ARC Review: Out Front the Following Sea by Leah Angstman

About the Book:

Title: Out Front the Following Sea

Author: Leah Angstman

Page Length: 334

Publication Date: Jan. 11, 2022

Publisher: Regal House Publishing

Genre: Historical / Literary / Epic

*Shortlisted for the Chaucer Book Award*

Synopsis: Out Front the Following Sea is a historical epic of one woman’s survival in a time when the wilderness is still wild, heresy is publicly punishable, and being independent is worse than scorned — it is a death sentence. At the onset of King William’s War between French and English settlers in 1689 New England, Ruth Miner is accused of witchcraft for the murder of her parents and must flee the brutality of her town. She stows away on the ship of the only other person who knows her innocence: an audacious sailor — Owen — bound to her by years of attraction, friendship, and shared secrets. But when Owen’s French ancestry finds him at odds with a violent English commander, the turmoil becomes life-or-death for the sailor, the headstrong Ruth, and the cast of Quakers, Pequot Indians, soldiers, highwaymen, and townsfolk dragged into the fray. Now Ruth must choose between sending Owen to the gallows or keeping her own neck from the noose.

Steeped in historical events and culminating in a little-known war on pre-American soil, Out Front the Following Sea is a story of early feminism, misogyny, arbitrary rulings, and the treatment of outcasts, with parallels still mirrored and echoed in today’s society.

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My Review:

Out Front the Following Sea is a historical novel that follows Ruth Miner as she fights to survive in 17th century New England. This book moved me in ways that I didn’t expect. I don’t know if it is because the story takes place in New England where I’ve lived for my entire life, or if it’s because of the strong female protagonist whose story is so unbelievably compelling, or if it is because of the rich imagery and history, but I fell in love with this unique and engrossing story.

Ruth Miner is a survivor – brave, strong, fierce, and fearless. An unconventional girl in a world that thrives on conformity is never safe, as Ruth knows too well. She is a woman ahead of her time with desires that are forbidden in a strict, patriarchal society that demands submission, especially among females. No matter what happens, Ruth never gives up, and I admire her perseverance and fighting spirit, especially considering the insurmountable obstacles she faces.

Heartbreaking and yet hopeful, the story reveals the brutal and harsh realities of 17th century New England. As a life-long resident of New England, I found the rich history of the story fascinating. The deeply researched and historically authentic world is vivid and immersive, and it captivated me from the first pages. New England is on the cusp of war, and the characters are on different sides of it. I like that the story offers perspectives from different sides of the multitude of conflicts going on at this time, as it provides a well-rounded view of Ruth’s world and the people who inhabit it.

Of all the things to know, I know nothing at all …we are shackled to this dictation, this ‘men’s talk,’ when there’s other worlds out there … Other worlds that do not know our shackles, so we must, in actuality, be so small within them … the frailty of thought against the obstinance of time. I wish … I wish I could hold it. But it goes before I can reach it.

The book also highlights the lack of options for women during this time and how devalued people were because of their gender and race. This is particularly evident as Ruth makes unlikely friends who prove more honorable and just than the townspeople who tout these qualities. It’s an interesting juxtaposition, as many of the people Ruth should be able to trust are hypocrites and are often less trustworthy and more vicious than those who are shunned from society.

Few people understand and accept Ruth, though she does make several allies throughout her journey. However, Owen, a young man that has known Ruth since childhood, accepts her unequivocally. Owen suffers as much as Ruth throughout the story, yet his loyalty to her remains. His character, as well as many of the other characters in the novel, is well-layered, dynamically developed, and compelling.

A warmth stole through her, and she thought of home. What that meant – what it meant now. His scent was home, and there was now no other.

And the romance? I loved it! It’s heartbreaking and uplifting and devastating and hopeful. It’s everything! Two people bound by tragedy find home with each other, yet they are repeatedly torn apart. This couple went on an epic journey (both together and apart) riddled with obstacles, and I couldn’t get enough of their story. I must admit, they broke my heart on more than one occasion, and I so wanted them to find some happiness together. Their deep and profound love story isn’t always pretty, but it is honest, complex, breathtaking, and absolutely epic!

An amazing story of love, perseverance, and survival, Out Front the Following Sea is both dark and hopeful. A wonderful mix of action, suspense, history, and romance, this is a story that will stay with you a long time after finishing it. I’m so thankful to Leah Angstman, Regal House Publishing, and Lori Hettler at TNBBC for a copy of this amazing book in exchange for my honest review.


Favorite Parts:

  • Ruth – she is an amazing protagonist, richly developed and compelling.
  • The love story. I’m a sucker for a good love story, and this one is like no other!
  • The history.

Favorite Lines:

There is a perfect dawn after every storm.

Who was Ruth? What defined this being? A new identity swept through her bones with rigor, and she felt them calcify, as if her whole self – whatever it was – had turned bone-thick and could push back against the shrinking walls.

Don’t believe all that you think. You’ll not find truth in beliefs.

Sometimes Ruth felt that if she could explain the sun, the moon, the stars, the tides, the very order of the universe, she’d figure out how those events and consequences all intertwined to create their own order in turn, and that somehow, there was a place, a reason, and an explanation for all of it, and in her own understanding of this, she’d find her own order in the universe, an answer to whys and hows of the past, where they crossed with the hows of the future.

About the Author:

Leah Angstman is a historian and transplanted Michigander living in Boulder. OUT FRONT THE FOLLOWING SEA, her debut novel of King William’s War in 17th-century New England, is forthcoming from Regal House in January 2022. Her writing has been a finalist for the Saluda River Prize, Cowles Book Prize, Able Muse Book Award, Bevel Summers Fiction Prize, and Chaucer Book Award, and has appeared in Publishers Weekly, L.A. Review of Books, Nashville Review, Slice, and elsewhere. She serves as editor-in-chief for Alternating Current and The Coil magazine and copyeditor for Underscore News, which has included editing partnerships with ProPublica. She is an appointed vice chair of a Colorado historical commission and liaison to a Colorado historic preservation committee.

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