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Comparing Patrick and Cassie from Like a Ship on the Sea

by Kellyn Roth |
March 6, 2024

Like a ship on the sea by kellyn roth.Today I have a kind of unusual post—I’ll be comparing Patrick Hilton and Cassie O’Connell from my novel, Like a Ship on the Sea. There’s a dichotomy between them, surely, but also so many similarities that I didn’t even realize existed until the revision stage. At which point, I was, of course, delighted.

As we know, both Patrick and Cassie deal with neglectful or even cruel parents. Patrick’s mother and father push him around and force him into situations he’s not comfortable with. He sees his mother as a distant but unloving figure, and his father as the harsh, tyrannical force that guides his every action.

Their relationship couldn’t be called close, but it was certainly one of close observation. They had watched him with eyes like a hawk over the years, his every action recorded and measured. He would receive regular reports of how his activities had measured up. If he was really deserving of the title of eldest son of the Hiltons. If he was putting his parents to shame. If he was acting too Yankee or Southern, depending on the parent. All things he couldn’t bear.

What’s funny is, despite the fact that his parents are often fighting and constantly at odds, Patrick sees them as a united front—both equally the villains. Throughout the story, he sees himself as wrestling with both of them, and he never wins—Patrick doesn’t believe he ever can win.

He has to maintain the status quo, do the things they want him to do, marry the girl they want him to marry, work until he’s exhausted, push himself just a little further, or irreparable harm will come to his sisters—but, I think, if he were honest with himself, there’s a heavy degree of selfishness there, too.

He loved his sisters. He loved working at the Hilton Shipping Company. So why was it so difficult to rouse the energy to put on a smile and a laugh and get through day after day of doing just the type of thing he had always wanted to do? That should be simple.

He likes certain aspects of the life he has with his parents’ approval intact—the wealth, the position, the job. He legitimately has the skills and talents to go far in his father’s company even on his own, which he has more than proved, as the Hiltons are definitely more of a reverse-nepotism family, if you will. But it’s not the right thing to do, even if he can tolerate it, and it takes the jump start of meeting and falling for the wrong woman to make him see that.

He shook his head as they rounded the corner, and he caught his father’s expression. The glare told him that his eyes had lingered overlong on the young woman in the hall, enough that he’d been caught. Yet he didn’t flinch—he never flinched when, inevitably, he failed his father’s idea of a faithful, steady man who was practically betrothed. But he wasn’t betrothed, not officially. Though his parents expected that he would marry Blanche Linden, to the general public, he was not a chained man—yet.

Meanwhile, there’s Cassie. Her parents are similarly cruel to her, but in that she doesn’t have much of a relationship with either of them. As opposed to Patrick’s controlling father, she barely knows her father at all—and what she does know of him is not necessarily benevolent. She knows he doesn’t care about her.

It’s clear that the closest thing she has to a father-daughter relationship in her life comes from her brother, Freddy, but even he seems to forget about and condescend to her—the same goes for her older sister, who is married and moved away by the time Like a Ship on the Sea takes place.

As for Cassie’s mother, she’s that mother who is never content with her daughter. Cassie’s older sister was the Golden Child, and Cassie can never meet that exacting standard—not in appearance, not in behavior, not in marital prospects.

“As a child, she’d been passed about from place to place, person to person. She couldn’t remember a time when summers and most holidays weren’t spent with some distant relative or schoolmate’s family. Her parents had not wanted a third child. They had had her brother, Frederick, the proper heir of the title and estate. They had had Catherine—dear Catie, with her big, blue eyes and her dark curls, a great beauty like their mother. Catie had always been wanted, and she had appealed to Mother’s vanity. Cassie loved her sister, but she couldn’t help but feel that it wasn’t fair that Catie was Catie whereas Cassie was, well, Cassie.”

