Abigail Milton was born into the British middle class, but her family has landed in unthinkable debt. To ease their burdens, Abby’s parents send her to America to live off the charity of their old friend, Douglas Elling. When she arrives in Charleston at the age of seventeen, Abigail discovers that the man her parents raved about is a disagreeable widower who wants little to do with her. To her relief, he relegates her care to a governess, leaving her to settle into his enormous estate with little interference. But just as she begins to grow comfortable in her new life, she overhears her benefactor planning the escape of a local slave—and suddenly, everything she thought she knew about Douglas Elling is turned on its head.
Abby’s attempts to learn more about Douglas and his involvement in abolition initiate a circuitous dance of secrets and trust. As Abby and Douglas each attempt to manage their complicated interior lives, readers can’t help but hope that their meandering will lead them straight to each other. Set against the vivid backdrop of Charleston twenty years before the Civil War, Trouble the Water is a captivating tale replete with authentic details about Charleston’s aristocratic planter class, American slavery, and the Underground Railroad.
Jacqueline Friedland is the author of award-winning novels Trouble the Water and He Gets That From Me. A graduate of The University of Pennsylvania and NYU Law School, she practiced as an attorney before returning to school to receive her MFA from Sarah Lawrence College. She lives in New York with her husband and four children. For contact info, tour dates, and book clubs please visit www.jacquelinefriedland.com and Instagram @jackiefriedland
Her new novel, The Stockwell Letters, will be out on August 29, 2023.
1840’s Charleston, SC, slavery and the Underground Railroad, when abolitionist sentiments and actions can destroy your family. 1840’s England when a change in economic situation can change the life of a middle class family forcing them to send their 17 year old daughter to a place of safety with a friend in Charleston. There is hardship and despicable treatment and loss. Two people whose lives have not been easy will change each other’s lives. This is a love story, but I gradually found it to be more . It’s about the pre-war south, a view of the white upper class society vs the plight of their slaves, about the lengths that people who stood for humanity and freedom would go.
Abby Milton is sent to stay with her father’s old friend Douglas Elling. She is reeling from things that happened to her in England when her family faced poverty and he is withdrawn and grieving awful losses. She learns of his involvement in the abolitionist movement and sees him in a different light. He discovers things about her life in England and vows to protect her. As we suspect, they begin to heal each other by their presence.
I was disappointed that there was not more of the abolitionist activity. It was when characters came to life with their passion for helping others that the intensity of the story was deepened. The antics of the Cunningham sisters made this feel a little melodramatic, but in spite of this , I found I was captivated by the story. Oh and I loved the Epilogue!
I received an advanced copy of this book from Spark Press through NetGalley.
Seventeen-year-old Abigail Milton is sent from England to live with family friend Douglas Elling in Charleston. Abby’s family is struggling financially and they hope that she will benefit from living in an upper-class home. Douglas is a widower who runs a shipping company and his role as an abolitionist has made him a loner in the pre-civil war South. He introduces Abby to a different society full of wealth & debutante balls.
Douglas does little to help Abby acclimate to her new surroundings. He delegates her education to a governess who resides at his mansion and avoids her company. Abby finds him unlikable but is appreciative of his home and financial assistance. Her opinion of Douglas quickly changes when she overhears a private conversation. She learns that he is secretly working to help slaves escape to the North. Abby makes a bigger attempt to involve herself in Douglas’ life after discovering that they share similar beliefs and morals.
This is a debut novel by Jacqueline Friedland. Trouble The Water is a wonderful historical fiction read with an interesting assortment of characters. I applaud the amount of research invested in this novel which helps brings readers back in time.
Abigail Milton was living in England when her previously middle class family found itself in huge debt. To ameliorate things, they sent Abby to live in America. There, she’ll live with a family friend, Douglas Elling, in Charleston.
Elling is a widower with a foul temperament, but luckily Abby is given to a governess where she is mostly left alone. One day, Abby finds out that Elling is going to assist in the escape of a local slave.
