Cover Image: Out Front the Following Sea

Out Front the Following Sea

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Member Reviews

Very well-researched and well-written, with a plot-heavy approach. I only wish it were a bit more balanced in terms of character versus plot, as it felt like the characters' development were solely dependent on the events taking place as opposed to letting us get to know them beyond the plot, if that makes sense. A good read nonetheless.
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I've been trying to get my thoughts in order to write a review for this one for a couple of days. I SO wanted to like this one more than I did. Props definitely go to the (debut) author for her writing ability. This book was often raw, vivid, and violent. You can tell the author did her research to make this book as historically accurate as possible. Ruth was a strong female protagonist, and I loved that. I also loved the use of local dialects and Native American languages. All that being said, this book was so bogged down with details and descriptions at times I struggled to stay engaged. The pacing was all over the place as well, and because of these issues, I had a difficult time connecting with any of these characters. 

**ARC Via NetGalley**
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I honestly don't remember why I requested this book on NetGalley since I rarely read historical fiction these days.  However, I'm glad I listened to that little voice because I ended up loving this book.  I found myself incredibly invested in the two main characters when life events started getting dicey.  Simply, this is a story about survival. It follows how a 17th century woman, Ruth Miner, endures when her community lets fear and superstition supercede any goodwill they may harbor deep down in their hearts.  

This is primarily a plot-driven book.  The reader follows Ruth on her journey to find a new home where she is unknown and can start anew.  It begins slowly with only Ruth's surroundings to give context as to where, generally, the story begins.  I had to do a little bit of internet sleuthing to hone in on where her colony might be.  But the plot thickens once Ruth leaves her home and moreso once she embarks on a fresh start in a new town.

Though the plot takes the front seat, the author characterizes Ruth through her actions.  I always love a good show rather than tell.  She is a tenacious woman in that she will do what it takes to see her through to the next day, particularly if no other options are available to her.  She is inquisitive and science oriented, which is enough to send any woman to the gallows in 17th century New England.  Her curiosity equips her with skills that prove valuable as life takes an unexpected turn.  I do wish Ruth exhibited a little more emotion, but conversely she doesn't really have the privilege of allowing herself to wallow.

I thought the author did a tremendous job describing fight and battle scenes.  I usually have a difficult time picturing them in my head.  But something about how Angstman wrote them made it easy to follow the action; I could picture the fight sequences how I might see them in a movie.  These scenes were incredibly tense and Angstman wasn't afraid to test her reader with tough character and plot happenings.  There are scenes with descriptions of wounds and blood, so take heed.  In these scenes the reader witnesses how pride in oneself and the motherland can lead a person to do despicable things to others.  Moreover, the judgment that follows showcases group think and silent complicity.

The author also includes the Pequots, who are a Native American people of Connecticut, in the plot.  Rather than writing them as a background presence, Angstman takes the time to indicate that they are present and the land was used by them before the settlers took it.  Ruth befriends Askook, from whom she learns to speak his language.  Though there's no love lost between the Pequots and any group of settlers, they choose a side that best benefits them as tensions between the French and English increase.

There is much more I want to say, but I'll end here to recommend this book to any historical fiction reader.  Or, to be more precise, those who gravitate towards 17th century New England settings.  From midpoint onward I was riveted and wondering if the author would deliver a happily ever after, or let the cruelty of humans deliver the final blow.  You'll just have to read Out Front the Following Sea to find out.
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Unfortunately I found this book very difficult to reaf, and I really tried but reading this just had too much prose and metaphors and historical language to be enjoyable for me personally. I could see potential with the characters and I would be interested in seeing this authors future works.
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The writing was beautiful, but sometimes slowed the plot down a bit. This was clearly well researched and had an interesting premise. I did not like the main character very much but overall it was an enjoyable read.
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Out Front the Following Sea has a beautiful premise, and with all the five-star ratings, I thought I would have loved this story.

Unfortunately, this epic was not for me and I had to DNF this book. Great work and research have been put into this novel: the historical details and vivid descriptions speak for themselves. But I could not connect with the characters nor the writing - a blend of modern and old-English, and French (the grammar errors threw me off multiple times).

I encourage everyone interested in this novel to read other reviews and wish them an enjoyable reading time if they do decide to pick it up.
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Review of Out Front the Following Sea by Leah Angstman
Clever young Ruth survives the oppression and turmoil in colonial New England by using her wits. With rich detail about daily life and brutal ocean voyages. 

