The SS Minneapolis; last word in luxury on a grand scale. From the outset, this story pulls you off the pier and onto the ship, mingling with the passengers and experiencing the anticipation and excitement of the start of a sea voyage; you can hear the band playing, see the colours and the crowds, and smell the salt air. Meet Flora Maguire. Instantly likeable, infinitely sympathetic.
As a governess to thirteen year-old Eddy (Viscount) Trent, and travelling alone with him, she is vulnerable to both prejudice and loneliness, but events very quickly conspire to ensure that, while the prejudice might continue among some of the other passengers with whom she finds herself sharing a table, she will never be lonely… whether she wants to be or not. She also proves herself to be resilient, courageous and with a gung-ho attitude she might well come to regret.
The discover of a dead body, early in the voyage, pulls all the varying characters together, and we are treated to sniping, fawning, back-biting, suspicion, humour, affection… a group people very much of their time, with the attitudes to match. The characters in this story are fully fleshed out, with back-stories and ideas of their own, and although the story is told from the third person, limited viewpoint of Flora herself, the reader still gets the rounded experience of learning what makes everyone ‘tick.’ Over the course of the voyage, and the investigation that follows that initial grim discovery, we grow to like characters we thought we wouldn’t, to re-think initial impressions… and this reader found herself thinking ahead to possible further books in a series based on the main characters in this one, and hoping that the ending wouldn’t preclude the possibility of meeting Flora again!
Overall this was a lovely read; tense in places, fascinating in others, and the phenomenal level of research shows in the details sprinkled throughout. Descriptions of the opulance of a ship such as this are not over-done, but give a real flavour of what it must have been like to travel on her, and to mix with a populace in the throes of great social change. Highly recommended.