Love on the High Seas

titanic My list of shipboard romances is relatively small. There is the mediocre Moriah’s Mutiny from Elizabeth Bevarly. The much better Whirlwind from Cathy Hake and the lovely Imagine from Jill Barnett. Christina Skye’s Going Overboard is campy but fun. Then there is Rachel Gibson’s Lola Carlyle Reveals All and Burnfrom Linda Howard. I love the idea of shipboard romance but given the slim pickings in this setting, I think I may be in a pretty small group of readers.

That might be because I missed the pirate craze of the 80’s (and can’t say I am shedding any tears over it). I read the The Windflower by Laura London, which is considered by many to be among the best pirate books and while I liked it, it did not convince me to search out other novels starring men of the high seas.

Recently though, my hopes have been raised. I’ve seen a spate of books taking place on THE ship. April 10, 2012 marks the 100th anniversary of the sailing of the Titanic . As we all know, this journey ended in a disaster which resulted in the death of 1,517 people. But while we remember Titanic for the deaths it caused, is also immortalized by the glory it represented, even if that glory was ever so brief. We make much of the celebrated staircase, the luxury of its dining room, the opulence of the chandeliers. Even in pictures, it is enormous, seeming to dwarf other, lesser known luxury liners. And what could compare to its passenger list, a virtual who’s who of the rich and famous? It was the ultimate symbol of its era. Opulent, extravagant, outrageous in both cost and luxury, it was a tribute to all that was decadent yet refined.

For romance fans, Titantic represents one of the most popular film love stories of all time. Amidst the tragedy and splendor, the film Titanic highlighted the love story of Jim and Rose, a couple who represented for many the ultimate forbidden love. She is a girl from first class on the brink of being married to an extremely eligible man. He is the boy from third class who ignites her very soul and sets her free to be herself for the first time in her life. Ever since seeing that epic film I have tried to find a book that recaptures the glory and tragedy of love aboard this fated ship. Alas, I am still looking.

My first effort was two years ago with the novel Cold April. Telling the love story of Elizabeth, a nanny who falls for her first class employer, I found the tale conveyed the beauty of the ship well but failed to deliver the romance I desired.

I followed it up with Claudia Gray’s Fateful.Young Tess is maid to a wealthy family travelling aboard the Titanic. While there she not only deals with increasing secrecy among her employers but the oddities of other first class guests who grow more dangerous and demanding by the moment. Only young Alec seems like a man she can trust but he too seems to hold some lethal secrets. While more a YA paranormal than a romance I enjoyed this novel far more than Cold April. It did a good job of capturing what life aboard the ship must have been like for those caught between the classes.

This year several new romances have emerged that take place on the Ship of Dreams. January saw the release of Promise Me This by Cathy Gohke, the story of a young Michael who stows aboard the Titanic to join his friend Owen on his trip to America. When Titanic sinks, the dying Owen makes Michael promise to care for the relatives he leaves behind in America and the sister whom he left behind in England. Annie has a hard time accepting that Michael lived while Owen perished but as the two exchange letters a friendship develops. When WWI breaks out and Annie goes silent, Michael crosses the ocean once more in an effort to rescue the woman who has come to mean everything to him. This is a beautifully written story, sweet and slow as molasses. By the Light of the Silvery Moon by Tricia Goyer is a retelling of the prodigal son parable. Do-gooder Amelia Gladstone gives the ticket meant for her no-show cousin to a homeless man who was trying to stow aboard Titanic. Quentin Walpole had lost everything to careless business management and high living and now just wants to return home to America. When the lovely Amelia makes that possible he battles his own desire to grow closer to her with the certain knowledge that everything he loves he destroys. Can their love survive the danger that lies ahead? This novel captured the lives of the little heard of second class passengers, but failed to deliver a heartfelt romance.

In honor of the anniversary, I am still going to keep looking for the elusive perfect Titanic romance. I have Echoes of Titanic sitting on my TBR pile right now, and maybe that will be the one. How about you, do you like romances set aboard this fated ship? Do you like novels set on ships at all? Know of any good shipboard romances? What about great romantic films set on the high seas?

