Desert Isle Keeper
Susan Wiggs is almost always a guaranteed good read for me. The particular style of her contemporaries with narration going back and forth in time is a favorite, even though it can drive me crazy as I’m reading, because I just want to know what the hell happened between the hero and heroine twenty years ago. This book is classic Wiggs. It picks up a few months after The Winter Lodge, her previous book in the series, leaves off, uniting two people who were secondary characters in the two previous books.
For the first time in 17 years, Nina Romano is free to pursue her own dreams. Along with no longer serving as the mayor of the town, her daughter is living in Belgium with her father and his family, and then going away to college in the fall. She gave birth to her daughter when she was just 15 years old, so all the plans and goals she had as a child had to be put off, but now is her time to act. She has a deal with a local bank to serve as general manager of the Inn at Willow Lake, then apply for a small business loan to buy the Inn. However, while on a date with the manager of the bank, he reveals that the bank sold the inn to Greg Bellamy.
Greg recently divorced after 17 years of marriage. While his ex-wife is in The Hague working for the International Court of Justice, he has his two kids with him: His 12-year-old son and 18-year-old pregnant daughter. Greg is struggling with the contrasting life-changing events of becoming single again after nearly two decades of marriage, while preparing to become a grandfather. It has always been his dream, too, to buy the inn, and his financial stability allows him to do so. He wants Nina to be his general manager, and, though she is hurt and feels her dreams are crushed, she eventually agrees.
They are both at completely different stages of life. She has just sent her daughter off, while he’s parenting a pre-teen and soon will actively participate in the raising of a grandchild. The two are attracted to each other, but because of their position-as employee/boss, they resist their attraction. The reader learns, through trademark Wiggs flashbacks, that this attraction isn’t a new thing and that their lives intersected a number of times over the past 17 years, each time sending them in different directions than they had previously been headed.
I really liked this story. It’s a smooth, relaxing romance. Reading it is just as I imagine an afternoon by the side of Willow Lake would be. There’s nothing in this book that will shock you, nothing that comes as a surprise at the end. The best word I can think of to describe this book is comfortable.
All of the central characters are well developed, as are the secondaries. Greg’s daughter, obviously, has her own problems to face, as she’s going to be a teenage mother. While her friends are having fun getting ready for college, she’s going to child birthing classes with her dad. Should she notify the baby’s father? Stay with her dad? Go to school? Nina tries to help her, as she went through it all before, but Greg doesn’t always agree with his daughter’s desire for independence.
My problems with this book were fairly minor. Occasionally Wiggs restated something she had already established. Greg, for instance, had a habit of being suddenly reminded of how long it had been since he had “gotten laid”. I appreciate the sentiment, but Wiggs used the same terminology several times. Also, I had hoped that a side romance from the series would be developed more, since it began to look like as if this couple might get together officially, but that subplot faded as the book went on. But again, these are small problems.
There is no reason not to read this book if you haven’t read the previous two. There are some allusions to the relationships and conflicts of previous books, but not enough to truly spoil them. There is also very little information revealed in earlier books that isn’t explained or recapped. While I recommend the two prequels, reading them is not necessary to enjoy Dockside.
Though I thought this was the last book as I couldn’t remember any unattached adult characters, I overlooked Sophie Bellamy, Greg’s ex-wife. The next book in this series is coming out early next year. If it’s as good as this book was, I will definitely pick it up. And if you’ve not yet gotten started with this series, I can’t recommend a better starting point than here.