Sunset Bridge, the third and final book in the Happiness Key series by Emilie Richards, concludes with an emotionally satisfying ending. Having read all three books, I became very attached to all the characters and their story arcs. As much as I hate series that go on far too long, it is difficult to say goodbye.
It was challenging deciding whether this book could be read as a standalone. While the author does recap pertinent history my emotional connection grew proportionately with each book. The first book introduces the characters, and the growth of their friendship, the second builds on that, with new concerns, and the final book concludes all their story arcs plus the addition of a new mystery. Because of this I recommend that you do read the three books in order.
In the first book, socialite Tracy Deloche is appalled when her wealthy husband requests a divorce and discloses that he is being investigated for fraud, with the potential for indictment and prison. Finding that a property in Florida is listed in her name only, she is excited to have a home and a possible source of income. What she discovers is five ramshackle homes, desperately in need of repairs with diverse tenants: Janya Kapur, an Indian immigrant adjusting to her arranged husband; Wanda Gray, a cop’s wife fighting for her marriage; and Alice Brooks, a senior dealing with the death of her daughter, ill health and a young granddaughter. As each woman experiences personal growth, their relationship develops into true friendship. Tracy also finds her hostile relationship with Marsh Egan, an environmentalist, has many more nuances than just antagonism.
Book three opens as mismatched Marsh and Tracy’s relationship is slowly moving forward. After having weathered last year’s estrangement, the couple are looking to explore their similarities rather than their differences. Marsh, as the director of Wild Florida, an environmental organization protecting Florida’s natural resources, is a back-to-nature guy and his idea of dressing up is to add a colorful tie. He grew up in Florida, and has always been the outdoor type. Tracy has shed most of her high maintenance, designer clothes ways and thinks she is up for a camping trip, since she has always been athletic, but the chiggers, the no-see-ums, the scorpion, falling in the water, the raccoon and then Marsh’s gift of raw oysters definitely put a damper on the trip. Blaming her ill humor on nausea and hormones, she realizes after being sick that she might be pregnant. Since Marsh has never discussed his feelings, Tracy decides to keep this news to herself, hoping that Marsh soon will open up more.
Wanda is no longer a woman with time on her hands. After being unjustly fired because of age discrimination she opened her own pie shop. While making pies is a joy, retaining assistants is a never-ending challenge. When her daughter, Maggie offers to help, Wanda is more concerned than gladdened. Why did Maggie quit the police force, and up and leave her longtime lover? But soon she has her own concerns, and maybe more success than she ever dreamed of having.
Janya Kapur is a happy woman. She has come to love her husband Rishi, and now has a budding career. And while she knows that with her husband’s medical condition having children will be more difficult, she is anxious for a baby. Their relationship contrasts with Harit and Kanira, individuals also from India who married impetuously, and then just as carelessly had two children.
Maggie has always done things the hard way. Exposed to police work from an early age, Maggie always knew that she wanted to go into law enforcement. When the only job available is with a sheriff’s department known for its discrimination against women, Maggie believes she can handle it. After years of harassment, and then having a partner fail to provide backup, Maggie’s ability to trust is damaged. Finally there is an opening in Miami. After spending over a year collecting evidence again a top kingpin drug dealer, the state attorney general declines to prosecute him, causing Maggie to turn in her badge and gun. Since her boyfriend Rafael Estrada (Felo) tries to talk her into just dropping the matter, she doesn’t trust him either, especially since one of his close friends is also friends with the drug dealer. Now she is at a loss, with no career, friends or lover. Helping her mother may give her the much needed prospective.
Just writing this review makes me want to read the book all over again. With well-written, genuine characters dealing with credible conflicts, the story just pulls you in. Ms. Richards has a way of writing admirable yet flawed people. I especially admire Tracy and the great strides she made from pampered trophy wife to caring friend. Included in the story is a well-plotted mystery and an extremely convincing antagonist with a plausible motive for his actions. The story flows from one character to another, each dealing with their own concerns. Some readers are sensitive to this type of break from one story arc to another; however, I thought it was very well done.
While Wanda deserves her new-found success I found this portion of the book somewhat superfluous, wishing that more time was spent on the characters’ romances. Still, that is to expected since this book is more Women’s Fiction than Romance. At the end, the heartfelt emotions and deeds sealed the happy ever after for me for all couples.
If you haven’t tried Emilie Richard’s books before, I definitely recommend this series. Readers who have read the first two books will be more than pleased with the conclusion.