Brenda Novak comes to the blog with a multi-layered and complex story with
The Bookstore on the Beach
Let me start by saying that there are MULTIPLE things happening and effecting the characters in this story: a missing husband, a childhood abduction, teen pregnancy, rape, sexual identity crisis, hiding from the past, a cancer-afflicted family, a second chance romance, guilt, secrets, more secrets, anxiety and anger. And trust me when I say that the piling on of issues throughout the story, and the oft extreme behaviors that are reactions to these issues and secrets was wearing – even as the characters drew you in to make you want to see where and how everything would work.
In short, we have Autumn with her teenaged children Taylor and Caden who have been thrown by the disappearance (ostensibly in the Ukraine) of her husband and their father. It’s been eighteen months with little or no information and feeling that everyone needs a break – she’s taking the kids to her mother’s place on a Virginia Beach – where Autumn grew up. For her part, Mary, Autumn’s mother loves having the kids up for the summer, although they’d not been as their father rarely came along, and didn’t seem to fit in. But giving them all a chance for the summer while Autumn regroups from hours of relentless searching seems to be the best option. Even if her mother was extremely overprotective and reluctant to talk about the past. But having family and people you know, in a place you love, is always good for a summer.
Yet Taylor and Caden meet new people, and Taylor is drawn to one of the girls there – someone unlike anyone she knows: and this friendship will become a jumping off point for all that she’ll go through – from a surprise pregnancy to questions about ‘friendship versus love’ feelings, along with her own issues with her father’s disappearance, her anger with her brother’s apparent ability to ‘move on’ and wondering about her mother’s new ‘crush’. When we add in Mary’s backstory, a PI in town searching for her under her former name – we start to hear of her own childhood trauma after being abducted and held hostage from the age of 12 – a story she’s never shared with Autumn, even reframing her life and ‘adding’ family as her world shrunk to the tiny beachfront town.
Then there is the story of Autumn and the crush she had on Quinn as a child, and how the attraction is still there – despite Autumn’s determination to ignore or avoid it. With Quinn back in town after his own rather violent and tragic end to his marriage, the rumors are spreading but he’s more concerned with his mother’s cancer recurrence, his father’s ability to cope and the mounting medical bills. Still – he’s wanting more of Autumn, and more from their relationship than casual and infrequent ‘passing moments in the street’. There’s a ton going on and I’m torn about the believability of the multitude of issues that were there, cropped up and some rather ‘pat’ solutions put in to wrap the story up, but the characters were palpable and complete with the exception of Caden who seemed to have moments and flashes of brilliance (particularly for a 15 or 16 year old boy) but he was left to his own devices for much of the story. If you can suspend belief in the ever-increasing traumas and melodramas – the story is a slower read –but good for an escape for a bit of time.
Title: The Bookstore on the Beach
Author: Brenda Novak
Genre: Contemporary Elements, Contemporary Woman's Fiction, Dark-theme, Dual Narration, Family Saga, Friendship, Grief, Humor elements, Mental Health, Mystery Elements, Romantic Elements, Second Chance, Setting: American, Small Town, Suspense Elements
Published by: Harlequin MIRA
Published on: 6 April, 2021
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Audio Length: 12 Hours: 39 minutes
Get Your Copy: Amazon ♦ Barnes&Noble ♦ iTunes ♦ Kobo ♦ Downpour ♦ IndieBound ♦ Book Depository ♦ Google ♦Audible ♦Direct from Publisher
How do you start a new chapter of your life when you haven’t closed the book on the previous one?
Eighteen months ago, Autumn Divac’s husband went missing. Her desperate search has yielded no answers, and she can’t imagine moving forward without him. But for the sake of their two teenage children, she has to try.
Autumn takes her kids home for the summer to the charming beachside town where she was raised. She seeks comfort working alongside her mother and aunt at their bookshop, only to learn that her daughter is facing a huge life change and her mother has been hiding a terrible secret for years. And when she runs into the boy who stole her heart in high school, old feelings start to bubble up again. Is she free to love him, or should she hold out hope for her husband’s return? She can only trust her heart…and hope it won’t lead her astray.
A copy of this title was provided via Publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.