you forget where you'd gone wrong." Kelly, who feels that she is still paying for the sins of her past, feels safe with Tom and has learned to rely on God: "One thing I've learned is that in the end, God is all I have." And I especially enjoyed the relationship between Kelly and her foster-care mother, Lottie.
The Mariner's Compass was a symbol of hope - both to Mary as she quilted it and to Kelly as she repaired it. Kelly reflects: "Surely God was charting her course on the open seas of life, guiding her on her voyage. The nautical analogy seemed to fit, especially after being buffeted by the storms of life."
Tempest's Course combines romance, suspense, history, and the interworking of family relationships in a story that captured my interest from the very beginning. The story's message comes from the words of the quilt's maker, Mary Gray: "The Lord directs our steps, the Master over the course through our sea of life. We look to His Word as our compass."
Lynette Sowell is the award-winning author of five novels and six novellas for Barbour Publishing with sales topping 250,000. In 2009, Lynette was voted one of the favorite new authors by Heartsong Presents book club readers. Her historical romance, All That Glitters, was a finalist in ACFW's 2010 Carol Awards.
When Lynette's not writing, she divides her time between editing medical reports and chasing down news stories for the Copperas Cove Leader-Press. Lynette was born and raised on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, but makes her home on the doorstep of the Texas hill country with her husband and a herd of cats who have them well-trained.
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This book was provided by Litfuse Publicity in exchange for my honest review.
Fishing fleet - New Bedford, MA