Amelia Gladstone is an eighteen-year-old beauty from Southampton who has accepted the kind invitation of Mr. Chapman to journey to New Haven, Connecticut and take up residence with her cousin, Elizabeth, and her husband, Nel, Mr. Chapman’s neighbors. Through correspondence, Amelia and Mr. Chapman have agreed that they would like to get better acquainted in order to see if their relationship will blossom and Mr. Chapman has kindly paid for Amelia’s trip, as well as that of her Aunt Neda and cousin, Henry. Amelia has lived with her Aunt Neda since she was a very young girl and her single mother, a stewardess aboard various ocean liners, simply vanished.
As Amelia and Aunt Neda are preparing to board the R.M.S. Titanic, making its maiden voyage to New York City, they notice a gaunt man in ragged, dirty clothes being escorted off the ship by stewards. There is a cut on his cheek and he is not struggling. Amelia is immediately captivated by him and, since Henry was arrested the prior evening and will not be joining Amelia and her aunt on their journey, she impulsively offers the man Henry’s second-class ticket. Amelia has always had a big, generous heart. From the tender age of six, she has reached out to assist others in need, providing food, clothing, and other necessities, as well as her time and service. She has particularly enjoyed volunteering at the local orphanage. Something about the stranger tugs at Amelia’s heart.
Meanwhile, self-made railroad tycoon C.J. Wampole and his eldest son, Damien, are en route home from England where C.J. has concluded a futile search for his youngest son, Quentin. Five years earlier, Quentin asked his father for his inheritance and struck out on his own. He succeeded for awhile, but bad business decisions, parties, alcohol, and women insured Quentin’s downfall. Believed to be existing on the streets of London, C.J. has employed a team of investigators to locate and reunite him with his beloved son, unaware that Damien has paid the same investigators not to find the brother he resents. After all, Damien has been loyal, hard-working, and a credit to the family name and business, while Quentin has brought only shame to the family. Worse, Damien has always blamed Quentin for the tragic death of their mother twenty-one years earlier.
Amelia catches Damien’s eye. As she venture’s into the beautiful ship’s first class area, she marvels at the luxuries it offers, but is not impressed by either the extravagant accoutrements or the passengers enjoying them. At heart, Amelia is a simple, gentle woman filled with compassion for others that is fired by her deep faith. Those qualities are precisely what draws Damien to her, despite the disapproving glances of his society friends.
The poor stranger now occupying Henry’s stateroom and wearing his clothes also recognizes Amelia’s beauty and kind spirit. But he is a man with many regrets who cares too much for Amelia to pull her into his failed life. After all, he has nothing to offer her . . . not even a job awaiting him when the Titanic docks in New York City. He is too proud to ask for help from his father and completely unaware that his voyage to America is about to dramatically change not only his life, but the life of each and every person aboard the ill-fated ship.
Prolific historical fiction novelist Tricia Goyer explores the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) against the backdrop of the world’s greatest maritime disaster. On the brink of centennial commemoration of the Titanic’s sole voyage, Goyer spins a heart-tugging tale about a young women bound for a new life who intuits that much more than chance placed in line to board the Titanic just as a handsome, but disheveled stowaway was being unceremoniously escorted off the great ship. Before long, Amelia finds herself drawn to three different men for very different reasons — Mr. Chapman, Damien, and Quentin — for completely different reasons and entirely unsure whether she should trust her heart or make a more pragmatic decision about her future.
Amelia respects and admires Mr. Chapman, the reliable, upstanding banker who has graciously bankrolled not only her trip to America, but that of her aunt and cousin, as well. She believes that she may have a secure future with him, but is anxious to see him for the first time and get to know him better, wondering if there will be any spark between them once they come face to face. Meanwhile, Damien has begun wooing her with dinners and dancing in the Titanic’s opulent first class surroundings, but she is aware that he constantly monitors the reactions of their fellow passengers when she is with him, seeking society’s approval of his dalliance with the beautiful young woman from the second class ranks.
Amelia gradually learns Quentin’s sordid history, but her heart has a mind of its own and she cannot resist gravitating toward the flawed stranger with the mesmerizing eyes. When she learns of his connection to C.J. and Damien, she is determined to bring about a reconciliation.
At the age of five, Quentin’s life was spared while his beloved mother lost hers. He has never recovered from that trauma, his survivor’s guilt a constant burden that has impeded his ability to succeed in business or find personal happiness. Quentin has always been cognizant of his older brother Damien’s anger and resentment, but his perception of himself as a failure and liability in his father’s eyes has crippled him emotionally. Five years ago, he thought that breaking away from his family was the wisest course, and even had the audacity to ask his father to give him his inheritance so that he could launch his own enterprise. C.J.’s accession further incensed Damien, who feels that his honorable service to the family business and his father’s welfare have been overlooked and taken entirely for granted. Damien is as charming and handsome as Quentin, but his psyche and spirit as damaged as his younger brother’s.
As Amelia’s relationships with the two brothers evolve over the course of their trip, each character’s fate will be revealed after the word “iceberg” becomes part of their vernacular. As the luxury liner is proven not to be “unsinkable” after all, critical choices reveal who is selfless or selfish, compelled by self-interest or dedication to the well-being of a loved one. As passengers as herded into the few available lifeboats, women separated from their husbands, screaming children pulled from their fathers’ arms, Amelia prays for the souls of the two brothers, watching in horror with her Aunt Neda and other rescued passengers as the massive ship slips below the surface of the dark, icy waters. The next morning’s light brings the Carpathia to their aid and all questions about what happened as the Titanic was being lowered to its watery grave are answered, as is the question at the forefront of reader’s minds: to whom will Amelia ultimately give her heart and is hers a wise choice?
As always, Goyer surrounds her leading characters with a colorful cast of supporting players and keeps the action moving at a fast pace. Because the story of the Titanic tragedy is universally known, she appropriately devotes only a few pages to the details of the sinking, instead focusing on the events leading up to the horrible ten seconds that allowed the iceberg to rip through Titanic’s hull and change the course of so many lives. Because Goyer has, by that point, endeared her characters to readers, the tension is heightened as Goyer describes how each reacts to the news of the ship’s impending demise and the steps they take to guarantee their own or other’s safety. The ending may be predictable, but that does not detract from the enjoyment of embarking upon the voyage along with Amelia, Quentin, Damien, et al.