Running Against the Tide by Joanna Barnden
Publisher: Robert Hale Ltd
It is June 1800 and the Port of London is being modernised to make it more prosperous in the world of shipping.
Eighteen year old Virginia Harcombe is out on the Thames with her father, Josiah and merchants Mr Johnson and his son, Nathan. In the absence of any sons, Ginny has taken it upon herself to learn her father's trade of shipping and is now very proficient in the business. Nathan Johnson is clearly keen to impress Ginny and it is evident that Josiah would have no objection to their union, but Ginny has no interest in marriage, only developing Marcombe's Shipping. How strange, therefore, that her eye is caught by the lighterman steering their vessel through the swirling waters of the river. Ginny is admiring the young man's skill when he turns towards her and their eyes meet, causing Ginny's heart to skip a beat. Summoning up her courage, she moves towards the man and speaks to him about the building of the West India Dock, but before long he is called away to resume his duties and Ginny is then drawn into a conversation with her father and the two merchants regarding new boat designs.
It is obvious to Ginny that Josiah and the elder Mr Johnson want to encourage a relationship between herself and Nathan, especially when Josiah invites the merchants to dinner that evening. Both young people are aware of the fathers' intentions and are suitably embarrassed, but it is not long before Ginny's attention drawn back to the lighterman.
Their journey now safely at an end. Josiah rewards the young man with a shilling and asks his name. Ginny memorises it, Edward Allerdice. The lighterman offers Ginny his hand to guide her down the gangplank and it is then she notices that his hand is bleeding. Edward apologises and assures Ginny that it is merely one of his many blisters that has burst. Nevertheless, Ginny is concerned and suggests Edward visits her at the family home in Southwark where she has herbs that could assist in healing Edward's blisters. But before Edward can give an answer, Ginny is called away by her father, dreading how much fuss will be made at home when her mother finds out an eligible guest is coming to dinner! She leaves Edward on the water front wondering whether he dare take up the beautiful young girl on her offer of help for his blistered hands.
Read on to discover whether Ginny and Edward's attraction for each other can develop in a society vigorously divided by class or whether Ginny has to succumb to her father's obvious intention for her to marry the infinitely more suitable Nathan Johnson.
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel by Joanna Barnden and should be more than happy to recommend it to lovers of period romance. It is more than a romantic novel, however, as it is intermingled with sub-plots of great sadness, heroism and compassion. It also provides an informative insight into the lives of those with money and those struggling to exist within the capital at the turn of the nineteenth century.
I award Running Against the Tide a well-deserved five red roses.