Tomorrow I am hosting the blog tour for The Long Way Home which is the sixth book in the Chesapeake Bay series by Mariah Stewart. As I was thinking about what I was going to say for that book, quickly realised that I hadn't actually reviewed any of the other books in the series. Bad book reviewer!
I thought I would therefore give some general thoughts about the series and then some lightening style reviews of the previous books in the series, ready for tomorrow's review.
The series is set in the small town of St Dennis which is situated in the Chesapeake Bay. Now, until I started reading romance again, I actually had no clue about the Chesapeake Bay area. I first heard of it in the first Nora Robert's trilogy that I read that was also set in the bay, and since then I must confess that I have been seduced into believing that it might be my kind of place! Sleepy towns that once relied on fishing but now also rely on the tourists that come during the summer. Great food, good people who are doing their best to keep their towns alive.
The diary of the series title is kept by Grace Sinclair, an older lady whose family owns the local inn, and who runs the local newspaper amongst other things. Two of her own children live away from the town but that doesn't stop her from observing on the comings and goings of the younger generation as new people settle in the town and as the locals fight hard to keep their town's character but also allow it's continued evolution. Grace and her friends are keen to see all their loved ones fall in love, and are quite happy to allow for the slightest influence from those that have gone before them. The supernatural touch is very light though so don't let that put you off.
If I remember correctly, I first heard of this series thanks to a book trailer that was featured on some one's blog. I could have sworn that the trailer was for the first two or three book in the series but I can't find that one, so maybe I am thinking of something else. It was a couple of years since I started reading the series so it is possibly not a surprise I can't remember!
The first book in the series is Coming Home, and as I understand it, features a character from one of Mariah Stewart's earlier romantic suspense series. Now, I very rarely read romantic suspense, so I was content to start with just this series and not to go back to the beginning of the other series and follow it through until I got to this one.
If I was to use just one word to describe this series, it would probably be nice. It's a nice town, filled with pretty nice people and the books themselves are very easy to read. Whilst they are very definitely contemporary romances, they are pretty tame when it comes to the sexual side of things.
I have read all of these from the library, except for the last one which I received via Netgalley for the purpose of getting up to date before reviewing the latest book in the series.
So let's take a look at each of the books in the series:
When Vanessa Keaton's escapes an abusive marriage, she returns to the only place she has ever really called home. Whilst Hal is not really her stepfather any more, he and her half brother Beck have never treated Vanessa as anything other than family after she was dumped on their doorstep by her neglectful mother Maggie. Now, she has rebuilt her life. She has a successful dress boutique in the small town of St Dennis called Bling, she has friends and she is happy being single.
With Beck getting married, his fiancee has asked her to look after her reclusive brother, Grady Shields, who will be in town for just a few days for the wedding. Grady is ex FBI but now he lives in the isolated wilds of Montana. He operates adventure tours, but mostly he just wants to be alone and has done so since the death of his wife while he was an FBI agent. He is also pretty sure he doesn't need a babysitter for the few days he is in town, but he can't deny his attraction to Vanessa.
When there are a series of incidents where Vanessa and her business appear to be the targets, Grady steps in, determined to protect her, no matter what it takes.
This is one of, if not, the only books in the series to have that romantic suspense style subplot. It isn't my favourite thing, but I can live with it occasionally.
Dallas MacGregor is the quintessential small town girl who makes it big in Hollywood! She is a major Hollywood star, living the dream. Big houses, expensive cars, cheating love rat soon to be ex husband. Wait...what? When she finds out that some explosive sex tapes are about to be released to the public she decide that it is time for her to disappear out of the public eye for a while and so she escapes with her six year old son to her aunt's house in the small town of St Dennis. If nothing else, Dallas is one of the town's home, so she knows that her appearance there will be kept on the low down while the scandal blows over and the divorce is finalised
Dallas and her brother spent their formative years in the town living with their aunt Beryl, who also happens to have been a very successful actress in her own right. When Dallas left the town behind, she also left behind her first love, Grant Wyler. He is now the local town vet, who is divorced with a daughter of his own. It doesn't take much for their feelings to reunite, but how can Dallas maintain her successful career, be a good mother, and maintain a relationship with Grant, especially when her slimy ex turns up causing trouble. Will she be able to work it out, or will her story echo the one that her Aunt Beryl went through when she chose her career over the man she loved.
