Set in the nineteenth century, this tale opens with a woman who is stuck in a seemingly loveless marriage defying her abusive husband by volunteering at the orphanage where she was raised rather than taking a position as a ladyís companion, which would get her away from her husband and unhappy home life. When she does not take the position, her husband insists that their fifteen-year-old daughter, Charmaine, quit school to take the position. To get away from her drunk and abusive father, she promptly quits school and moves in with the Harringtons.
This turns out to be an excellent decision; Loretta Harrington is like a mother to her and helps her continue her education, learn social graces, and become more polished. Charmaine is happy because she is away from her father, her mother is happy volunteering at the orphanage and seeing her daughter on weekends, and her father is happy because his daughter is supporting him so that he does not have to work. All is going well until a financial dispute leads to disaster and Charmaine's mother ends up dead.
Charmaine is left heartbroken and alone in the world. Once again, the Harringtons, especially Loretta, step up and treat her like the daughter they never had. Loretta insists that it is time for Charmaine to wed and starts the search for a suitable husband. Charmaine refuses, stating she will never become stuck in a loveless marriage or under the control of any man. Loretta changes tactics to secure Charmaineís future when a position as a governess for the wealthy and powerful Duvoisin family becomes available on a paradise island in the Caribbean called Les Charmants. The Harringtons and Charmaine travel there, and Charmaine gets another stroke of good fortune in getting the governess position.
The mistress of the house, Colette Duvoisin, and her children immediately make her feel as welcome as if she was part of the family. Paul Duvoisin, Coletteís adult stepson (who is the same age as her), and her husbandís first wifeís sister, Auntie Hagatha, do not share the same opinion of Charmaine and initially give her a hard time and treat her poorly. Eventually Paul comes around and becomes supportive of Charmaine. He is also not-so-secretly attracted to her, but because of Charmaineís past experiences with her father, she is wary.
As she spends more time with the family, she grows to love them as she would her own and forms a friendship with Colette. She becomes more comfortable with Paul, and their relationship looks as if it may progress to the next level. Charmaineís future looks brighter than ever before and she couldnít be happier when disaster strikes again. Now she is uncertain about her position and what the future may hold.
Author DeVa Gantt does an excellent job keeping the reader engaged throughout the realistic narrative. Itís not all good times; there is tragedy, there is loss, there is heartache, and there are some difficult subjects. On the other side, there is heartwarming love and affection, there is joy, and there is a sprinkle of passion. Several times while reading I had to put the book down because I couldnít see through the tears. Gantt brings the characters to life and absorbs the reader into the story.
This is especially true of Charmaine. You really feel like her victories are your victories, her successes are your successes, and her pain is your pain. From the first time she is mentioned, you canít help but to root for her. She is such an easy character to identify with: the girl who is born in to a less-than-perfect home life, who feels that she is alone and does everything she can to make her own way in the world. She is far from perfect and has many flaws that I personally can relate to. One that comes to mind is her habit of letting her mouth get away from her and speaking before she thinks. Charmaine isnít the only character to whom readers can relate, but I donít want to give away any plot twist - and there are a few.
The only problem with A Silent Ocean Away is that it just - ends. There is no closure; in fact, it ends almost mid-thought. A sequel is slated to come out in April 2009, and its first chapter is even included at the end of the book, but still, could we have gotten more of an ending? Maybe my disappointment with the conclusion is simply wanting to know whatís going to happen next. I have a feeling thereís a big plot twist coming, and I just canít wait to find out.