Sea of Secrets
By Amanda DeWees
After her brother is killed in the Crimean War, innocent young Oriel Pembroke finds herself alone in the world. Disowned by the cruel father who has always despised her, she has nowhere to turn until she is taken under the wing of a glamorous relative she never knew: the former Duchess of Ellsworth, who has scandalized society by remarrying soon after her first husband’s death. At the opulent seaside estate of Ellsmere, Oriel thinks she has found a safe haven—but the darkly handsome young duke, Herron, believes otherwise. Haunted by the death of his father, he suspects that Ellsmere is sheltering a murderer. Even as Oriel falls in love with the duke, she begins to fear that his grief and suspicion are turning to madness. When dangerous accidents start to befall both Herron and Oriel, however, she realizes that someone may be trying to stop them from discovering the truth about the past. And when her father comes back into her life, she learns that he may hold the answer to the most horrifying secret of all...
My rating: 4.5/5
After reading the Ash Grove Chronicles I expected nothing less but an excellent story from Sea of Secrets and I was pleasantly surprised because this story was very different from the Ash Grove Chronicles. Sea of Secrets begins with the death of Oriel's dear brother Leonin, and her stressful relationship with her horrible father, who is constantly demeaning her and inducing fear in his own daughter. Oriel's father disowns her and as a last resort she contacts her mother's side of the family, people her father has never mentioned and who she has never met before. What Oriel doesn't know is that there are more links between her mother's side and her father than she could ever imagine.
I sympathised with Oriel, because she has never been loved and it was such a pleasant change to see her mother's family dote on her and for her to fall in love with the Duke. Oriel's father was so cruel and I was horrified to see him return to ruin the little happiness Oriel had finally found.
Overall, the characters were excellently described and all felt so real. The story is full of secrets, just as the title suggests and I liked the dark feel the story takes.
"You may be proud that he died a hero's death," intoned Abel Crowley, one of my father's colleagues.
"Indeed, a bullet in the head at twenty-three is far more gratifying than pneumonia at seventy," returned Father, and Crowley, a man not highly attuned to sarcasm, nodded sagely and clapped my father on the back before ambling away.
But it was left to Mrs. Armadale from down the street to make the most foolish attempt to console my father for his loss.
"At least you still have your daughter," she said.
Father stiffened. I kept my eyes lowered, but I could sense the withering glance he directed at me.
"Madam," said Father, in his deep, solemn voice, "you cannot imagine how that fact has cheered me."
"I think I have enough sense to tell a cad from a gentleman," I said, to soothe him.
"The trouble is, so many gentlemen are cads," he said doubtfully.
"So I have succeeded in teaching you something," he said, his voice almost purring in its deep contentment. "You have inherited something from me after all- the capacity for hate. That will be your legacy."
He stood at the foot of the grave, gloved hands clasped behind him, his dark clothes and hair blending into one black silhouette, as if he were not a presence but an absence, a hole cut out of the landscape.
I realized I was crying. I had not been able to shed tears for the parting from my father, or even for Lionel, but now some constraint in me had broken. One more shackle of my father's forging was falling away, and even in the midst of my feeling for Herron I felt a kind of wonder at it. The frozen winter of my soul was at an end; the thaw had come.
"Then why shouldn't it be a sin to turn my back on a world that's been left to chaos?" he demanded in triumph. "There can be no sin where there is no deity to sin against. And if there is a God, He can only be my enemy now. Why should I then hesitate to enact the justice that He fails to administer, or to end my own life if I feel it has no further purpose?"
"Yes, of course. But the man himself, be he martyr or murderer, will look like all his fellows in a century's time. Nothing he will do can change that; in the end we are all the same, a bare assemblage of bone. It makes all one's efforts or enterprises seem quite futile."
She made no move. Anxious, I put my arm around her shoulders. "He is not lost to you forever, I am sure: in time he will come back to us, out of this prison he has made for himself."
She raised her head at that, and I was shocked anew at the weary hopelessness of her eyes, the tired lies that leapt into sudden relief. "It may be so," she said tonelessly. "But it may be that this prison is stronger than time- or love."
I could see the scene as if it were unfolding before me now: Herron, gazing down at me with love rekindled in his eyes; the duchess and Lord Claude, smiling in their delight; my father, confounded for once, looking as if he had swallowed a bad oyster...
"You gave me a start, daughter," he said almost gaily. "I never expected you to be here. I thought you would be deep asleep, sunk in a laudanum-induced stupor. What a nuisance you are. Can't you do anything I want of you?"
"What are you doing?"
"Killing young Herron. He takes a great deal of killing, this lad. I'm losing count of the times his uncle and I have tried."
I began to laugh, lying there half in and half out of the water, drenched and half-drowned. I had thrown myself into the arms of the sea, and it had thrown me back.
"Oh, I could; but in any case, acting as you did- to save another life- that is not murder. You are no more capable of cold-blooded, deliberate murder than...than Claude. There is some situation in which everyone will kill, whether it is to save her own life or that of someone she loves. That does not make her a killer by nature, or mean that, having destroyed one, she will ever do so again."
"How can you be so sure?" I could not help asking it, even though I did not want to find fault with her kindness. "How can any of us really be certain we know what those around us a capable of?"
She rose to her feet and shook out her gown. "Sometimes we cannot, dear, but often our hearts tell us enough. In any case, we cannot depend on absolute certainty; sometimes we must take people on faith, and trust them even if we risk being hurt."