In Out Front the Following Sea, new historical fiction by Leah Angstman, it's 1689 and King William's War is in full force between the French and English settlers in Ruth Miner's New England town. 

Ruth is an independent thinker, which is a dangerous thing in this time and place. When Ruth is accused of witchcraft and of killing her parents, she flees the rigid rules of the stifling town she's always known. She stows away on a ship where her longtime, trusted friend Owen has secured a job. 

But tensions on board the ship soon come to a head, and Ruth has to weigh her loyalty to Owen and her own safety--while he must do the same.

Angstman offers rich, sometimes excruciating detail of the difficulties of sea life, of being a largely powerless female during the era, and of battle and injury. I found all of this extensive description fascinating, even as it slowed the pacing of the story and felt as though it somewhat ballooned the story's length. The frequent shifts in point of view stopped me from feeling linked to the characters as fully as I might have.

"When the colors are gone, ye're left with some muddied water, and naught else. Then ye spend the rest of your life wishing for more paints, settling for muddied water."

The limitations and cruelties Ruth experiences because she is a woman feel realistically (and maddeningly) frustrating. Understandably, she repeatedly hitches herself to a male ally--or at least a man who can provide service or stability.

Complications abound. Friendships with the Pequot felt too convenient at first, then intriguingly complicated and fraught with challenges. There's a forbidden love, but oh, the lengths the couple must go to in order to try to be together. 

I received an advance digital edition of this book, published last week, courtesy of NetGalley and Regal House Publishing.

Leah Angstman is a historian who meticulously researched the time period of this book. She offers not only book club questions and discussion ideas, but colonial recipes, crafts, book club decor ideas, and more at this link.
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My thanks to the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book to review. Unfortunately, I did not finish this in time.
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I think it's worth prefacing this review with how much other readers seem to have loved it so far, and that I may simply not be the ideal audience! This title is a sweeping historical epic, driven by plot and underscored by raw brutality and thorough research. I think it absolutely has its appeal, but for me, I just struggled to really anchor into the story line. The characters felt one-dimensional to me and the book was often tonally jarring, especially when it came to dialogue. That said, I can and do deeply appreciate a well-researched historical fiction, particularly one set in early so-called America that acknowledges the bloody history of stolen land.
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Ruth is a compelling character - headstrong, unabashed in her defense of herself. The writing sometimes felt choppy, with various characters' points of view in one scene or even one paragraph. Still, I loved her relationship with Owen, and appreciated the detailed world building.
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After her parents die in a terrible fire and a nearby farmer's sheep die, Ruth Miner is branded a witch.  When her grandmother dies during a brutally harsh winter, no one in town will help Ruth and she curses them.  Ruth knows she must escape before the townspeople come to burn her as well.  Ruth stows away on the Primrose, heading to Stonington, Connecticut in the New World.  Working aboard the Primrose is first mate Owen Townsend, the only person who knows Ruth's full past.  Once in Stonington, Ruth has a new start; however, things are not necessarily easier.  Ruth finds friends in an elderly couple that she boards with, another young woman in town as well as a Pequot, Askook.  Ruth learns that the land has been taken from them and wants to set things right.  The French and English are beginning to fight in the New World and Owen's French heritage brands him a traitor.  Ruth fights to save herself, Owen and the Pequot that she has befriended, but what will it cost her?

Masterfully written, Out Front the Following Sea is a historical fiction novel exploring the hardships, prejudices and power struggles within the newly settled colonies in 1689.   The characters were all very well written with distinct personalities, struggles and secrets.  I was pulled into the story through Ruth's strength and fortitude in her daily life as she struggled as an outsider that no one would help.  Ruth and Owen's relationship is complex and their secret is slowly teased out.  Owen's passion and loyalty shone through; although, I consistently wondered why he didn't step up to help Ruth sooner.  Askook, the Pequot was an interesting addition for me and a good reminder of the blood and stolen land that the United States was built on.  The plot slowly builds as secrets come out and tensions rise for continuous action throughout the story.  The writing also offered a good sense of place and time as safety and security could never be taken for granted and war and death always loomed on the horizon.  While the story is fictional, the author has incorporated research of skirmishes of King William's War and first hand accounts of real people who lived in the area at the time to create a well rounded story of the people at this time.

