In 1851, the year of the Great Exhibition, a new American yacht challenges British counterparts to a race.
Victorian Britain ruled the waves – few doubted that. But a group of American shipbuilders are prepared to challenge that idea with a new style of yacht, the America – and the architect is so confident about her speed that he promises to build her for nothing if she doesn’t prove faster than all others. As the America crosses the Atlantic to take part in the Exhibition, her journey and the challenge it involves set off unexpected developments in the lives of John, an American cabinetmaker who helped to build her, and Frank, a British journalist with a troubled past, eager to encourage a fair and enthusiastic competition. As the final race nears, both men find themselves learning and doing things they never expected – but where will it lead?
SPARROWHAWK ON THE HORIZON is a nautical adventure story on the surface, based on the race that inagurated the “America’s Cup”, but at its heart is a look at human purpose, persistence, love, forgiveness, and dedication. The two main characters are appealingly human and well-drawn, with histories and complex personalities that are revealed deftly and smoothly to the reader as the story goes on. Both men, the young John and the somewhat older Frank, are consumed with a need to discover or rediscover their purpose in life after setbacks and tragedies, and their stories are intriguing enough to immerse the reader in their lives and make us truly care what happens to them in the end.
Minor characters, too, spring alive from the page, with fully believable motivations and stories that feel three-dimensional and real even when we only get the barest glimpses of them. All these stories are set against a nineteenth-century context, and Scholte skilfully captures the vigor, ambition, and confidence of that energetic time period – as well as some of its darker and more corrupt aspects. It’s a thoroughly engaging read, with only a few questionable issues for historical nitpickers to find (among these, for example, is the near-immediate use of first names between two characters of the opposite sex who start out as strangers to each other).
SPARROWHAWK ON THE HORIZON is a delightful historical novel that will engage and entertain both heart and mind.
~Catherine Langrehr for IndieReader