Jonathan Hamilton and Nigel Hamilton share a single night of comfort and kindness before Fate seemingly rips them apart. Each is forced to travel separate paths, though both paths will bring them to San Francisco. Jonathan comes from money, but uses brains and cunning to improve his family’s shipping fortunes in the new world. He knows he can never be a perfect husband to his betrothed, Anne, but they’ve come to an understanding that suits them both. Nigel’s path is more difficult; from a tragic night in the icy Atlantic, to a life of prostitution, he is forced into fighting for every scrap of comfort he can find.
Jason Dent was born different and it isolated him from the rest of the world. When he’s hired to be Nigel’s bodyguard/caretaker, he finally finds a place to call home. But Jason knows that Nigel longs for Jonathan, the man who showed him a night’s kindness so many years ago. When Fate takes control once more, Jonathan, Nigel, Jason, and Anne find themselves faced with the decision of a lifetime: choose an ordinary life or create a new kind of family.
The House on Shipwreck Hill was kind of a jumbled mess. There are interesting characters, but these are often lost in a rambling overall plot and uninspired storylines. It’s a book that tried hard, but failed to establish itself.
Nigel is perhaps the character with the most definition and his past is certainly a tragic one. He seems destined to be used by nearly everyone around him and is adrift and broken. He’s a man who understands what his body can do and the money it can bring, but that doesn’t mean he’s either safe or protected. The rest of the characters on The House on Shipwreck Hill are rather flat and even when they could be interesting, like Jason, they never develop much beyond single dimension creations. The relationship between Nigel and Jonathan never makes much sense given that it’s stems from a single night, so it’s not clear why we’re supposed to be believe they’re destined for one another. None of the relationships here are very believable. The foursome between Anne, Jonathan, Nigel, and Jason is certainly admirable and sweet, but there’s not enough development of it to give it much depth.
The plot to The House on Shipwreck Hill is both plodding and chaotic. The dates at the start of the chapters aren’t always correct, so it’s up to the reader to figure out when action is taking place. Additionally, we’re following multiple characters over different periods of time and it gets confusing, though not so dramatically that I couldn’t unravel the threads when necessary. It is just rather frustrating. The plot on the whole is slow and I think it tends to wander off at times when it serves no purpose in doing so. The book needed stronger editing, which I think would have reigned in the more wayward rabbit trailing that seemed to happen.
The House on Shipwreck Hill gets credit for the effort it put forth to create a historically strong, multi-gendered romance. But it gets so wrapped up in its own ideas that it never gives the reader much to sink their teeth into. It needed more structuring and building out of the relevant relationships and tougher editing all around. This one didn’t work for me, but if you’re a fan of historical romances, you might enjoy it.