**Shortlisted for the Chaucer Book Award**
OUT FRONT THE FOLLOWING SEA is a historical epic of one woman’s survival in a time when the wilderness is still wild, heresy is publicly punishable, and being independent is worse than scorned—it is a death sentence.
At the onset of King William’s War between French and English settlers in 1689 New England, Ruth Miner is accused of witchcraft for the murder of her parents and must flee the brutality of her town. She stows away on the ship of the only other person who knows her innocence: an audacious sailor—Owen—bound to her by years of attraction, friendship, and shared secrets. But when Owen’s French ancestry finds him at odds with a violent English commander, the turmoil becomes life-or-death for the sailor, the headstrong Ruth, and the cast of Quakers, Pequot Indians, soldiers, highwaymen, and townsfolk dragged into the fray. Now Ruth must choose between sending Owen to the gallows or keeping her own neck from the noose.
Steeped in historical events and culminating in a little-known war on pre-American soil, OUT FRONT THE FOLLOWING SEA is a story of early feminism, misogyny, arbitrary rulings, persecution, and the treatment of outcasts, with parallels still mirrored and echoed in today’s society. The debut novel will appeal to readers of Paulette Jiles, Alexander Chee, Hilary Mantel, James Clavell, Bernard Cornwell, TaraShea Nesbit, Geraldine Brooks, Stephanie Dray, Patrick O’Brian, and E. L. Doctorow.
Owen looked toward the woods to Ruth’s grandmother’s halfhouse tucked out of sight,
and felt Ruth’s eyes follow his lead. “I must be off to the marketplace to pick up a barrel of oats
from Willemszoon’s. Then, quick to the dock to rally deserters.”
“I have to go back to the carts, too, much as I dread it. Copernicus is hobbled there.”
“You rode him into town? Sakes, you really don’t want friends, do you. Walk with me,
He splayed his hand in the direction of the marketplace as they left the marshy meadow
that connected the harbor dock to the edge of town. The row of Dutch houses loomed, and the
slow churning of the mill wheel made a grinding whine, followed by a clunk at the end of each
rotation. He felt his breaths synchronize with it. A young woman, too close to the harbor for
modesty’s sake, stared hard at him beneath her starched, triangle-flapped bonnet, until an elder
scolded her loudly and dragged her back to the row of houses. The mill wheel continued its
“Have you thought on what you’ll do if I can’t come back?” he said quietly.
“How have I had time to think on it? This is the first I’ve heard of it.”
“Well, then, have you thought of what you’ll do if this winter is too hard? How much
longer can we keep meeting like this before your reputation is questioned and we’re not just a
couple kids getting reacquainted anymore?”
“My reputation? Questioned?” She rubbed her swollen knuckles and gasped deeply.
“Heavens, no. What will they think of me? Do you think there will be rumors? Perhaps wooden
rods? My, what if they prejudge my character?”
He smirked. “You should go get married, Ruth.”
“Find a warm house to move Grand-maman into, get some of the burden of providing off
my shoulders.” He didn’t notice that she’d stopped.
“Who else would marry me?” she retorted too loudly behind him, not caring that the
Dutch women of the vegetable carts could hear every word. She marched up to him. “Don’t tell
me to go get married as if it’s that easy.” Her arms flailed like an injured bird. “Look at me!”
He did look at her, always did. Mud didn’t hide her.
“I can’t trade a parsnip! Or shall I remind you of that day when you—”
“Cease.” His eyes flashed, then darkened. He didn’t need to remember what never left his
mind. “I didn’t come here for that. Let the past have the past.” He had the good grace to look
away. “You’re a stubborn one, Ruthie. It’s no wonder no man’ll have you. I’d be like to find his
body floating facedown at sea, closer to me than he ever got to you.”
“Hmph, go get married. No one in this town would have me.”
“Then get out of this town.” He ignored the hollowness of his advice as he entered Mr.
Willemszoon’s shop. He focused instead on oats. A load much easier to lift.
“The frailty of thought against the obstinance of time. I wish…I wish I could hold it. But it goes before I can reach it. “
Colonial New England was brutal and unforgiving for those who challenged tradition or questioned their roles or the social yokes that bound them.