Abby attempts to find out more about how Douglas has been involved in abolition. There’s a tension that builds as the two become closer.
Ok, I loved this time period and the Charleston setting. What an important period in our nation’s history. The Underground Railroad always makes for an intriguing and hopefully redeeming story.
I also loved Abby, and I grew to love Douglas. The dynamic between them was palpable. Overall, Trouble the Water is a fascinating historical with the vivid backdrop of Charleston in the pre-Civil War time period.
I received a complimentary copy. All opinions are my own.
1840's Charleston, South Carolina. This is a new to me publisher,SparkPress and I must say I am very impressed with this historical fiction book they have published . I am open to reading more by this publisher. The cover is the book is very eye catching. Abigail Milton (Abby) is from a middle class British family but when finances become an issue she is sent to America to live off the charity of their old friend, Douglas Elling. Very unsure of herself and not sure what to do with her time Abby is miserable. The widower who is take take care of her is a grumpy man who has lost his daughter and wife and wants nothing to do with her. Staying out of his way is the preferred thing for her. Life starts to open up for Abby as she gets used to her new living situation an starts to become more comfortable. Unable to help but overhear her benefactor making plans for the escape of a slave. Does she really know, Douglas? He sure doesn't seem to be the man she thought the was. The author has really done her research as this book is rich in details about abolitionist,Charleston’s aristocratic planter class, American slavery, and the Underground Railroad all taking place 20 years before the Civil War. Fascinating and I highly recommend it. Publish date 08 May 2018 I received a complimentary copy of this book from SparkPress through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
This book started on a gut-wrenchingly vivid note, but it ultimately fell flat for me. Early on, I thought I would not be able to read it. I thought it was too heavy of a subject matter, but it didn't end up dwelling on any aspect for too long. The story was told from multiple characters’ perspectives and takes place primarily in Charleston, South Carolina. I would say there were three main characters. Douglas, a successful businessman in shipping, Abby, his temporary ward, and Clover, a pregnant slave. It is a romance and historical fiction and is trying to do too much within the page space allotted.
Douglas has dealings in the Underground Railroad. Abby is from Liverpool sent by her family because of her unmanageable temperament, which is explained and understandable, but her family doesn’t understand and thinks a change of scene is in order. Clover is a slave in the nearby Cunningham household. Abby is in her presence maybe twice. and I don’t believe Douglas ever was so there was little connection between the Clover and the other MCs. I felt the characterization of the Cunningham family was off. They seemed like a caricature of a quintessential Southern family, and their role was to show the Southern way of life with slaves, throwing in facts and statistics (that were suspect at times) into conversation as way to show the author did the research rather than true to character.
The romance was nice enough but not very compelling. Not enough time spent on the development of the relationship to be very satisfying. The writing is clean and strong, but it needed something more to standout. Not a bad read. Just not a great one either.
*I received a copy of this from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
There’s promise in this book, but it badly needs a better editor. The two storylines have only marginal cross over. The author totally abandons the story of Clover, a slave escaping on the Underground Railroad, for most of the last 1/3 of the book. Then, just as the main storyline is wrapping up in a pleasing fashion, she yanks the rug out from under readers hoping for a romantic reunion scene by abruptly switching gears to a strange epilogue from Clover’s point of view. There are many tantalizing red herrings that are brought up, but never developed or explained. Why is Cora Rae so nice to the slaves, which is totally out of character for her? Does Mrs Cunningham really know who impregnated Clover, or does she only suspect? Does Cora know? Who set fire to the Elling mansion? I could go on and on. These are brought up and teased as being important plot points, then are never mentioned again. All in all, I found this novel frustrating. A slow first 2/3 gives way to a rushed final 1/3, and the muted payoff is not worth the patience required to reach it.
