A Caribbean cruise is fairly high up on everyone's wish-list, right? Escaping from the Irish weather; the daily commute; the housework and the sameness of everyday life. Three sets of Irish passengers board the Liberté in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, not realising the impact the trip could have on their individual lives.
The McElroys are led by their matriarch, Bunny, who gathers her flock with distinctive style. Herself and husband, Richard, have treated their grown children to the luxury cruise and the vision of an ideal family trip is not shaping up as they imagined.
The Jordans are on on their 'second honeymoon', yet Cassie is unaware that Declan's bit-on-the-side is also embarking. Alix is determined to get her man, no matter who gets hurt along the way.
The Kennys are escaping the exhausting family routine of Christmas and think a cruise is an ideal way to avoid stress and strife. While their young adult children make the most of their surroundings, Ann and Tony drift further and further apart. A lonesome passenger becomes Ann's ally, while Tony creates his own fun.
Pauline Lawless had hit the summer blockbuster market with a bang. The story is full of sun, sea, sex and scandal. The younger passengers are not the only ones making the most of the all-inclusive drinks and on-board entertainment. The over-powering Bunny is outrageously overbearing and her youngest daughter, Sarah is a self-centered, spoiled brat who needs to be given a good life-lesson. Recently separated Jess is not much better and completes the family tradition of frightful women. Declan is the atypical mid-life-crisis kind of man; full of a newly discovered sex-drive and a veritable briefcase full of lies. His wife Cassie is naive and taken for granted. A similar tale is told via Tony and Ann Kenny. Another middle-aged man; another downtrodden wife. Their two kids are bland and wholesome, yet manage to find their perfect matches. The overall tone does not portray women in a particularly good light. It implies that all men can be 'controlled' by a bit of forward planning and making them think they are actually the boss:
"Jess couldn't but admire her mother's scheming mind. She certainly knew how to manipulate her husband. Women who could do that always seemed to get what they wanted. Jess took note."
While two wives suddenly discover they don't need their husbands to survive, both seem to have only noticed this after said husbands had been caught cheating. I think us women deserve more credit for knowing what makes us happy, and what doesn't.
This is a novel that is destined for holiday carry-on luggage as it is a complete package of escapism. It is like an episode of The Love Boat mixed up with the story lines of Dallas and Dynasty; all with Irish characters. Not for everyone, but sure to delight many.
All At Sea is published by Poolbeg and is available in paperback and ebook format.