Like many published writers who have been writing a long time, JoAnn Ross has perfected her style of writing and it hasn’t changed much over the years. Though a favorite author of mine for a long time, lately I’m finding I have an uneasy time with the perfection of her characters and the lovefest ambiance from all the secondary couples included in each book. Still, I can’t resist reading every new release, including Moonshell Beach, her latest.
For J.T. Douchett, the stress of combat such as his tour of duty in Afghanistan, is nothing compared to his assignment as a casualty assistance calls officer or CACO. Rather than re-enlist, he comes to Shelter Bay where he continues to see the next of kin’s sorrow and pain over and over in his head. Unable to share his feelings and bone deep sadness, he occupies his time with running, running, and more running –worrying his friends and family. Since he doesn’t seem able to move forward, Sheriff Kara Conway, his brother’s fiancée and mother of his future niece or nephew, has the solution. Using her hormonal pregnant state, she and his brother convince J.T. that it is in his best interest to act as a bodyguard to Mary Joyce, the new “it” actress/screenwriter in Hollywood.
Mary Joyce has been having dreams of an unknown devastatingly gorgeous warrior lover. Her older sister’s best friend Kate who has a bit of the “sight” seems to think the dreams are her deceased Mam’s way of finding her a husband. Mary doesn’t want to believe in all this woo woo even though it runs in the family, so she is astounded – as is her assistant – when she agrees to an appearance in Shelter Bay. When the welcoming committee picks her up, surly J.T Douchett does grab her attention but it is later, when he takes off his mirrored sunglasses, that she sees the eyes of her dream lover.
There is not much of a conflict keeping Mary and J.T. apart so the book is filled with couples from previous books. I didn’t immediately make the connection that Mary Joyce is the sister of the heroine from A Woman’s Heart since that book was published in 1998. In fact most of the couples from the Irish Castlelough trilogy make an appearance along with almost every character from the previous three books in the Shelter Bay series. At times it was really too much since everyone is deliriously happy. Old age and dementia haven’t kept the older couples from a very satisfying sex life either. Some authors spend time setting up the story arc for the next book and others like Ms. Ross spend time reiterating how perfect the past couples are for each other. Both can be to the detriment of the main couple and plot.
Still, for the first time in a long time, I connected with one of the main characters. Having experienced similar coping mechanisms of trying to bury feelings after seeing others’ sorrow, something just clicked when I started reading about J.T. I wish his role as a CACO had been expanded a little more because in military romance books his job is a unique one. Still, I did appreciate the pages given this extraordinary position.
In spite of my criticisms, this is an easy book to read. The main couple definitely has chemistry and the pacing plus the plot devices effortlessly pull the reader into the story. While I would have enjoyed more of the romance, there is teasing and flirtation, always a plus.
This is the fourth book in the series, and while there is recapping of the previous characters’ history, I suspect if you haven’t read the previous books, you will still spend your time wondering who these people are since they flit in and out of the story. I have read all the books from both series, and even I got confused. At the beginning of the book, I kept thinking I should know these people and then I thought Kara’s mother was a flamboyant multiple divorcee instead of a neurosurgeon.
Is this book going to tug on your heartstrings? I suspect not, but it a nice way to escape into the fantasy of perfect love.