I was excited for this based on all the glowing reviews, but unfortunately I only made it to the halfway point and just didn't have any interest in continuing. I found Abby immature and the inclusion of a debutante's POV and the machinations of her female relatives irksome. Fairly predictable and stereotypical. I just wasn't invested enough to keep reading.
Trouble the Water takes you back in time to Charleston, South Carolina during the 1800’s, before the Civil War. Seventeen-year-old Abbigail Milton has arrived from England to stay with Douglas Elling, a friend of her parents who have recently landed in unthinkable debt.
Abby is disgusted by her new guardian as she meets Douglas, but first impressions aren’t always what they first appear. When Abby overhears him planning the escape of a local slave, she is suddenly taken aback by him and finds herself falling for her benefactor.
I loved the rich atmosphere of this Charleston love story, woven together with a strong willed woman and a kind hearted widower. With the backdrop of this notorious southern city, I loved seeing the involvement in the abolitionist movement and supporting the Underground Railroad. Trouble the Water has a great cast of characters, from Abby and Douglas, to the debutante women she befriends, to the slaves she meets.
Thanks to BookSparks for the free review copy of this book as a part of #SRC2018!
I read this entire book in one day, and thoroughly enjoyed this historical romance set in 1840's Charleston, SC. The anti-slavery and Underground Railroad storyline was such a welcome one, and I definitely learned a lot about the slave trade. The only fault I can find is that I wish the book had been longer, but I'll hold out hope that it will be the first in a series.
Trouble the Water is an intriguing debut novel! Poverty stricken Abby is sent to America by her parents to live as the ward of wealthy fellow Englishman, Douglas. As Abby struggles to adjust to her new life in America, she discovers a secret of her guardian. I was pulled in from the first page by Abby's story. Jacqueline Friedland expertly weaves Charleston's society, the Underground Railroad and romance. I can't wait to read her next book!
I loved this so much! Simple writing and accessible historical fiction. I tend to get bogged down if an author gets too flowery with their writing, so I appreciated the straightforward manner in which Friedland writes. This is totally outside my comfort zone, but I found myself turning the pages and racing to the end like I would any thriller. Loved the characters and the omnipresent narration. This is Southern Historical Fiction/ romance wrapped up in neat packaging. I also really appreciated the slavery and abolitionist discussion- if anything, I'd like more of that. I can tell a lot of research went into this. Well done, Jacqueline Friedland!
South Carolina, 1845: impoverished Abby Mitton arrives in Charleston from England as she was forced to accept her patron’s charity. If she had a say, she’d never leave England. Thus her story begins.
I was looking forward to reading about Charleston’s aristocratic planter class and the Underground Railroad. However, I had a hard time getting into this story due to a very simple prose, which wasn’t engaging including dialogue.
This book is a historical fiction novel taking place in the 1800s. It takes us to Charleston SC, where Abby Milton, who is from England goes to stay with a friend of her families, Douglas Eling. He is a widower, and offered to take her in, as a way to help out her family who has fallen into debt. At first Abby is not fond of Douglas. He leaves her in the care of the governess, who also cared for his daughter, and he seems angry. Over time, she learns there is much more to him. She learns of Douglas's involvement in the underground railroad. It took a bit to get going, but once it did, I was really pulled into this story. There was quite a love story here. And I loved all the descriptions of Charleston, and I grew to love these characters! If you are a historical fiction lover, I highly recommend you pick this lovely book up!
This may be one of the stupidest books I've ever read. I was hoping it would be a book about the abolitionist movement in the pre-war South with romance serving as a secondary plot (a la Yellow Crocus). Instead it was solely about a romance that happened to be set in the pre-Civil War era but really could have been anywhere. Abolition and slavery is only mentioned when it serves to move the romance plot line forward. At the beginning, there are a few chapters from the perspective of a slave on the underground railroad, but that plot line gets completely dropped and it doesn't come up again until the epilogue, at which point I was just annoyed that we hadn't gotten the story of the slave instead as her story was much more interesting. The characters show promise in the beginning, but never develop and the conflict is superficial and frivolous at best. I'm not even sure why I finished it.