- Maggie Boyd

17 thoughts on “Love on the High Seas

  1. Interesting post, Maggie! Shipboard romance often has an “anything can happen” aspect, since the characters have left the familiar world behind. Judith Ivory’s BEAST and Sherry Thomas’s upcoming BEGUILING THE BEAUTY both take place largely on board a ship, and on the journey the characters adopt new identities. Same thing in the classic shipboard romance films LOVE AFFAIR and its remake, AN AFFAIR TO REMEMBER. The hero and heroine are both jaded and kept by lovers, but on the ship they find someone who sees them in a new way.

    I agree with you about the glamour of Titanic, but for me any story set on it has a shadow over it. We know what’s coming, and it’s hard not to be distracted by that. Jack Finney’s time-travel novel FROM TIME TO TIME has key scenes set on the Titanic, the sinking of which was portrayed as an early trigger for World War I. Gah! It’s absolutely wrenching.

  2. I enjoy a good shipboard romance. I read mostly historicals but agree that tales of love on the Titanic would be bittersweet. Can’t say that I have read any. Some of my favorites include:
    The Charm School by Susan Wiggs
    Across the Moonlit Sea by Marsha Canham
    The Iron Rose by Marsha Canham

  3. I had a relative on The Titanic, so I’ve heard about it my life and how my relative survived and what her life was like as a result of it.
    My favorite ship board romance has to be Beast, by Judith Ivory. I adore that book.

    • xina: I had a relative on The Titanic, so I’ve heard about it my life and how my relative survived and what her life was like as a result of it.
      My favorite ship board romance has to be Beast, by Judith Ivory. I adore that book.

      Re-reading Beast right now. Absolutely fabulous, and takes place turn-of-the-century.

      Also highly recommend the new Sea Change by Darlene Marshall (Napoleonic Atlantic Ocean).

    • xina: I had a relative on The Titanic, so I’ve heard about it my life and how my relative survived and what her life was like as a result of it.
      My favorite ship board romance has to be Beast, by Judith Ivory. I adore that book.

      xina,

      Wow! That is both scary and fascinating. Did your relative leave a diary or any partiicular stories about how she survived? Feel free to share as much as you are comfortable with :-0

  4. Judith Ivory’s _Beast_ is probably the best I can think of though I have not yet read _The Iron Rose_ by Canham and want to soon. I really liked though Julie Anne Long’s _I Kissed an Earl_ as an exciting and passionate shipboard romance.

  5. Love Catherine Coulter’s Night Storm, final installment of the Night trilogy. Rooted for gutsy American Genny Paxton , and British Alec Carrick. Enjoyed the push and pull between the two, and all the drama and mayhem of the high seas.

  6. Forgot Tessa Dare’s Surrender to a Siren. If that’s not the right book, then the middle book in her first trilogy. Smashing good romance with a red-headed hero.

  7. I noticed that some who have commented here mentioned Marsha Canham’s “Across a Moonlit Sea” and “The Iron Rose” as favorite shipboard romances. I totally agree, and the good news is that thanks to the wonderful world of e-book self-publishing, Ms. Canham has just issued a new book in that series. It’s called “The Following Sea” and I just downloaded it to my NOOK, so I have great reading to look forward to.

    On the flip side the WORST shipboard romances I ever read were two by Karen Robards: “Sea Fire” and “Island Flame”. Horrid characters, idiotic plots and all the bad romance cliches you could ask for. And yet I finished both of them–I suppose it’s the psychology of motorists who slow down to look at a bad car accident!

