When I picked up Beloved Castaway by Kathleen Y’Barbo, I was expecting all of the usual elements of historical romance fiction. I was not disappointed in that much, at least. Set in the mid-1800s, Beloved Castaway tells the story of Isabelle Gayarre, a beautiful Spanish woman seeking freedom from slavery in England, and Josiah Carter, the skeptical, less-than-reputable captain of the ship she is convinced will take her there. The account of their inevitable romance and their triumphs over both personal and situational obstacles is both imaginative and predictable in an odd way that leaves the reader slightly confused.
Josiah and Isabelle’s first encounters are not exactly friendly. She is nearly certain his intentions toward her are less than honorable, and he is convinced she tried to swindle him out of her passage fare, which strangely goes missing. As their time aboard Josiah’s ship progresses, Isabelle proves her integrity and kindness, caring for crew members who are wounded during their rather violent launch. But Josiah’s spiritual growth is hindered by his relationship with his hypocritical father, who is a preacher, and even though Josiah finds Isabelle captivating, he is annoyed by her spiritual fervor. Eventually, he begins to realize that he is again hearing God’s voice. Not unexpectedly, romance buds. But when an accident leaves Isabelle injured and unconscious and Josiah ends up in jail, the pair are faced with the decision either to pursue or protect one another.
The language of the book is what kept me reading. Y’Barbo liberally uses fresh, colorful description as well as intelligent dialogue that seem appropriate to the time period. However, a couple of elements confused me as I read. For example, the terms of Isabelle’s slavery are not explained until halfway through the book, except by an unfamiliar French word, “plaçage.” This is only one instance of several that may have been attempts at foreshadowing as a literary device. To me, however, it was distracting since it seemed like the pieces needed to be put together long before the author provided all of them.
While the story is written with beautiful turns of phrases, the plot was not riveting. However, Josiah’s face-off with Christian ethics is a compelling element of the story, and the settings are vivid. Readers looking for a dramatic romance story with no surprises and a predictable happy ending will find an entertaining, though not enthralling, tale in Beloved Castaway. – Lyndi Markus, Christian Book Previews.com
Isabelle Gayarre was born of dubious parentage. The illegitimate daughter of a rich white gentleman and his quadroon mistress, she was born into a gilded cage – loved and adored but a slave nonetheless. Her only hope was to secure passage to England aboard The Jude to escape to an English country cottage given to her by her half-sister, Emilie. The cottage—an ocean away from the racist constrains of New Orleans—would give Isabelle a life of freedom. Yet Isabelle’s flight to freedom is almost over before it begins when fire breaks out on the docks of New Orleans. Narrowly avoiding destruction, Josiah Carter captains The Jude through the flames.
The fire, though, has taken its toll and Captain Carter must find medical care for his men. On the way, he finds himself drawn both to Isabelle and her faith as those aboard his ship suffer with their fire-induced injuries. When still another catastrophe strikes the ship in the Florida Keys, Josiah is forced to come to terms with his faith—and his love of a slave woman whose gilded cage bars her forever from the bonds of matrimony.