Ruth refuses to be bound. She has known nothing but heartache, loss and sorrow in her short life. She suffers constant cruelties, both petty and large, in her struggles to feed and clothe she and her elderly grandmother. Orphaned at a young age and branded as a witch, the townsfolk show her no mercy or kindness, but instead constantly demonize and chastise her.
Ruth is resilient. Though she rails at the injustice of her situation, she finds solace in her friendship with Owen. He brings her cherished books from his sea travels, and they expand her world and her mind. He becomes her port in the storm when she narrowly escapes death.
But there are terrible secrets between them. There is a legacy of shame and guilt they must overcome. Circumstances continuously conspire to separate them, and toss them about like victims in the midst of a tempest.
They must hang onto the fragility of their love against all odds, and hope for a future together.
Ruth and Owen’s story paints a stark picture of the capacity for human compassion when it is pitted against a thirst for survival. It is an unforgettable glimpse into the strength of one woman’s spirit in the face of adversity, and a not-to-be-missed, meticulously researched story about life on the fringes of colonial America.
Highly recommended if you love Nancy E. Turner’s My Name is Resolute, Sara Donati’s Into the Wilderness series or Gabaldon’s Outlander series.
1. What inspired you to use this particular setting for ‘Out Front the Following Sea’?
I have always been fascinated by the 1600s in early America, especially as it’s a time that’s so often overlooked and forgotten. People are obsessed with the American Revolution and the American War of Independence, but they seem to forget that there was a lot of time before that, building up to it, and they have many preconceived notions about what the “Before Times” were like. As an avid researcher of this time period, with a particular affinity for the wildness and uncertainty of the 1600s, I’m here to bust myths about what you think you know.
2. What parts of the story were the most fun and the most challenging to write?
Val, my not-what-you’d-expect Quaker, was probably my favorite to write. He bucks the norm, is fun in and of himself, and really forced me to think about hypocrites in a softer sense—people who are just human and are far from perfect, even when they espouse a set of rules to live by that they, themselves, are not following. The most challenging part to write, I’d say, was the scene of the ship in the storm. I love ships, but I’m not a nautical expert, so I had to learn a ton, study a bunch of illustrations, and tiptoe around the areas that weren’t comfortably within my research wheelhouse.
3. Which character is your favorite and why?
Everyone who’s read the book will balk at this answer, but Sam is my favorite. He’s the antagonist, but he’s very gray-area, with some goodness in him. He’s very much a product of his time, and in some other timeline, he might have been the hero of his own story, but he gets pushed too far out of his comfort zone in Ruth’s story, and he can’t quite contain his own hubris. While some of the characters are able to redirect their emotions into other endeavors and healthier outcomes, Sam lets his emotions entirely consume him.
4. Are there any further readings you would recommend to readers interested in reading more about this historical period?
I read extremely “boring” stuff to the non-researcher, but what I would recommend would be nonfiction: ‘King William’s War: The First Contest for North America, 1689-1697’ by Michael G. Laramie will tell you a little bit about the background war going on in my book. As for fiction, perhaps ‘The Heretic’s Daughter’ by Kathleen Kent, ‘Beheld’ by TaraShea Nesbit, or classics like ‘The Crucible’ and ‘The Scarlet Letter’ might be a good place to start.
5. What are the top 3 things you hope readers take away from your story?
1.) You don’t know everything you think you know about the past. 2.) Times were not “simpler” at any other point in history than they are now, despite what folks with rose-colored glasses would like to think—nor were historical times “romantic,” unless perhaps you were some rich king’s firstborn son (though, if that’s the case, you were probably actually very bored and had to marry someone you didn’t really love, in order to join kingdoms). 3.) Don’t time-travel back to the 1600s for fun—you won’t make it through your first winter.
6. Do you have anything else in the works?
My second novel, ‘Falcon in the Dive,’ a story of survival during the French Revolution, has just been picked up by Regal House for a spring 2024 release, and I’m currently frantically researching the War of 1812, in order to finish an alternate-history trilogy that I’ve started, giving “the forgotten war” a new ending. Writing alternate (or alternative) histories is entirely new to me, as a staunch researcher working within the parameters of what actually happened in history, so … we’ll see how it goes!
Enter to win a copy of Out Front the Following Sea by Leah Angstman!
The giveaway is open to the US only and ends on February 4th. You must be 18 or older to enter.