The View from Alameda island
The View from Alameda Island is a book title dear to my heart because I used to live near Mill Valley, which, in this story, is the location of Lauren Delaney’s home during her marriage. The community is a metaphor for Lauren’s stifling existence because up-market houses like hers are closed off from the street and protected from the view of neighbors by a moat of hedges and/or walls. Contrast that milieu with Alameda, an island in the East Bay, that looks over the water to San Francisco. Alameda feels like an old-fashioned village with craftsman-style houses and inviting porches that look out over lawns onto sidewalks.
Before Lauren marries successful surgeon Brad, her mother warns her, “If you marry for money, you’ll earn every penny of it.” So true. On the surface, Lauren leads an enviable life but she’s deeply unhappy. She decides to leave Brad.
Oh, wouldn’t Brad be surprised when she finally did. And he’d be angry. She knew people would inevitably ask, Why now? After twenty-four years? Because it had been twenty-four hard years. It had been hard since the beginning. Not every minute of it, of course. But overall, her marriage to Brad had never been a good situation. She spent the first several years thinking she could somehow make it better, the next several years thinking she probably didn’t have it so bad since he was only emotionally and verbally abusive, and the last ten years thinking she couldn’t wait to escape once her daughters were safely raised. Because, the truth was he was only going to get more cantankerous and abusive with age.
Robyn Carr’s heroines always operate with the best intentions. In The View from Alameda Island Lauren Delaney carefully develops a precise roadmap to disentangle her marriage, wanting to inflict the least amount of harm on her soon-to-be ex and their two daughters. Unintended consequences make that goal an impossibility.
A non-surprising coincidence in romance is the appearance of an Act Two partner as Act One winds down. One night on her way home, in the waning days of her marriage, Lauren stops by a lovely garden attached to a church. She strikes up an intimate conversation with the gardener. Sometimes it’s easy to talk to a stranger.
She noticed, suddenly, how good-looking this man was. He looked like he was in his forties, a tiny amount of gray threading his dark brown hair at his temples. His eyes were dark blue. His hands were large and clean for a gardener. “Now what makes a volunteer gardener decide to read psychology?” she asked.
He tells her that when he reads, he “can zone out everything except what’s happening in my head,” … at least that’s what his wife says. Much to her surprise, she and Brad run into him at a fundraiser that evening. Beau Magellan is a successful landscape entrepreneur who is also unhappily married and lives and works in Alameda: the same community Lauren picks to start her new life. We readers know how this story is going to end, right?
Not so fast. Brad Delaney goes coldly ballistic. He fights Lauren for every penny, threatening to cut off financial support for their daughters. Unfortunately, geography does not protect Lauren from Brad’s abusive nature. Lauren has never really lived alone before but in the aftermath of filing for divorce, she taps into inner reserves of strength she didn’t know she possessed.
On the positive side of the ledger, Lauren’s new friend Beau is a special man. He fights to retain his self-respect, maintain a good relationship with his step-sons, and respectfully disentangle from a moribund marriage. Without giving away too much, his ex is as weird and vindictive as Brad.
Lauren and Beau’s journey to an HEA is circuitous and slow but they are good people. People who deserve to love and be loved. The View from Alameda Island is a perfect second-chance, older hero/heroine story and I enjoyed every minute of it.