Entangled in 19th-century social restrictions, two women experience the transformative power of grief and the resurrecting power of love. Johnson’s debut intertwines the tales of Hannah Snow, the titular lighthouse keeper’s widow, and Annie, a sea captain’s runaway wife. Tethered by social conventions and expectations to increasingly unsatisfying lives, both women strive to gain some measure of masculine experience. Annie married Daniel hoping for adventure, not children, so she’s aghast when he leaves her ashore in Jamaica to await the birth of their first child. When their newborn daughter dies, Annie swiftly metamorphoses from a grieving mother into an enraged, vengeful fury. Once back aboard ship, she defies Daniel to learn everything she can about navigating a ship. When pirates loom on the horizon, her ambivalent loyalties imperil the entire crew. Meanwhile, after a childhood spent joyously working the boats with her father, Hannah had to leave the seashore to work alongside her mother in her very successful store. Marriage to the beguiling John Snow promises freedom. He’s a kindhearted man who, after a stint in the Union Army, knows he’s unsuited for a military career, and he warns his beloved Hannah that he’ll never be ambitious or wealthy. But Hannah delights in the shared tasks of keeping the lights lit and rescuing shipwrecked souls, though John repeatedly cautions her against taking so many risks. One night, while John is away, Hannah plunges into stormy waters, determined to prove her worth. She saves William “Billy” Pike, a disappointing drunkard. Within days it’s evident that John will never return, and Hannah descends into dark grief. Billy stays on to help with chores, and his secrets may endanger not only Hannah’s reputation, but also her heart. A tumultuous romance set against stormy seas.