  8. No, not a diary, but they remembered her reaction to it. She was my great aunt. She was 21..first class passenger. She is quoted in a couple books saying that she wouldn’t get in the lifeboat and an officer said…Don’t waste time, let her go. She had been visiting her aunt in England and was traveling alone. I was very interested in the Titanic movie, just to get a feel of what she must have gone through sitting in a little boat in the darkness of the ocean and watching the ship sink with all the screaming and chaos going on around her. She insisted on sleeping with a light on for years. She had a full life, but died with several fluffy cats in her mansion in California. She also went back to England to visit her aunt, on a ship of course, and took acting lessons there. Brave of her to get on a boat again. :)

    • xina: No, not a diary, but they remembered her reaction to it. She was my great aunt. She was 21..first class passenger. She is quoted in a couple books saying that she wouldn’t get in the lifeboat and an officer said…Don’t waste time, let her go.

      xina, many years ago, I read “A Night to Remember”, Walter Lord’s definitive book about the Titanic, and I remember that quote! You’re right about your great-aunt being brave enough to get on another ship!

      I always thought that the true stories about the passengers and crew were much more fascinating than any of the fictionalized versions (sorry, James Cameron!). Aside from the movie based on Lord’s book, the best visual presentation I ever saw was on A&E back when it was a classier network. It was a two-part documentary and in an interesting twist of karma, David McCallum was the narrator. One of his earliest acting jobs was as the junior radio operator on the Titanic, Harold Bride, in the movie “A Night to Remember”! The real Harold Bride barely survived the disaster; he was one of the last people rescued.

      • RobinB:
        !I always thought that the true stories about the passengers and crew were much more fascinating than any of the fictionalized versions (sorry, James Cameron!).

        I agree. The true stories are far more interesting than anything we dream up. I find the story of Ida and Isidor Straus to be the most romantic tale ever told of Titanic, even if it is only one line. “I will not be separated from my husband. As we have lived, so will we die, together.”

    • xina: No, not a diary, but they remembered her reaction to it. She was my great aunt. She was 21..first class passenger. She is quoted in a couple books saying that she wouldn’t get in the lifeboat and an officer said…Don’t waste time, let her go. She had been visiting her aunt in England and was traveling alone. I was very interested in the Titanic movie, just to get a feel of what she must have gone through sitting in a little boat in the darkness of the ocean and watching the ship sink with all the screaming and chaos going on around her. She insisted on sleeping with a light on for years. She had a full life, but died with several fluffy cats in her mansion in California. She also went back to England to visit her aunt, on a ship of course, and took acting lessons there. Brave of her to get on a boat again.

      Xina,

      Thanks for sharing. Brave indeed to get back on another boat. I think sitting in that ocean in the dark while the ship sank and the chaos and screaming went on would have been among the worst of the experiences. I don’t blame your aunt at all for sleeping with a light on. An how weird that all that untrue information is floating around out there about her. Just shows how careful we have to be with “documented facts”.

      • maggie b.:
        Xina,Thanks for sharing. Brave indeed to get back on another boat. I think sitting in that ocean in the dark while the ship sank and the chaos and screaming went on would have been among the worst of the experiences. I don’t blame your aunt at all for sleeping with a light on. An how weird that all that untrue information is floating around out there about her. Just shows how careful we have to be with “documented facts”.

        Well, it has always been an interesting part of my life. And the women on that side of my family are all feisty, brave women. And on the other side as well. I am surrounded by strong, strong women. Yes, the untrue facts about her and a picture that wasn’t her..in a published book, was shocking. I don’t know why the author would do that. I have the book at my cabin, and have been tempted to throw in in the trash, but keep it anyway. It is very strange.

  9. RobinB, Yes..my mother had several copies of that book..A Night To Remember. :) My great aunt actually wanted to go back for her jewelry and furs and too, I think she was afraid to get in the boat. Back then women weren’t very athletic, so jumping into a suspended boat…even for your life, was scary. Through the years we have found a few books that give untrue information about her and even a picture that isn’t even her! She was actually very close, or the same age as Rose in the movie, but she was nothing like her. Well, I didn’t actually know her, but from all the descriptions she would never go running around a boat with a man she just met. Or ever. :)

  10. Let me add a good one to your list, Maggie. It’s called Cruise Quarters and it’s by Cara Bertoia. it’s a cruise ship romance written by a woman who actually met and fell in love with her husband on a cruise ship. It’s fun and funny, from the viewpoint of someone who really knows romance at sea!

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