Also the title has nothing to do with the story and is shoehorned in during the epilogue which feels so disjointed from the rest of the book that you're not sure why it was even included.
I loved this book! It's a cross between Jane Eyre and The Underground Railroad. It's a well researched book with a really interesting story. I started it on vacation and read it straight through. You'll root for the heroine and for some of the ancillary characters. Don't miss it!
Kudos to Jacqueline Friedland , Author of “Trouble the Water” for writing such an intriguing, intense, captivating, and riveting novel. I love the vivid descriptions of the times, the landscape and colorful cast of characters. The Genres for this novel are Historical Fiction, Fiction, with an essence of Romantic Adventure. The timeline for the story is about twenty years before the Civil War, taking place in Charleston, and England. The story centers around the time of American Slavery, the early Abolitionist movement and the Underground Railroad.
The author describes her characters as complicated and complex. Douglas Elling is a wealthy British, serious, and aloof widower, now residing in Charleston. His wife and young daughter perished in a fire that is suspect as retribution against Douglas for his beliefs. Douglas lives in a mansion with lots of space.
Abigail Milton is seventeen years old, living in England,and her once middle class parents are now in poverty. Her parents send Abigal to live at Douglas’ house and work with a governess . Abigail’s father is friends with Douglas. The parents are hoping that Abigal will benefit, and they can recover their losses.
Both Abigail and Douglas come from England, and aren’t familiar with slavery. The wealthy neighbors have slaves and don’t treat them well. The wealthy in Charleston are having parties and balls. Abigail has left secrets and betrayals behind and is having difficulty showing trust. She is having a difficult time adjusting to the new way of life. The author has a wonderful way of describing the homes and fashion of the times.
There are twists and turns and some tense dangerous events. There is deception and lies. In Charleston, for those people who feel that there should be freedom, there can be devastating consequences. I recommend this wonderful novel for those readers who appreciate Historical Fiction.
This well researched historical fiction novel is a debut for the author. She did a fantastic job of creating very real characters in the historical setting of Charleston, SC, twenty years before the civil war.
Abigail was born into the middle class in England but when her family fell on hard times they decided to send her to Charleston to live with an old friend, Douglas. Because she was only 17, Douglas hired a governess to teach her in both book learning and how to be a proper young lady in Charleston society. Abigail quickly learns that Douglas is a disheveled very unlikable man who hadn't gotten over the death of his wife and daughters two years earlier. She kept her distance from him until she overheard a conversation about how he was helping a slave escape to the north. Once she learned that they had the same opinion about slavery, their relationship improved and the reader begins to hope for happiness for both of them.
The author did considerable research on the South before the Civil War with her information about slavery, the Underground Railroad and the Abolitionists. If you enjoy historical fiction, this is a book you don't want to miss.
Thanks to the publisher for a copy of this book to read and review. All opinions are my own.
I was expecting this book to be heavier in history and lighter on romance, but it was the other way around. The plot and characters felt somewhat under-developed, and I didn’t think some of the characters’ actions were realistic. I also didn’t like the part of the plot that was hinting about Abby being abused. I decided to move on to another Georgette Heyer book instead of finishing this one.
Surprisingly fast paced despite the very plot-heavy themes with multiple challenges, growth and an overlay of tension that keeps readers flipping pages, this was a unique presentation that brought together historic events, challenges and choices in ways not before seen. Abigail Milton is a British girl, born to the middle class in the 1800’s. Her family has encountered difficulties and debts, and since she is ‘of that age’ it is time to prevail on a family friend in Charleston to take her on. She is put aboard a ship destined for the city, to live with wealthy family friend, Douglas Ettling and his family.
