When I picked this for audio review, I had no idea it was the 12th in the author’s Chesapeake Shores series. I’ve read no others in the series and quickly found myself lost in a host of characters with lengthy backstories from previous books. While I enjoyed the narration, I cannot recommend the story; it simply doesn’t work as a stand-alone and there is too little time spent on the hero and heroine.
Aidan Mitchell, a former pro-football player, is in Chesapeake Shores to interview for the position of high school football coach. Out for a walk before his interview, he spots a woman attempting to corral a rambunctious puppy and quickly engages her in a conversation. As the owner of Pet Style, a pet supply shop in town, Liz March has a lot of experience with dogs. I found the dialog in the opening sequence engaging, and it easy to distinguish between Aidan and Liz. Aidan speaks in low, almost hoarse tones, while Liz’s words have a pleasant, clearly feminine edge. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough such scenes in the remainder of the book. Instead, we’re treated to seemingly endless scenes featuring the O’Brien family.
We learn early on that both Liz and Aidan are keeping secrets, with Aidan’s relating to the prominent Chesapeake Shore’s family, the O’Briens. Aidan recently discovered that Thomas O’Brien – a senior member of the clan – is his birth father. Liz moved to town a year earlier after her husband died and has let everyone think she’s still in mourning. She’s told no one of the major problems that existed in her marriage, and wants nothing to do with romance or relationships.
Combine Aidan’s secret connection to the O’Brien’s and Liz’s friendship with countless O’Brien women, and we’re quickly introduced to a whole host of O’Briens, all of whom are matchmakers. The O’Briens focus their attention on Liz and Aidan, who say they’re not interested. However, it’s clear they’re each attracted to the other.
Aidan soon decides he wants to pursue his attraction to Liz and see where it might lead. In contrast, Liz gives off mixed signals. When Aidan finally convinces her to go on a date she wears a sexy dress, shares a passionate kiss, and then tells him she only wants to be friends. She’s angry that he’s hiding secrets but is sharing some whoppers of her own.
While I had problems with the story, I truly enjoyed the narration. Ms. Traister’s reading is clear and well-paced, with each character given a nuanced, distinct voice. This is critical as there are so many different characters in the book.
My problems with Dogwood Hill centers around the emphasis on the O’Briens and the de-emphasis on Liz and Aidan’s relationship. Much more of the book seems devoted to Aidan’s issues with his birth father and with Liz’s secret about her marriage and her relationship with her mother and sisters than on Liz and Aidan’s actual relationship. As a result it was hard for me to believe – with about three hours left – that Aidan thought he might be falling in love with Liz. They just weren’t together on page enough.
I suspect longtime fans of the series will enjoy this much more than me. I wanted most of the O’Briens to go away. I wanted more interactions between Liz and Aidan, and far fewer scenes in which the two are separated, interacting instead with one or more O’Briens. If you haven’t read any of the series, don’t start here.
This isn’t a horrible book, and I like both Liz and Aidan but it simply doesn’t work as a stand-alone. In contrast, I truly enjoyed Ms. Traister’s narration, finding her voice pleasant and the pacing spot-on. I will definitely pick up other audiobooks that she narrates. I cannot say the same about the story; this will be my first, and last, foray into Chesapeake Shores.
Breakdown of Grade – Narration: B+ and Book Content: C-
Unabridged. Length – 10 hours 48 minutes