This book was received for free in return for an honest review.
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What drew me in was the beautiful cover design, and the great tittle and I stayed for the world building. Out Front the Following Sea is fantastically researched, and beautifully written with evocative landscapes and imagery created. One downside, however, was the pacing of the novel which was a little off in some places. 

3/5 stars
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I wanted to like this book. I love historical fiction — especially when it features women who were unusual in some way for the time they lived in. But, sadly, this book wasn’t right for me. 

Angstman has clearly done lots of research and she evokes the period well. There are loads of details that bring the environment and time period to life. The rich vocabulary for home life and work onboard ships is wonderful. I highlighted lots of new words I want to learn. (But there are also some odd anachronisms such as someone being described as “her adrenaline pumping”, when adrenaline [or epinephrine] wasn’t discovered until the late 19th century.)

If you don’t mind having to look up words you don’t know, and you enjoy learning lots of vocabulary from a distant time, you’ll enjoy the linguistic aspects of this book. A reasonable test might be the title. It it intrigues you, I’d be willing to bet you’d enjoy the writing in this book. If it puts you off, you probably won’t.

Personally, I enjoyed the writing on a micro level. However, the story didn’t engage me on a macro level. In particular, I didn’t find myself connecting with the characters (in particular, the two main characters, Ruth and Owen). Their motivations were often mysterious; I could make no sense of why they would do or say something. For example, there were situations in which it would have been obvious for Ruth to lie, or at least not say anything — to protect herself or someone else — but she doesn’t. Why not? She also takes unnecessary risks that I don’t understand (like coming out of a hiding place, when she knows there’s a risk of being attacked). And there’s a big, central one between the two main characters that I can’t mention because it would be a spoiler.

There were also some small things that contributing to this book not working for me. Here are a few examples:

~ Instead of the characters feeling complex, to me, some of the their actions simply seemed randomly and confusingly inconsistent. (Thomas and the Osbornes fall into this category.)

~ Major elements of the plot were predictable. (I can’t say more without spoilers.)

~ People talking too much and apparently not worrying about making noise when they’re doing something risky.

~ People doing things when there wouldn’t have been enough light to do them in.

~ An amputation that gets forgotten about too quickly.

~ Not being remotely careful enough about speaking and reading French, given then political situation.

~ Convenient things characters have been doing over a long period (e.g. breaking in a horse, always keeping a mirror in a pocket), which we don’t get to know about until the moment it’s needed.

~ Owen likes Ruth’s “feminine floral scent” — but I expect, given her hard life, she probably didn’t smell too lovely.

~ There was no real character development. The plot was a series of escalating, dramatic events.

~ Some things happen too easily to be believable.

~ People being dead. (But are they really?)

I can see lots of work went into writing this novel, so it pains me to say anything negative about it, but I’m forcing myself to be honest. We can’t all love the same books, and that’s ok. Just because I don’t like a book, I don’t infer that it’s objectively bad. It’s just not for me. I’m happy that so many other people seem to love this one!
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Out Front The Following Sea boasts some beautifully poetic descriptions of the wild landscape, along with some very interesting characters - especially Ruth and Owen. The pacing of the story is a bit off, unfortunately, and some of that beautiful poetic language is to blame for that. I wish I could have loved this book more, but there were times I found my mind wandering and the book hard to focus on.
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This book is a triumph. The first couple of chapters took me a while to get into, but from chapter three onwards I was completely hooked, desperate to know what happens next. Ruth is a wonderful main character. In some ways there is nothing extraordinary about her character, someone who is just dealing with each problem as it comes, but the fact that she does so with such strength and without sacrificing who she is makes her remarkable. You can’t help but feel for her; the things she is put through could happen to anyone in that era, but she is sharp, creative, and scientifically- minded, always one step ahead of the game.

All of the characters and the setting are painted so vividly, you are transported into the story. It’s gruesome at times – the author never shies away from the harsh realities of warfare and early colonial life – but it never feels gratuitous, just a part of life and the violence these characters experience.

I thought the author did a fantastic job of depicting the different relationships and tensions between the English, the French, the indigenous Pequot people, and the highwaymen and sailors who exist outside of these communities. She has also done a huge amount of research into the Pequot language which is to huge benefit. When the characters are speaking to each other in a mixture of English, French and Pequot, it reads completely naturally, but that is thanks to a huge amount of research.

