Graduate student Liza Donovan has been experiencing unsettling dreams of 19th-century Nantucket, so she jumps at the chance to spend summer break there with her roommate and best friend, Jane. Jane's aunt Kitty happens to live in one of the island's most prominent and famous homes. The stories Kitty recounts about ship’s captain Obadiah Young, who owned her house back in the 1840s, startle Liza, because she recognizes him as the man from her visions ... which are becoming progressively more intrusive, and also more erotic.
In the course of her search, Liza grows close to Adam Gallagher, a gorgeous curator at the Nantucket Whaling Museum. Together they learn more about Obadiah’s relationship with his beautiful, frail socialite wife, Lucy, and her mysterious death. Long-ago rumor holds that Obadiah murdered Lucy, pushing her down a flight of stairs before heading out to sea on what was to be his final voyage.
Liza's uncanny ability to identify scenes and whaling paraphernalia dating from the early 19th century puzzles everyone, Liza included, until she comes to accept that her visions must relate to a past life. Kitty's godson, Lucian, is skeptical of anything remotely New Agey, but Liza feels strangely attracted to him even despite his doubts and snarky remarks. The most confusing thing of all is the content of the dreams themselves. In them, Liza seems to be viewing the past through the alternating viewpoints of both Obadiah and Lucy. If Liza is truly experiencing dreams from an earlier lifetime, who was she back then?
When I read novels with parallel timelines, the present-day scenarios often prove to be annoying distractions from the more interesting historical segments. This isn't the case here. The modern-day characters are so open and genuine that they're impossible not to like. Their snappy dialogue and the many contemporary references contrast well with the serious tone of the earlier setting: a 19th-century Quaker whaling village, a place where social proprieties matter and death at sea is a tragic fact of life. When the two timelines overlap in Liza's dreams, it has a haunting effect, and the intensity increases as the novel approaches its conclusion.
There are some explicit sex scenes you'd never have found in a Mary Stewart or Anya Seton novel of this type, but they're integral for character development, and the storyline as a whole is engrossing. This was one of my most entertaining reads of 2008. Plus, it has an awesome cover.
The Boundless Deep was published in 2008 by Forge at $14.95 (432pp, paperback, 978-0-7653-1972-2).