At the River's Edge
Ms. Stewart returns to the fictional town of St. Denis, Maryland, for the seventh entry in her Chesapeake Diaries series. As a fan of the series, I enjoyed the story overall, and I loved Xe Sands’ narration. However, the story has problems that may irritate readers who haven’t read the earlier entries.
Prosecuting attorney Sophie Enright is having a horrible day. A case went bad, and when she leaves work discovers she has two flat tires. Despite multiple calls from Sophie, her boyfriend never responds. Once her tires are fixed, Sophie discovers it’s because her boyfriend was having sex with someone in his car in the same parking garage. Thanks to Ms. Sands’ narration we’re right there with Sophie and her rollercoaster of emotions. Sophie moves from frustration to shock to hurt and anger, and each emotion is realistically conveyed by Ms. Sands. Her boyfriend’s exclamation when he spots Sophie and then tries to “explain” is rendered with exactly the right inflection.
Sophie decides to spend a week with her brother Jesse in St. Denis – several states away, to try to regroup. Jesse, the hero of a previous book, is also a lawyer; he works for the family’s law firm. Sophie isn’t just unhappy about her romantic life, she’s also unhappy being a lawyer. Soon after arriving in St. Denis, Sophie spots an abandoned restaurant. She had put herself through college working in a restaurant, and remembers those times as some of her happiest. Sophie’s brother and grandfather are eager for her to join the family law firm in St. Denis and she eventually agrees – but secretly, she decides to open a restaurant.
Jason Bowers owned a landscaping business in Florida with his brother. When his brother died in the military, Jason was at loose ends. He moved to St. Denis to live near his young nephew, the son of Sophie’s brother’s fiancée. And coincidentally, Jason has his eyes on the same property Sophie wants for a restaurant.
Some readers feel Ms. Stewart provides excessive details in her romances. I’m usually not bothered by the details, but this book was slow going in the early chapters. While I don’t like my hero and heroine to have sex in the first pages, I wanted things to happen more quickly with Sophie and Jason Bowers. I wish Jason and Sophie had interacted earlier. Instead, the early chapters are used to set up their characters and backstories, and provide their perspectives on St. Denis and its numerous residents. Sophie first sees Jason – or “Uncle Hottie” – at about the 40 minute point, but they don’t actually talk until well past the one hour mark. Ms. Sands provides “life” to these descriptive passages, helping us understand what Sophie is feeling about the community, but they still feel too lengthy.
Once Jason and Sophie began to interact more, I enjoyed their story and their gradual path from hot chemical attraction to friendship to love. Sophie quickly learns that Jason is not just a gorgeous man, he’s a truly wonderful person. In fact, Jason’s almost too good to be true. He’s actively involved in his nephew’s life, coaching his sports team, taking the boy out for movies and hosting sleepovers with his nephew’s friends. To top it all off, Jason’s kind and caring to Sophie’s grandfather.
Xe Sands has yet to disappoint me. She’s done a wonderful job with past series entries and this is no exception. Numerous secondary characters appear and Ms. Sands gives them all age- and gender-appropriate voices. As with other entries in the series, the book begins and ends with an entry by Grace, an older, prominent member of St. Denis. Ms. Sands consistently performs her character throughout the series and, although Grace isn’t one of my favorite characters, hearing her voice provides a nice sense of continuity to the series.
This book won’t be for everyone. It’s definitely a small town romance with a town filled with an abundance of nice characters, most of whom appeared in previous series entries. But if you enjoy rather sweet, small town romances with a truly likeable hero and heroine, this might just be the romance for you, and I would definitely recommend it in audio. While not perfect, I enjoyed the story and loved the narration. I will pick up the next entry in the series – in audio – when it’s available.
Breakdown of Grade – Narration: A and Book Content: B-
Unabridged. Length – 8 hours 52 minutes