When single mother Annie Malone purchases a quirky Main Street café on Heron Island, she thinks she's finally turned her dream of opening her own restaurant into a reality. Hearing rumors that a developer is about to build a five-star resort on the sleepy Chesapeake Bay island, she plans to transform the café into a premier upscale bistro. But Annie's life is about to get a lot more complicated.
Back on Heron Island for the first time in 10 years, Navy SEAL Will Dozier has no intention of selling his grandparents' property to a developer. As he works on renovating the house and trying to find another buyer, he's forced to face a painful reality — that he's secretly struggling with PTSD.
Determined to hide his troubles from the rest of the islanders, Will decides that a fling with the new girl is the perfect way to help him "get his head straight".
The last thing Will expects is to fall in love…with his hometown and with Annie. But Will's life and career are in San Diego with the SEALs. Can Annie's love and the healing magic of the island be enough to convince him to stay?
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This had all the ingredients of a good romance: Single mum working hard to start new life and help her daughter get over a traumatic school shooting, meets PTSD suffering Navy Seal. But it was a “join the dots” romance with nothing to make it stand out and too many factual errors.
The h was a waitress, with no cooking skills or college education, who decides to open an expensive French restaurant. While her 8 yr old daughter is struggling to cope with the murder of 17 classmates, she manages somehow to find a small café in a new town, get a mortgage, obtain a new business loan, finalise the purchase, quit her current job and flat, pack up her life and move into the new place, all in three weeks! We are expected to believe that someone with no relevant experience or collateral, obtains a mortgage and business loan solely based on potential customers from a new resort that was only in the planning stages.
She moves to a small island community where all the locals are stereotypically perfect and welcoming, and don’t seem to mind that she intends to open a restaurant that none of them can afford to eat at, for clientele of a resort none of them want built. When the resort idea is delayed she decides to open a café, and conveniently finds a local woman who not only is a fabulous cook, but is also willing to work long hours with no job security and an uncertain pay cheque.
Special mention must go to the chapter where many of the locals turn up at the café, curious to see the h, because they all know she had sex with the H the night before. Was I the only reader who found this really creepy?!
Navy Seal H owns the land targeted for the resort. A major part of the plot is based on the legally incorrect premise that once sold, he would actually have some control over what was done with the land. Unless he added complicated legal caveats to the title deeds, this is simply impossible. This sloppy plot research runs through the whole book and assumes the reader is not intelligent enough to notice. The H is suffering from PTSD which gives him an emotional connection to the daughter, something which could have been very touching but was never fully explored. Meanwhile, with constant references to the sacrifice and suffering of the armed forces, I felt like the writer was trying to guilt me into liking this book, even more so once the environmental and conservation lectures started.
The depiction of PTSD of both the daughter and the H was simplistic and patronising. Both characters failed to demonstrate the serious emotional toll that this affliction can cause and I thought the ease with which they both recovered from their trauma was insulting to genuine sufferers. Conveniently, the daughter recovered fast enough to enable her to “spend the night with friends” when the h wanted to sleep with the H, and the H happily enjoyed a meal in a crowded noisy restaurant only a few weeks after we get long pages describing his need to avoid crowds and noise. Furthermore, we are supposed to believe that a Navy Seal does not recognise the symptoms of PTSD? This was like a Disney movie simplification of serious issues. We fail to get a real impact of what the 8 yr old endured, while the H thinks about his PTSD a lot but never seems to be really inhibited by it. Eventually he returns to work without having actually dealt with the issue in any way - it just disappeared from the story. Meanwhile the h is so sugary sweet, and unrealistically perfect in every way that the sex scenes actually made me feel uncomfortable.
The writing is highly descriptive. There are pages of intricate scenery descriptions in great detail, lots of imagery about wind chimes and butterflies, and endless internal musings of the lead characters. It all got a bit repetitive and felt more like a book written to impress, rather than to enjoy, while the actual plot moved at a snail’s pace.
Incidentally, I am amazed at the mass of 4 and 5* reviews that this book has accumulated on Amazon. I think my criticisms are genuine and not unreasonable. This has the promise of a really good story, let down by the overly saccharine treatment of serious emotional issues, characters that display no real depth, factual errors and too much focus on vivid and detailed imagery and scenery descriptions. I read the reviews of others and I feel so much in the minority opinion that I have carefully edited my review several times. I am starting to feel increasingly suspicious about the validity of reviews when they are so overwhelmingly positive with a book that, to me, has such obvious flaws.
In summary (finally!) this is not an awful book. It just felt a bit like something written for a creative writing class. I guess I can say this book was a bit like one of the butterflies I read so much about – very beautiful, but intellectually lacking in depth.