Barefoot in the Sand
There are books that start out well, then fizzle out, leaving disappointment. Then there are books that begin as nothing special, but end up surprising you with joy. The first book in Ms. St. Claire’s new series, about four older university girlfriends, is happily the latter.
I knew nothing about this book going in, which can backfire. But at the beginning I experienced a double whammy of happy surprises. The first hit when I discovered that the heroine is 36 going on 37, with a fourteen-year-old daughter. The originality of the character specs lifted my day.
The second point also came at the beginning, as Lacey and young Ashley see their lives destroyed by Hurricane Damien. They survive only by crawling into a bathtub and pulling a mattress on top of them. The scene is devastating, and the emotions flying from mother and daughter – fright, stubbornness, apprehension, arguments – strike me as incredibly real, and we were off to a fantastic start.
The setup that followed, for Lacey, Clay, and her three friends (who are all getting stories) struck me as a little clichéd, which was why I put the book down for a week. Lacey, you see, made a decision during the hurricane: If she gets out of this alive, she’s going to follow her dream of opening a B&B in Mimosa Key, no matter what the internal or external opposition. But when the storm dies, reality sets in, and her customary caution takes hold. And Lacey, as we learn quickly (and repetitively) is veeeeeery cautious.
In a moment of weakness, she sends an enquiry email to the much-admired Clayton Walker of Walker Architecture and Design, and against all hopes they say Clayton Walker himself will come down to take a look at her property and offer an estimate. The man who arrives, is not a distinguished older gentleman – instead, Clayton Walker Jr. (or Clay) looks like a surfer god, is seven years younger, and masks his vague architectural qualifications with an easy smile and off-the-roof chemistry.
Nothing extraordinary happens as the problems are laid out: Ashley’s problem with Clay, Lacey’s problems with Ashley, the town biddies’ problems with Lacey building a B&B, Clay’s problems with his father, Lacey’s friends’ romantic problems period, and of course, Lacey’s problems with her mother. It’s very much par for the course, and I was prepared to write the book off as a very average C.
But then David appears. Lacey’s ex-lover and absentee father to Ashley injects the book with a much-needed jolt of excitement, anticipation, and uncertainty, and people begin to react much more interestingly. The rest of the book is much more enjoyable; the revelations, motivations, and emotional reactions, while not out of this world, ring utterly true, particularly Lacey’s friends, David, and Ashley. In the process I found my attention drifting a little from Lacey and Clay, but overall they are a fine couple, and sort through their differences with believable anxieties and solutions.
The ending leaves something to be desired, both in the disgustingly sappy epilogue and the sudden disappearance of any conflict between the town biddies and Lacey. But overall, Barefoot in the Sand was a solid, enjoyable book, and it surely won’t be my last from Roxanne St. Claire.