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Sandcastle Hurricane–joy from a hurricane
by Carolyn Brown
Two adult cousins, Tabby and Ellie Mae, with dysfunctional family backgrounds are reunited when their Aunt Charlotte decides to retire from the B&B she owns in the little beach town of Sandcastle, TX. Although she has moved away from hurricane country to snow country, she is a constant source of encouragement and advice to her nieces through phone calls and statements sprinkled throughout the book as the cousins can almost hear her talking.
Tabby and Ellie Mae have only been at the B&B for a few weeks when they find themselves boarding up windows in response to warnings of Hurricane Delilah. Aunt Charlotte arranges for her friend Alex to help them as he always helped her and for the trio to take in four residents from an assisted living center who have no family.
The story is very character driven as we learn the backgrounds of all of them and how life’s events have affected them. Tabby and Ellie Mae are both battling grief. Neither has a positive relationship with their families for good reason. The four elderly characters are a study in contrasts. The author shows how it is possible to change, grow, and stand up to overwhelming problems. Although humor is not a mainstay of this book, there are amusing situations and dialogue that lighten the tone of some serious issues and confrontations.
There are romantic scenarios for Tabby and Ellie Mae. The events at the end of the book lead to good things for the characters even though they would not have planned the turns that happen in their journey. Sandcastle Hurricane is about people struggling to do their best, misunderstandings, and family. It deals with the problems that can accompany mixed race marriages and their offspring as well as the joys of color-blind friendships.
I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
Category: General Fiction, Romance
Notes: Contains about a dozen instances of mild swearing
Publication: November 8, 2022—Montlake
Why can’t my dad and his brother get along like Homer and Frank? Ellie Mae bit back a sigh. Because they never had to go through tough times together. That builds character and teaches people to depend on each other, Aunt Charlotte whispered softly in her ear.
A woman who has lost her husband is called a widow. Children who lose their parents are orphans.. But there is no word for mothers who lose children, because the grief is too hard to put a name on it.
“We just have to believe what is happening now is for a good reason, and what brought us to this day has shaped us into the people we are.”
Bookshop by the Sea–second chance romance
Bookshop by the Sea
by Denise Hunter
Sophie Lawson knows about abandonment and the pain it leaves in its trail. Her father left her family to fend for itself in the midst of her mother’s fatal illness on the very same day her boyfriend Aiden Maddox pulled up stakes and moved five hours away to start a new life. Aiden knows abandonment too. His mother left him sitting on the porch steps as a little boy and never looked back.
Sophie and Aiden loved each other or thought they did. Seven years later, just as Sophie’s dream to open her own bookshop is about to come true, Sophie and Aiden are thrown together once more—by a wedding and a hurricane. Can love revitalize and conquer bitterness, hurt, confusion, family obligations, and distance?
In Bookshop by the Sea, Denise Hunter paints an emotional in-depth picture of Sophie and Aiden, their pasts and the possibilities for their futures. Disaster keeps striking for Sophie who really deserves a break, but it’s hard to see how she’ll get one in time for her grand opening and book signing event. Those stressors are the backdrop for their relationship drama as the threads weave together, breaking in places only to be retied to push the characters towards growth and healing.
Bookshop by the Sea is a clean book with Christian undertones as the characters mention praying over situations. I enjoyed reading it, not really knowing if it would have a happily ever after ending, but hoping so. The characters definitely have baggage to work through—even the more minor characters as found in Sophie’s family. There is a lot of realism as no one’s life is presented as a fairy tale. There is also a lot of hope, kindness, and community spirit.
I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
Publication: April 13, 2021—Thomas Nelson
He’d forgotten how easily words of affirmation rolled off her tongue. She’d always made him feel like he could do anything. Be anything. He let the admiration in her eyes wash over him like a cool wave on a hot summer day.
“Don’t borrow trouble. ‘Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?’ ’’ She gave him a wry look. “Did you just quote Scripture at me?” “Hey, there’s a reason I have it memorized. If I’ve learned anything it’s that worrying does nothing but stress you out.”
I guess somewhere along the line I started believing that when the going gets tough…people leave.” Sophie’s heart went soft and squishy at his words, his vulnerability. At the little boy who watched his mother drive away from him and never return.
The Prayer Box–rebuilding after the storm
The Prayer Box
by Lisa Wingate
Decorated boxes and boxes of letters were stacked high in the closet of the old woman who had passed away. The letters told the story of a lifetime of racism, hardship, and misunderstanding contrasted with faith, generosity, and love. Tandi was at the end of her rope when she read these letters written by Iola to her Heavenly Father. They were a lifeline to this single mother trying to escape her past and build a new and better life in a tiny North Carolina coastal town where no one knew her or her dark secrets.