Cassie describes herself as staid, but she has a bit of a wandering soul. I sometimes wonder if I achieved the balance I wanted to with her—both to be seeking contentment where she is and excited to explore the next horizon. The thing is, it’s a response to her mother’s controlling nature—a way of seeking something of her own that cannot be easily taken away. Whether that’s wandering through the streets of an Italian city on her own, having escaped her governess, because she just needs a few minutes alone—or creating habits and routines for comfort’s sake.

“Cassie was a creature of habit, after all. Habits were the secure, small actions that made the mundane feel bearable—that allowed her to find peace and quiet in the hasty rush of life that so often was far beyond her control.

Due largely to their parents’ influence on their life, both Cassie and Patrick are conflict averse, to the point that they often get themselves into situations that they then feel unable to extract themselves from—parent-arranged relationships being the #1 issue, of course! 😉 It’s a tendency they both need to face throughout the story—Cassie first and Patrick later on.

But honestly, the main reason that I love them both is their mix of confidence and utter lack of self-esteem.

… this sounds insane, but … hear me out.

Cassie is withdrawn and anxious for her childhood and much of her girlhood. Throughout The Dressmaker’s Secret (after she’s introduced) and At Her Fingertips, Alice views her as so painfully shy that she’s nearly incapable of functioning … and I think to a degree, that’s true.

Yet Cassie has a wry sense of humor and a deep understanding of what’s going on around her that I believe Alice sometimes misses—much as Alice missed so many things in those stages of her life. A lot of what Cassie was displaying was more fear and reluctance to be open—but we all know that once she was forced to be brave, well, Cassie can be very brave indeed. And in her element, she’s a force of nature.

… okay, a quiet force of nature, but a force of nature.

I mean, she’s been Alice’s friend for a long while, so obviously she’s got some grit.

Of course, Cassie’s confidence develops in time—and it’s all from God. On her own, she has none.

I don’t have to look into your heart to see that your behavior does not align with God’s commands.

With Patrick, it’s different. He’s anxious, sure, but it’s more nervous energy than anything. He’s obviously at ease in all the various types of social situations that his parents have raised him in, but you can tell that his constant need to please is just … wearing at him.

I mean, of course it is. It’d be wearing to anyone.

And like, Patrick is a mess, as we all know. He took fOrEvEr to grow, and I think that comes from a fear and stubbornness (another thing Patrick and Cassie have in common; they are both the most mule-headed fools in their own ways … though to be fair, I write stubborn characters in general because I am in general a stubborn person …).

If he were honest, he would admit that his prayers were hindered by his lack of obedience. God was trying to lead him somewhere, and Patrick was unwilling to stumble his way to somewhere. Especially if that accidentally led him to Cassie. That was where his thoughts wandered more often than not, and he wasn’t sure why. After all, she was just a temptation to be avoided. His feelings toward her must be deceptive. The very idea of allying himself with her was rooted in a long stream of poor choices. Ones he must not repeat.

Patrick’s confidence is not quite the God-derived kind at first—it’s more like arrogance. He’s foolishly certain he’s right, for one thing, in many areas he oughtn’t to be. He’s condescending at times, to the point of rudeness, and it all comes from seeking to maintain the status quo. And when anything shakes his path, even a little bit, he’s a mess. An utter mess.

Having never seen another side of Patrick, Cassie hadn’t been aware that, to his sisters’ eyes, Patrick was “acting strangely.” To her, it seemed like all his words, all his actions, were centered around a consistently confusing personality.

But I believe we see, in small measures, Patrick become confident in the right things. His work, yes, which he deservedly takes a measure of pride in. But then there’s also confidence in the Lord … the most important kind!

So yes, Patrick and Cassie are pretty similar—and I love it about them.

Anyways, thank you for biding with me for my rambles! And let me know if you’d like to see more posts like this, because I can definitely do them, but I often feel like they provide no actual value to my readers, which is … not so good.

But then, I always struggle to provide value regardless of what I do, so maybe I’d better play with it a little more.

What do you think?



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