Review of “To the Farthest Shores” by Elizabeth Camden

Camden, Elizabeth. To the Farthest Shores. Bloomington, MN: Bethany House, 2017. ISBN-13: 978-0-7642-1880-4. $15.99 USD. 

4 stars

This is my first book by Elizabeth Camden, and while it is not the a perfect book by any means, I will be reading more from her. In To the Farthest Shores, she manages to take a premise of a romance between two people with deception and secrets between them and make it work, against a rich historical backdrop of early 20th century California.

While some aspects of the romance between Ryan and Jenny seem a little bit unbelievable, especially since they were supposedly so in love after a brief period, yet circumstances when his career meant he would be in Japan indefinitely led him to take up with another woman, the reunion and the building of trust again between the two feels authentic. When they reunite, they each have secrets, and once they are revealed, they are able to move forward as a couple. Camden conveys this as a positive, as well as the presence of Ryan’s adorable daughter, Lily.

I am also hopeful we haven’t seen the last of Finn, even if Camden doesn’t really write series, since it was wonderful to watch his journey through recovering from addiction to opiates, including exploring the stages of withdrawal. I loved seeing his growth by the end, to the point where he actually serves a pivotal role in helping Ryan and Jenny get together.

However, there are some shortcomings, both in terms of the prose and way I felt certain plot points were executed. I feel like the former could have been polished further by an editor, such as at one point in the book from Jenny’s POV, when they arrive at Ryan’s home, and she encounters Ryan’s chef for the first time. Initially, it says, when she was introduced to the man, “At first glance, Jenny assumed the cook was Japanese, but he introduced himself as Boris Lu, a man whose grandparents were among the first wave of Chinese immigrants to California in the 1850s.” (143) Then, pages later, Ryan reiterates the same information, with some additional details in conversation. I feel like one of these passages was not needed.

As for the latter, despite it not being a mystery specifically, I felt like a lot of time was spent on the attempts on Ryan’s life, generating curiosity that it would be important later, only to have the culprit revealed without fanfare, and, due to his familial relationship to Ryan, not punished. While he was never seriously hurt, I did feel like there should have been at least more of an explanation for what happened, and some consequences.

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