Sea Fever is an excellent book. It’s a truly lovely and believable romance, between orphan Evangeline “Angel” Dorset, 17-years-old when the book begins, and 33-year merchant banker Charles Thetford.
Angel’s grandfather has just died on their yacht in Bali, and she seeks help from the first group of people she finds, which turns out to be Charles and his friends. Right from the outset they have a connection and an attraction, though Charles doesn’t act on it until Angel turns 18. When they first meet:
As she handed the serving spoon to him their fingertips brushed and she felt a curious sensation quite different from any ordinary casual physical contact. It would have been an exaggeration to describe it as like touching a live wire, and indeed she had never had that experience. But it was the comparison which came into her mind. The sensation startled and puzzled her.”
There’s a wonderfully evil Other Woman who makes her entrance in a colourful silk kimono and breasts “which were moving slightly” as she walks. Her “tawny” eyes are mentioned several times, she also slips on a “clinging silk robe” and has long, pointed, coral-varnished nails “like shiny claws”. Marvellous stuff.
Whereas Angel has a “20-inch waist”, no boobs, and is “the image of Princess Di”. The book was published in 1990 making this a rather odd reference. Diana was nearly thirty with two kids by then, and supermodels (Cindy, Linda, Christy etc) had eclipsed royals to become all the rage.
Charles ends up taking Angel back to London and setting her up in his aunt’s home. She soon realises she’s madly in love with him but he is extremely restrained, worried about the age gap. He doesn’t kiss her until page 109, and then it’s in the guise of a “lesson” ahead of her first date with a young man nearer her own age:
To her astonishment, he cupped her face with his free hand and, bending, kissed her on the mouth. The light touch of his lips made her heart lurch wildly in her chest. But it lasted only seconds.
“Something to satisfy your curiosity,” he said.
Then there’s one occasion where Angel is begging him to deflower her – “I’d like to… to go all the way… I can’t stay a virgin much longer” – and he proposes:
For a moment his fingers tightened in a grip which made her knuckle-bones crunch. He said abruptly, “There’s only one circumstance in which I would make love to you … if we were married. Is your curiosity so great that you’ll commit the rest of your life to me to satisfy it?”
But then he does a Maxwell Sheffield and “takes it back”, saying they should talk about it in a year’s time.
Anyway, Angel ends up embarking on a modelling career which Charles objects to, but there’s not a lot he can do. Good for her – she ends up pursuing it anyway, with some success – meanwhile Charles seems to have gone off and done his own thing. Then the plot skips a couple of years and they meet again and he proposes and you know the rest.
I think I would have preferred Charles to be a bit less restrained. Yes, he’s very decent and all that, but he’s so restrained his her grade dips to an Alpha-minus. He also stays celibate from the time they meet to the time they marry. Which is all very gentlemanly, but I can’t help the strong suspicion that he’s not particularly red-blooded nor très bon dans le sac, to put it in franglais.