I picked up “Home From the Sea” the minute I heard of the title’s release and did not regret my purchase for a moment. Mel Keegan has an enviable gift for world building, in this case transporting us to the English coast circa 1769. Mr. Keegan brings to life an ordinary, upstanding fellow about to be swept up in secrecy and adventure he could never have fathomed.
We first meet Jim Fairley running his late father’s tavern. A reputable establishment, The Raven flocks with clientele who share hair raising tales from the high seas that leave Jim musing over the thrill of exotic shores. The fog of his daily grind only lifts when a man of like mind enters the establishment and the pair discovers mutual attraction. But these illegal interludes are dangerous, inevitably brief in nature.
As a result Jim finds himself forever consoled by the companionship of rum-soaked sailors, a dog, one cat, his nearly deaf grandmotherly cook, and a female populace that assumes an old leg injury left him a eunuch. Even an aged regular sees the danger of missed opportunity, warning that any safe haven can become a prison.
Enter Toby Trelane, the enigmatic visitor who gradually, unintentionally, turns Jim Fairley’s mundane existence on its ear. Toby acts as handyman by day and balladsinger by night, drawing unlikely crowds even on the cusp of bad weather. This stranger piqued my interest with his secretive yet generous nature. What was Toby hiding? Why did he seem shamed by his past?
I had difficulty putting the book down well before any actual mayhem ensued. You must know, too, that Mr. Keegan incorporated some unexpected characters, well crafted ones. There’s the long-dead owner of The Raven who watched the coastal path with eerie intensity. No one could say why. Mother Nature plays a major role, for sure, and even the The Raven herself seems like much more than just a set of structures.
I consider this an outstanding mesh of romance, mystery, drama, and jeopardy. If you appreciate a thoughtful story filled with grit and heart instead of endless sex, be sure to pick up “Home From the Sea”.
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