Sea of Love
I have little patience for characters who needlessly deceive others. I understand that there are sometimes “extenuating circumstances,” and I’ll generally move past the deception if the excuses are good enough. However, Ashton Louis Wallace III’s excuses for lying to the people of Bayberry Island were definitely sub-par, and they kept me from enjoying Sea of Love.
Bayberry Island is a little speck in the ocean between Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard. Since the collapse of its fishing business, Bayberry hasn’t been doing too well financially. All of the islanders depend on the tourist season—aka the island’s week-long Mermaid Festival—to bring in enough money to keep all of their small businesses afloat. This festival revolves around the legend that the mermaid statue in the town square can bring people true love. Each year all of the hotels on the island are booked full of tourists during the Mermaid Festival, and this year is no exception.
Amidst all this chaos is Rowan Flynn, the thirty-year-old woman who has recently returned home to manage her family’s run-down B & B. The Flynns were once the richest family on the island, with a sprawling mansion and a prosperous fishing business. These days all that remains of their former glory is said mansion (now the B&B) and the huge plot of land it rests on.
That land is a point of contention for everyone on the island, because there’s a firm willing to build a resort on Bayberry. Everyone who owns land where the resort would be has agreed to sell….except for the Flynns–Rowan’s mother Mona, specifically. As a result, there’s a lot of tension between Mona and her neighbors, and the real-estate firm has decided to send a consultant in to help change Mona’s mind.
That consultant is Ashton Louis Wallace III, known to his friends as Ash. He’s not too keen on the idea that he has to go in, once again, and sneakily convince people to sell their land. It puts a bad taste in his mouth, which is why he’s decided this will be his last job for the firm. All he has to do now is get friendly with the Flynns, convince them to sell to the firm, and get out.
Predictably, Ash’s plans change when he meets Rowan. Soon after arriving on Bayberry, he’s chosen to be this year’s “Man Grab,” meaning he has to kiss the mermaid statue’s hand and ask for her help in finding his true love. The first thing he does after this little ceremony is arrive at the Flynns’ place, hoping for a room. He takes one look at Rowan in the hall and falls halfway in love with her. That attraction deepens as they spend more time together during the week’s festivities, and so, before two days have passed, Ash has called his boss and told him he can’t follow through on the Bayberry Island job.
I still don’t understand why Ash didn’t tell Rowan about his job at this point. They’d only known each other for a day and a half, and having backed out of the deal, he was no longer trying to deceive her about anything. All his continued deception did was draw out my misery as the reader. I knew Rowan would eventually find out that Ash had originally cuddled up to her so as to find out more about why her family wouldn’t sell their land. Waiting for that fallout—which I knew didn’t need to be as bad as it was going to be—made me uncomfortable and unhappy with the latter half of the book.
Another big problem for me was the whole resort idea. I’ve been to Martha’s Vineyard. Shopkeepers there make a lot of money, regardless of the fact that they’re not tied to some resort. Why, then, is Bayberry not equally as well off? They even have a Mermaid Festival to make their island cuter!
On top of that, why does Ash need to be so sneaky about his motives for coming to the island? I understand that he thought the Flynns would be more standoffish if he told them who he was from the start, but that doesn’t make it okay for him to get involved with Rowan without telling her some more about himself.
Overall, this book bugged me. I didn’t mind the characters, and the writing was actually fairly good. I just wish Ms. Donovan had thought of another way to bring Ash and Rowan together. There was no need for Ash’s deception, and that knowledge kept me from enjoying this book.