This is a wonderful work of historical fiction, shining light on an often romanticised period of history while centring the very human stories that were lived by everyday people.

Thank you to the publisher for providing me with a free copy for review. All opinions are my own.
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Book review by NOLITETHOUGHTS 

I want to start with the fact that historical fiction is not my go-to genre.
I do read it from time to time but if I walk into a bookshop to casually search for something following my heart I end up in the sci-fi, non-fiction (physics-related) or literary fiction area.
This being said, for some unknown reason to me I have requested this book for my first NetGalley review and I couldn't have possibly made a better choice.

Reading this masterfully crafted novel was like reading The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams. 
The knowledge and the work behind both of these books demand my deepest respect towards the authors.
Also, one of the reasons why I love Anne Rice's works so much as well, apart from the fact that she was a literary genius.

Short synopsis; The story is in 1689, New England in a time when the French and English settlers were having an ongoing war between each other. Ruth Miner the main protagonist is being introduced as a young woman who is being accused of witchcraft against her parents and now she has to flee her hometown if she doesn't want to get burned or worse. She meets her old childhood friend, the sailor; Owen and their journey unfolds in front of us…

I opened this book knowing nothing about how the people lived in the late 1600s in New England, especially women, and I closed it with a desire to speak endlessly about everything I have just learned.

I especially enjoyed reading about her friendship with Askook who became my favourite character in the book and as a language enthusiast, I cherished every bit of the Pequot language. What, unfortunately, according to historian Leah Angstman, was last heard by its native speaker in 1908.

This novel is very plot-driven. I didn't have any moment when I felt like the story had stopped or been stagnant. 

It also kept me on the edge the whole time and it was hard to put it down.

Ruth is a strong, independent and curious young adult who loves languages and physics. This made me instantly fall in love with her. Not so much her people in the community who were as happy and loving towards her as the Pope to Galilei. 

This book was honest and ruthless but full of hope and magic.
It was a joy to read it and I adore the cover as it was done by the author herself.

I am incredibly grateful to Leah Angstman and Regal House Publishing for the digital copy of the book.
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I reviewed this book for Historical Novels Review magazine, the magazine of the Historical Novel Society.  Per their policy, I cannot put the review online until February 1st when the review appears on their website.
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Ruth's life is one of hardship. Her grandmother is dying, and the town thinks she's a witch. Only Owen seems willing to protect her.

I received a free copy from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

The narrative follows Ruth, a young woman who is at odds with life. She knows the part she's supposed to play, but she can't play it. Her 'eccentricities' haven't gotten her in too much trouble, until her grandmother grows sick, and the village starts to turn on her, blaming the 'witch' for every poor crop.

This sounded like something that would appeal to me. I love historical books featuring witches, or the independent outcasts that were often cast as witches. 
Unfortunately, this book missed the mark.

I found the language to be a weird mix of modern and antiquated and didn't seem to have any rhyme or reason to it. There were whole sections that I couldn't understand, and it made it hard to connect.

The story itself seems to start in the middle of Ruth's drama. The town already call her a witch and treat her like shit, but we don't know why.
Blink and it's over, and Ruth is boarding Owen's ship to get away from those that chase her.

The main reason I didn't like this book was because I didn't like Ruth.
She's too-stupid-to-live, and despite her old-fashioned words, she feels like a modern girl dropped into this story. It's like she has no respect for all the people that have been falsely-accused of being witches and killed. She's ridiculously ignorant of the tensions of the time, and actually goes around telling people that she's a witch, and stokes the flames of their fear.
When she gets onto Owen's ship, she doesn't realise that women don't travel alone in that era, and acts friggin' stupidly around a bunch of coarse sailors. Which of course is all a ploy for her and Owen to begin a relationship/not-relationship...
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A wonderfully researched and beautifully written tale set in 1600s America.  This fascinating era is evocated brilliantly, and there were passages I reread just for their sense of place.   The story is interesting and lovers of historical fiction will be at home here.  Great stuff!
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I would have loved to have read a physical copy of this book as it was unbearably untactile for such a survival storyline. The cover design is particularly beautiful and I was drawn into the surroundings and was left sated by the ending,
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