I really liked this one for a couple of reasons. I loved the idea that Dallas found a book that she wanted to do and that she was trying to find a way to do it in St Dennis. I also really enjoyed Beryl's story a lot!
Steffie Wyler is an ice-cream maker extraordinaire. She has always lived in St Dennis and she has no real desire to move anywhere else. She has a successful ice cream business called One Scoop or Two that is right on the waterfront, she is constantly coming up with new, divine sounding flavours. Really, her life is exactly what she imagined it would be when she was growing up, except for the bit where she thought she would be married to Wade MacGregor.
There is no doubt that there are still sparks between them, especially when Wade comes back to town for his friend's wedding. Wade has been building up a successful micro-brewery business in Texas and is in town for only a few days. Things are just heating up between Steffie and Wade when he receives a phone call and leaves town immediately, leaving Steffie confused and wondering what exactly happened.
When Wade comes back, it is with a small child in tow, which leaves her with even more questions. Was he married and is he divorced? Why has he closed his business down in Texas? How long is he staying in town this time?
Keeping secrets in a town like St Dennis is always difficult. The big question is what will happen when the truth comes out!
I have to say, one of the highlights of this book is all the flavours that Steffie comes up with for her shop. If I lived in St Dennis I would be at the ice cream shop just about every day.
When we first meet Brooke Madison Bowers in this series, it was in the context that she was the rival to Dallas MacGregor for Grant's affection back in high school. Brooke wasn't always the best person back in the day and that makes it difficult for the two women to be friends now. However, when their two boys become best buddies, it is time to put the past behind them. Brooke is doing her best to mend the relationships from the past, as well as helping her son to adjust to the fact that his daddy is never coming home, having been killed whilst serving overseas. In addition, she is trying to start a business of her own so that she can support herself and her son. She makes the most amazing sounding cupcakes! Fortunately part of her plan is to sell her cupcakes at Steffie's ice cream shop so I would only have to make one stop each day!
Jesse Enright has just moved to the town, hoping to earn a partnership in his grandfather's law firm. The Enright's have been members of the St. Dennis community for many generations, but Jesse had the misfortune to be the son of the black sheep of the family - a man that his grandparents disowned many years before. Jesse needs to prove to his grandfather that not only is he nothing like his father, but he is a good lawyer and that he will be a fine addition to the family business. He also wants to settle down with the right woman.
Unfortunately for Jesse, his right woman believes that she has had her one chance at happiness and that she will go it alone from now on, so he has to convince her that this is one time when she gets a second chance.
Home for the Summer
Lucy Sinclair is a successful wedding planner based in Los Angeles. She comes back to her hometown of St Dennis infrequently, claiming to be too busy with her business to come more regularly, but when she gets offered the chance to do a second celebrity wedding in town, she knows that the time has come when she has to face her demons, for the summer at least.
Clay Madison never quite figured out what happened with his friendship with Lucy. She was his best friend until something happened, and he had no clue what, and then she left town as soon as she could cutting nearly all ties. Now Clay is an organic farmer, working on a partnership to develop organic beers with Wade. Life is good for Clay, but he still thinks of Lucy as his what-if woman. When she comes back to town, he takes his chances to be with her, but she is so busy that it is difficult to find time, and she is so reluctant to talk about what changed between them all those years ago.
Whereas most of the other romances developed over a relatively short period, this one took longer to develop, which I think was the right thing to do for these two people, but I did find it distracting that the story jumped forward weeks at a time without any real indication to the reader and I do think think that the fact that I didn't really feel the chemistry between the two of them wasn't helped by the slowness of their relationship.
So there you have it! Check out my review of the latest book in the series, The Long Way Home, tomorrow.
The Little Russian by Susan Sherman, Reconstructing Jackson by Holly Bush and listening to Tuscan Rose by Belinda Alexandra
Shadows and Stronghold by Elizabeth Chadwick