Desert Isle Keeper
Author Irene Hannon is a master of setting and conveying emotional tone, and in Blackberry Beach, the seventh book of the A Hope Harbor Novel series, the tone is like smooth water and soft sunlight. Ms. Hannon explores the theme of thresholds in life and how we humans face and deal with them, and this novel brings us two sweet and heartwarming love stories, an exploration of the dilemmas life puts before us, and one taco-selling, town sage whose advice sparks mental clarity when it’s needed most. Reading the previous books in the series is unnecessary; this installment stands nicely alone.
In Hope Harbor, Oregon, Zachary Garrett owns The Perfect Blend which serves coffees worthy of repeat business. Recently Zach has noticed a ‘mystery’ woman in the shop who is skittish of people, wears oversized sunglasses, avoids giving her name, and always orders a vanilla latte. Orders, grabs, and goes. She’s lovely, he’s intrigued, and the next time she comes in, he maneuvers things so he can wait on her. He puts on his best smile and approaches.
Six years earlier, Hollywood starlet Katherine Parker spent several weeks working in Hope Harbor, and her fond memories guide her back to the small coastal town when scandal and chaos erupt in her life. Staying in a beachfront cottage away from people who might recognize her, Katherine hopes to wait out the media storm and decide if a celebrity career is really what she wants long term. She loves to bake and make chocolate candy, and with blackberry season in full swing, Katherine has plenty of ingredients for her hobby. She takes a chance stepping into the downtown coffee shop and wavers between fear and attraction as the shop’s owner draws her out of her isolation with his non-threatening friendliness. The tension ratchets up on her life-changing decision when she is offered a part in a major motion picture working with an A-list actor, an opportunity sure to bring her the stardom of her dreams. She has one month to make a decision.
Zach’s aunt Stephanie arrives in Hope Harbor after a long career, starting her retirement off by visiting Zach for a time as she decides how her next phase of life will play out. She is hoping to bridge the estrangement between Zach and his father created when Zach left the corporate world to open his coffee shop. Stephanie’s first interaction at The Perfect Blend is with Frank Simmons, a barista of the elder set, and the energy crackling between them is hard to ignore.
The four main characters often interact through a project called Helping Hands where they renovate a house to become a place where foster sibling groups can stay together in a loving, stable environment. Volunteering is just one facet of the novel’s world in which God and faith are very much alive, and the author quietly shows us the importance of spiritual guidance in each character’s life, even when the Almighty seems distant. The inclusion of Charley, the town sage, brings the voice of the Divine directly into human life, reminding the reader that people in our lives can sometimes act as a source of God’s guidance.
The story’s pace draws the reader along like the current of a slow-moving river. Each decision point or obstacle to romance or to moving forward maintains a shimmering tension that keeps the reader guessing about the outcome for all involved. As they face life’s turning points, the characters wrestle with issues and the questions with which many people struggle, and the author suggests various solutions and perspectives through the characters and the story. This is not an action-filled book, but a book for reflection wrapped within a well-written narrative and providing an ending that satisfies completely.
With its two charming romances, a lovely small-town setting near the ocean, gentle inspirational messages, and well-drawn characters, Blackberry Beach offers a quiet interlude to counter the fast pace and uncertainty of life. It’s a wonderful gem, and a book I can recommend without reservation.