Let me preface this review by saying that I have read—and own—a pretty large number of Ms Roberts books. Furthermore, of all of the ones I’ve read, I’ve only disliked one, enjoyed most of the rest, and a few select ones I can read and re-read over and over, they are that good, in my opinion. I do try to be as objective as possible about what makes a book work for me and what makes it fail, but I have been reminded just today that trust in an author can make me suspend disbelief and keep on reading longer than would be the case with a hit-and-miss or new-to-me author.
And with that, let’s take a gander at the book jacket cover blurb:
For more than three hundred years, Bluff House has sat above Whiskey Beach, guarding its shore—and its secrets.
To summer tourists, it’s the crown jewel of the town’s stunning scenery. To the residents of Whiskey Beach, it’s landmark and legend. To Eli Landon, it’s home…
A Boston lawyer, Eli has weathered an intense year of public scrutiny and police investigation after being accused of murdering his soon-to-be ex-wife. And though there was never enough evidence to have him arrested, his reputation is in tatters as well as his soul. He needs sanctuary. He needs Bluff House.
While Eli’s beloved grandmother is in Boston, recuperating from a nasty fall, Abra Walsh has cared for Bluff House, among her other jobs as yoga instructor, jewelry maker, and massage therapist. She is a woman with an open heart and a wide embrace, and no one is safe from her special, some would say overbearing, brand of nurturing—including Eli.
He begins to count on Abra for far more than her cooking, cleaning, and massage skills, and starts to feel less like a victim—and more like the kind of man who fan finally solve the murder of his wife and clear his name. But Bluff House’s many mysteries are a siren song to someone intent on destroying Eli and reaping the rewards. He and Abra will become entangled in a centuries-old net of rumors and half-truths that could pull them under the thunderous waters of Whiskey Beach…
Passion and obsession, humor and hart flow together in a novel about two people opening themselves up to the truth—and to each other.
Whiskey Beach is Ms Roberts’ 2013 single book release, a hefty 484 pages tome. Between that and the overtly dramatic blurb, readers would be forgiven to conclude that this is a romantic suspense novel.
Strictly speaking, this is true.
However, and particularly when compared to the amazing The Witness, Whiskey Beach is basically a lovely, sweet romance between two lonely and basically lovely people.
Yes, there is a mystery to solve (actually, eventually we have two mysteries) and there’s a present, active threat to the protagonists, as well as the love story. And indeed, our protagonists have suitably traumatic pasts they must come to terms with/overcome in order to both go on with their lives and have a chance at a permanent romantic relationship. But they are both essentially good people with few, if any, dark places in their souls—and they both bounce back from whatever bad things happened to them.
I liked Eli more than Abra, for a couple of reasons. He’s going through, I’ll call it situational depression. His life has gone down the drain. Lost his job and most of his friends, his reputation is in tatters. But depression is not part of his genetic makeup and, given the chance, he comes back to himself. A person who can be fair—admitting his own role on the failure of his marriage—while able to feel anger at the betrayal, the lies and the cheating. He comes back to himself, but it takes him time and a conscious effort—he doesn’t bounce back. I liked that he’s self aware enough to see where he is and to actively push himself to move forward, out of that morass of pessimism and self pity. Particularly because he is not written as a dig at people who suffer from depression.
I also enjoyed having him discover what he wants to do with his life now, who he wants to be in this new stage. Out of the dark, which direction to take now that I’m moving towards the sunshine? There is a layer of insecurity, a tentativeness to his decision to write for a living that rang very true to me.
Abra, on the other hand, annoyed me on a few levels.
First, she seems to bounce back pretty quickly no matter what. There are a few noises about being uneasy and dark memories coming back after an incident that could have had a serious outcome, but we don’t really see her break down. She’s just…too happy to be real, frankly. She not only forgives people who are petty and hurtful behind all the shallow silliness, but she’ll go out of her way to mend fences with them. Really? Real people hold grudges, and real people don’t particularly care to retain the friendship of shallow morons who think they are stupid, careless and pitiable. Just sayin’.
Then there’s the fact that she makes a living that allows her to rent a cottage in a (supposedly) summer beach town, by cleaning houses, waitressing, teaching yoga, giving massages and making jewelry. I’m sorry, what? Mind you, I’m sure you can charge a pretty penny for most of these (waitressing is a stretch, frankly, and unless she uses precious stones, so is the jewelry making) but I go back to: this is a summer beach town. Most of the income is presumably from tourists in the summer. Who there has the money to pay for cleaning, even once every other week, let alone massages? How many people does she have in her yoga classes and how much would she need to charge each person?
And the way she takes care of Eli truly irked me. Truly. A lot. (But I admit this is probably a personal thing. If I had anyone in my house reminding me to eat, to drink water, to make phone calls and what not, I’d probably tell them to get the hell out of my life pretty quick. Your mileage may vary, obviously.) Some of the things she does—such as maneuvering him to foster a dog—smack of manipulation, and I prefer my romance novel heroines not to manipulate the heroes.
With all that said, I read Whiskey Beach in a couple of sittings—all 484 pages of it. I enjoy Ms Roberts’ voice, how she makes all characters come alive, even when all they have is a couple of short scenes and even less dialogue, and I enjoy the sense of comfort I get from her writing.
Whiskey Beach is a book that I’ll reread occasionally, but not one that I can finish, turn around and start again.
7.5 out of 10