But things have changed and Douglas is now widowed, and wants little to do with ‘raising’ this girl – instead handing her off to the care of a governess to ‘finish’ her education and prepare her for a life in Charleston society. Much to Abby’s delight, she’s not forced into interactions with the gruff and disagreeable Douglas, but instead discovering this new place, the ways of society there and becoming more settled and curious about her situation. Soon, Abby overhears Douglas and another man discussing a slave’s impending escape and their aiding in that process. This brings instant questions to Abby, as she discovers that her benefactor is, in fact, an abolitionist and far from ‘accepting’ the status quo of all ‘good Southern landowners’, he is quietly working against that system, or as quietly as one can after knowing his wife and young daughter’s death in a fire were a result of his beliefs.
Soon the story changes as Abby understands the gravity of her situation and that her initial impressions of Douglas were wrong – as she looks at the issues around slavey, Planter Class, abolition, the outdated and outmoded (if very current) beliefs about the ‘humanity’ of the slaves, and their rights, as well as the early incarnations of the Underground Railroad, Douglas’ support of those looking for freedom, and her own relationship with Douglas framed by her new understanding of him and the dangers that seem to be ever-present in her new home.
Friedland brings all the research clearly forward, allowing readers to experience both public and private faces of society at that time, revealing dangers to those who aren’t supportive of slavery as well as those running from bondage with the help of many who are willing to risk lives, reputations and lands to aid them on the way to freedom. A fast paved and atmospheric read that brings readers into the decades just before the Civil War when the abolitionists in the south have started to act, rather than simply believe, in the rightness of their cause.
I received an eArc copy of the title from the publisher via Edelweiss for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
I will be honest, I'm not much into stories about slavery. However, The Invention of Wings changed that for me and set me on the path to be less hesitant about reading others. So when Jacqueline Friedland's debut came along, I was ready for it. While I was initially intimidated by Invention, I was able to dive right in to Trouble the Water.
This isn't just a story about slavery. There are parts involving the Underground Railroad, but I learned new things about it while also being entertained. The main piece of this novel is a love story. Of course, that also involves a lot of drama and heartache.
I liked that there were narrative shifts, so that I could hear the different character perspectives throughout the story. I genuinely cared about the characters (the good ones, at least) and their well-being.
While the novel started off a bit slow for me, it picked up steam early on and kept going from there. I found myself unable to stop turning the pages after a while! I just wish Abby had fit into the epilogue somehow. I would love to see what happened with her several years down the road.
Overall, it is extremely well-written for a debut novel. If you're looking for something new and interesting to talk about with your book club (or just relax with on a weekend), this is the story for you!
**Trigger warning: There are references to sexual abuse.**
#FirstLine ~ Douglas urged his horse onward at a feverish pace, gripped by panic that his wife might have been taken, or his daughter.
A powerful novel with some heavy themes, but those themes were balanced with the richness of the characters and the brilliant story. I loved that there was more than one perspective shared in this book because it gave me a deeper understanding of the story and the characters within it. It was one of those stories that I really enjoyed and was impressed by the level of historical details. A must read for lovers of richly written historical fiction.
If this book hadn't been a book club pick (not by me, I hasten to add) I wouldn't have finished it. It really came across to me as a bit of a first draft, a new author's attempt to tell a story before they'd learned something about plotting, not leaving loose threads, POV, tightening up prose, etc. The first third or so suffered from a certain preciousness in the choice of words, as if the author had been bingeing on a certain type of Christian fiction where authors seem to get brownie points for showing they can use a thesaurus; that tic was less evident after a while, although it was still there at times.
There were lots of "what the heck?" moments where characters did out-of-character things or stuff happened just to contrive a situation or you suddenly got a secondary character's point of view where, since the the book was really set up like a romance, you shouldn't. It was as if the author couldn't decide whether she was writing a romance or a multi-POV historical fiction. Or maybe she just really wanted to use her research about the slave trade and the abolitionists.