Befriended by kind townsfolk and absorbing the lessons of the letters, she learns how to trust others, herself, and God. The way is not easy, however, as she has always made poor relationship choices with men. She also needs to find a way to financially support herself and her children and establish a good mother-daughter relationship with a teenager who has been left in charge for much too long. Drug addiction born of a painful accident constitutes another hurdle for Tandi.
The sisterhood that welcomes Tandi at Sandy’s Seashell Shop is a delightful group of creative, caring, and wise women. Paul is an unlikely romantic interest, but extremely kind, likable, and reliable. Ross, Tandi’s boyfriend, is very self-centered and manipulative; he assigns Tandi’s children a low place on his metaphorical totem pole. Tandi’s sister, Gina, shows up unexpectedly to do what she does best—stir up trouble. As we get to know all of these characters, we are also watching the character of Iola unfold through the letters in her prayer boxes.
There are forces who want to destroy Iola’s old Victorian home. Some investors in the area are looking at profiting financially. Other locals feel like Iola had no right to the house. No one is aware of Iola’s generosity. In the midst of her own troubles, Tandi makes it her mission to save the house and and honor Iola’s memory. This is a big undertaking, but Tandi is learning to rely on an even bigger God.
Filled with images of water bubbling and flowing and lighthouses standing steadfast and firm, Lisa Wingate’s The Prayer Box tells a cross-generational tale. It is beautifully crafted both in the carefully selected words and in the plot that, through prayer letters of the past, weaves Tandi’s story with that of Iola; both are entrancing. This is a book I didn’t want to put aside to finish another I was reading. The Prayer Box won as I was quickly and thoroughly immersed in the plot, language, and characters.
Category: Women’s Fiction, Romance, Christian
Notes: 1. This is the first book in the Carolina Heirlooms Collection which is a series of three books united by setting, not characters.
2. The end of the book includes “A Note from the Author” and “Discussion Questions.”
Publication: August 16, 2013—Tyndale
He was wearing orange tennis shoes and red-flowered swim shorts, topped off with a lime-green Windbreaker with palm trees and lizards on it….All in all, he looked like he’d raided Jimmy Buffett’s closet and then gotten dressed in the dark.
It felt good to do something good for someone else. To add a few deep-fried droplets of kindness to the world. A little act of service. Is it possible that all service is worship? The words were still in my head.
After so many years of dysfunctional relationships that masqueraded as love, having someone offer real love and ask nothing for it in return was startling, sometimes too much to handle. I wasn’t sure I could trust it or was worthy of it.
Double Agent–hurricane heists
by Gretchen Archer
If you like a cozy mystery with humor weaved throughout, you’ll love Double Agent by Gretchen Archer. Davis Way works in security at Bellissimo Casino in Mississippi. In addition, she acts as a double for the owner’s wife, the entitled and rather clueless Bianca, who also expects Davis to take care of her every need. Bianca always refers to Davis as “David,” and through good writing the use of that misnomer remains funny throughout the book. Davis’ husband Bradley manages the huge casino complex, and the couple lives on site with their twin two-year-old daughters. Another source of humor is the “rules” related by one of the girls to their grandmother who is caring for them during the hurricane emergency. Bex, the dominant twin, convinces Grammy that she only eats chicken nuggets and chocolate ice cream and that Quinn’s bedtime is two hours earlier than hers.
A casino is bound to have security issues because of the cash that flows through it. Double Agent ratchets the plot up several notches as the storyline is what happens in a casino with a hurricane on its way. There are protocols for this scenario, but they don’t account for the greed and mischief that happen when Hurricane Kevin rolls into the Gulf Coast. Throw in FEMA, law enforcement, helicopters, bodies on ice, and people on unlucky floor 13 who are not all what they purport to be, and you have a very complicated murder mystery with some huge surprises. With Gretchen Archer’s writing style, you will also have a smile on your face as you devour this cozy mystery.
I would like to extend my thanks to Edelweiss and to Henery Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Notes: #8 in the Davis Way Crime Caper Series, but could be read as a standalone. I have read three books in the series and, although I plan on reading the others at some point, I don’t feel like I have missed anything that has reduced my enjoyment or understanding of the individual books.
Publication: March 26, 2019—Henery Press
And it wasn’t Danielle because she couldn’t organize the world’s smallest closet. There wasn’t a snowball’s chance she’d organized what we were in the middle of.
We had no way to restrain him except at gunpoint…And given the choice of Scotch tape or guns, I’d take the guns any day, but for all we knew, Jug was packing too. It was Alabama. Everyone was packing.
Hurricane Kevin, like all severe weather, gave everyone it touched the chance to show their true colors. The best and the worst of humanity rose to the surface when forced to survive an event over which they had no control.