The Master of Ships

Charles's Story (Novella to A Slave of the Shadows Book 2)

Fiction - Historical - Event/Era
81 Pages
Reviewed on 06/21/2019
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Viga Boland for Readers' Favorite

When you don’t have time for a really long novel, but need a story that captures your interest quickly and holds it to the last page, pick up a copy of The Master of Ships by Naomi Finley. Honestly, this Canada-based writer with an affinity for the deep south after spending her childhood in Tennessee sure knows how to tell an engrossing story in a minimum of pages.

The Master of Ships is one Charles Hendricks who masters his ships better than his emotions, especially after his beloved wife dies. For too long, he uses drink to numb himself to pain and to the possibility of ever loving another woman. But one night, one of his black female slaves, Isabella, becomes a willing listener and his lover…and sometime later, unbeknownst to him, the mother of his child. Separated by necessity and circumstances, both Charles and Isabella feel the need to find each other again, but if they do, is there a future for them in a society where a white shipmaster shouldn’t be involved with a black woman?

Just as I couldn’t put down the first novella I read by Naomi Finley, The Black Knight’s Tune, I read this engrossing story in one sitting. What a skill she has at creating realistic, engaging characters who stir our emotions! And as she does this, she creates in the reader the desire to read more of her books of which there are plenty. Don’t get too upset when you reach the end of The Master of Ships; turn the page and see you’ve reached the end. Finley is not only a skilled writer: she’s a clever marketer. She knows if you loved this book, you’ll be keen to read its sequel. I certainly am!

Deborah Lloyd

Charles Hendricks, a wealthy American ship owner, often traveled to London. At his home on Livingston Estate, his wife Olivia and little daughter Willow lived in comfort, with slaves taking care of the home and land. After he learned his daughter was his brother’s child, Charles drowned his sadness in a London tavern. That night, he rescued a woman he found in an alley, and his life became one of conflicted feelings and secrets. Several years later on a trip to London, he continued to look for the woman, Isabella. When he found her, he learned some news that challenged his beliefs. In The Master of Ships: Charles’s Story (Novella to A Slave of the Shadows Book 2), written by Naomi Finley, Charles’s life is at a crossroads.

The writing style in this novella is concise and clear. The story moves along at a good pace as it includes past happenings mixed in with the present storyline. The complex dilemma that Charles and Isabella face is described in a succinct manner, reflecting the moral choices during the era of slave ownership. There are a number of interesting characters in the story, including Hugh Gillies, Charles’s newly hired ship captain; Mrs. Dier, who strives to protect Isabella; Pippa, Isabella’s housemate and friend. Author Naomi Finley has skillfully developed a thought-provoking novella in The Master of Ships: Charles’s Story. This series is recommended for anyone who wants to learn more about the complicated, grim aspects of slavery and life in the 1800s.

Grant Leishman

The Master of Ships by Naomi Finley is a short historical novella that follows the lives of Charles Hendricks, a wealthy American slave-owner and merchant in the 1840s, and the woman he fell in love with in England. This novella is obviously a continuation of a story begun earlier, but it is not necessary to have read the previous book to enjoy this one. Charles, despite being cheated on by his wife and his brother, a union that produced a child, was madly and deeply in love with his wife and was happy to raise the child as his own. When his wife is murdered, he is devastated and distraught, taking to the sea and alcohol to numb the pain of his loss. When he finds Isabella, beaten and unconscious in a London alleyway, in his inebriated condition he determines to help her. What starts out as friendship rapidly turns to love, but Charles cannot let his wife’s memory go and, more importantly perhaps, as a slave-owner himself, loving this woman would ruin his business, his reputation and endanger the lives of Isabella, his daughter Willow and himself.

The Master of Ships is a novella and as such is a little short for me to be a totally satisfying read. However, I found it intriguing, exciting and fulfilling. Author Naomi Finley has created some archetypal characters from the era. Charles, especially, conflicted as he was by the love of his late wife and the need to ensure his daughter (niece, in reality) received the upbringing she deserved, along with his deep and abiding love for Isabella made him a fascinating study in morals and beliefs at a time when people were routinely subject to ownership and subjugation. Charles was caught neatly between two worlds, unsure what the right move was but knowing he did not want to, indeed, could not lose Isabella. My only regret with this exceptional story was that it wasn’t a full-length novel. What I particularly enjoyed was the moral debate over the appropriateness of slavery. This was a debate that rattled through Charles’ mind the entire time. I note the author is planning the next chapter in this saga soon and the greatest compliment is to say, I will be waiting for the next installment to find out what happens in this love story and where the main characters move on from here.