Castaway Cove was the first book I’ve read by JoAnn Ross, and although it was a nice enough read, I don’t know how soon I’ll get around to a second. The story was fine, the characters were sweet, but there wasn’t anything exceptional about it. I could just as easily have spent my day reading any of a dozen other books.
Mac Culhane is a DJ coming home from Afghanistan. This sounded odd to me at first—a DJ? I’m used to SEALs, pilots, and plain old lieutenants, but not DJs. I enjoyed learning about Mac’s job keeping the troops entertained, although it wasn’t long before a bomb sent Mac back to the US and civilian life, where he encountered a totally different battlefield.
It seems that Mac was not the most admirable husband in the past, leaving his wife and baby daughter for long stretches in order to serve overseas. He comes home now prepared to be a better husband, only to find that his wife has had it. She’s done. Within an hour of his return she’s out of his life and off to the big city, leaving Mac and their daughter Emma behind. So Mac does what any other sensible man would do when facing fatherhood alone—he heads back to his hometown to get his father and grandfather’s help.
Annie Shepherd, too, has come to Shelter Bay to lick her wounds. She went from being a foster child with no home to a trophy wife with only a home, to a divorcée who’s wised up and realized she wants to make her own way in the world. She’s opened up a scrapbooking business and is already a well-established member of the small community when Mac meets her. Despite a little initial antagonism, the two are quickly drawn together—a pair of lonely hearts in a town where it seems everyone is one half of a couple.
Of course, they’re helped along the way by the various members of Shelter Bay—a cast of somewhat quirky and always happy secondary characters. Mac’s grandfather spends most of the book poking his nose into his grandson’s business, and Emma is not too subtle with her hints that she’d accept Annie as a stepmother. After being pushed into a date or two at the local restaurant and enduring the intense stares of nosy townspeople, Mac and Annie take a hint and embark on a relationship.
Now, on the one hand Shelter Bay is very sweet. The people remind me very much of my family—we’re always in each other’s business. But, unlike my family, the people of Shelter Bay are always nice. To the point where, when I finished the book, I sat back and said to myself, “That was a fun little trip to fantasy land!”
Castaway Cove doesn’t quite take place in the real world. I’m not one for overly angsty books—I do enjoy romance novels, after all, where stories are practically guaranteed a happy ending. But there is a difference between having faith that characters will survive their troubles and knowing they will based on the complete and utter lack of major problems on their horizon. Real life is messier than it appears in Castaway Cove, and that’s what kept me from loving this book.