As a Brit I was totally thrown by the inclusion of Wigan as a place of significance, especially one of the Wigan-based characters being involved in the slave trade. Wigan? The name conjures up gritty Industrial Revolution coal mining and mills and the rest, not slaves. Now Bristol would have made sense, and indeed Bristol is mentioned but entirely bypassed. But Wigan???
On the whole it was an OK first go at writing a novel but needed some knocking into shape before publishing. So it gets 2 stars, "it was OK" in GR parlance. I was relieved to finish it.
Overall though, I really enjoyed this. I was kept intrigued by the slow revelation of certain things and I liked the gradual development of Abby and Douglas' relationship. I kind of wish Douglas had let Abby help with his abolitionist activities, but still really enjoyable.
Trouble the Water was well-researched and transported me to pre-Civil War Charleston, South Carolina. I’m a sucker for novels where there is a hidden abolitionist among the characters. It’s always good to see who people are behind the masks he or she wears in the public.
This historical background and research was impressive but often came at a cost as it was dropped into conversations, that didn’t always seem natural. Freidland did a great job at building the tension between those who were in favor of slavery, versus those who were opposed. There’s so little grey area in that subject so the sides were quite drawn. The abolitionist movement and the Underground system were important to the storyline, as ultimately it was those topics that propelled the story forward. The romance was a bonus, yet was quite expected by the reader.
I’ve read many books about slavery from the POV of slave, owner, mistress, governess etc., so this topic is not new to me. After much thought, I believe this book would soar if put under the YA umbrella. The simplistic writing, plot driven story and likable characters, even those you like to hate, makes this an excellent introduction to historical fiction, slavery and the Underground Railroad. I read tons of YA and even middle grade books, as often the simplistic telling is what makes the story shine. Overall, I enjoyed Trouble the Water quite a bit and look forward to what this debut author has in store for us next.
What an amazing debut novel set during the pre-civil war era.
I don’t usually read historical romance but this story just grabbed me from the beginning. It was so well researched and written that you really felt like you were in Charleston in 1846! Even though it is a romance, it also covers the important issues of that time, namely slavery and abolition without being trite and cliche.
The heroine, Abby is a strong independent woman, which is rare for such a period. She was honest and loyal, though young and insecure. She goes through a lot in her young life and it was great to have her be avenged, and get a happily ever after.
Douglas, the main character, fights for what he believes in and you can’t help but root for him.
The book moves at a fast pace and keeps you interested from the beginning. I would definitely recommend it to fans of historical fiction and I will keep an eye out for future works from this author.
I was lucky enough to get my hands on an ARC of this book. It starts out right away with action, and the excitement doesn't slow down for the entirety of the book. This is a plot-heavy, fast-paced book. Once you get past the first couple of chapters, it's hard to put down, so beware! I've read many books that involve the Underground Railroad, and this one has just moved to the top of my list. The real focus of the book is the relationships between the characters, and Friedland definitely delivers. This book is not to be missed!
A book to cuddle up with on a cold winter's eve or to take your time and savor on warm breezy day. Settle in for a read that makes you laugh, makes you cry -- all in all makes you feel renewed and optimistic about life. You'll miss it when it's over. Looking forward to reading more from this spectacular new author...
I so enjoyed this debut by Jacqueline Friedland. The author has a tremendous gift for settings - her descriptions are vivid and historically rich - a perfect draw for lovers of historical fiction. Friedland tackles serious subjects - slavery and abolitionism - but does so with a light enough touch to keep the story moving at a perfect pace. I highly recommend this novel.
I truly anticipated that this book was more about the underground railroad, slavery, and life in the antebellum South than it was. As a romance novel, it is what I consider an average to above average read. Nothing against the book just not quite what I was expecting.
This was a refreshing read for me. There's a nice complexity to the story and the writing style.
Would have been an instant classic with a bit more development. There's a crossover of story lines that could have been more evolved. I could have easily read 200 more pages for that sort of expansion on characters and story.
Yeah, it was a bit romance-y, but redemptive and believable. Overall, I enjoyed it.