Review by Darcie Czajkowski
Charlotte Evans hasn't seen best friend Nicole Carlysle in a decade. That was her doing. After committing an unspeakable act of betrayal against Nicole, Charlotte has kept her distance, the guilt too much for her to sustain a close friendship.
Nicole is in the dark. Sure, Charlotte is a wildly successful travel writer and is constantly flitting around the world, bouncing from assignment to assignment, but can't she at least say in touch on a basic level?
But when Nicole's organic and farm-to-table food blog turns into a cookbook deal, Nicole knows that the success of her book necessitates Charlotte's skill for interviewing and knack for convincing writing. Knowing that she owes Nicole, Charlotte agrees, and returns to Quinnipeague, an island off the coast of Maine where the girls spent summers together.
Only a summer of friendship-rekindling and sampling and transcribing local recipes are overshadowed by Charlotte's intrigue with Leo, a man whose mother grew and sourced the best of the island's herbs with her rumored magical touch, and Nicole's worry over a secret that her husband Julian has been forcing her to keep for four years.
In a sometimes slow unfurling of events, Charlotte and Nicole's lives become even more entwined when Nicole breaks down and reveals her secret. And as it turns out, the very thing that could be the dreamed-for cure of her husband's ailment is the very thing that Charlotte sacrificed her friendship with Nicole to keep hidden.
With the secrets revealed, will Nicole and Charlotte's friendship be able to withstand the blow? And how will Julian fare in the wake of the revelation? Will Charlotte connect in forever-type way with Leo, or will she be left once again broken-hearted and eager for her next assignment, far away from Quinnipeague?
This is the first novel I've read by Barbara Delinsky, so I didn't know what to expect. While the title made me think of a lighter, beach-read type of book, I found this story to be more literary fiction than mainstream women's. Initially, for the first third of the book, I found the storyline to be a bit slow-moving, with too-detailed descriptions of the types of plants and flowers on the island and the different manners in which the ocean ebbed and flowed. Still, I was impressed by how vividly Barbara brought the island to life in these details. She clearly had a very real picture of how the island was and executed that detail flawlessly. It was just a little much for me, as someone who appreciates more dialogue to keep the story moving at a quicker pace.
That being said, I found the story to be very captivating after surpassing that initial section of the book. I was drawn into the history of the friendship between Nicole and Charlotte, and wanted them to return to a place where they were once again best friends. At the same time, Charlotte's betrayal was incredibly damning and I do not know if the book's resolution was realistic. Nicole seemed to be forgiving, to the point of being a push-over and, even though I wanted to believe that I could be as forgiving, I feel that such a betrayal might preclude the return to a tight-knit friendship.
What mostly drew me into the story was Charlotte's relationship with Leo. I desperately wanted them to find a way to make their burgeoning relationship work, even though the odds were against them. I found Leo's tough exterior but lovable interior to suit Charlotte's worldly personality and was deeply engrossed in the development of their relationship and as individual characters over the course of the story.
I would definitely recommend this book, especially for readers who adore a happily-ever-after. While I believe that the conclusions to the storylines were a bit too perfect as a whole, I felt that Barbara's build-up to the resolutions made them believable if taken individually. I also appreciated and much respected Barbara's presumably vast and in-depth research on Multiple Sclerosis. She executed that storyline with thoughtful insight about the disease and how family members of those inflicted with the disease would handle the situation. While some might find Nicole's reaction and manner of dealing with the news insensitive, very few people can truly relate to the toll it takes on the wife and other family members when a loved one is stricken with a life-changing disorder. I believe that Barbara captured the moods and motivations of both Julian and Nicole's characters in this respect.
So add this book to your summer reading list and spend a little time on the charming island oasis of Quinnipeague.
Purchase the book at:
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About the Author:
Barbara Delinsky is an American writer of romance novels, including 19 New York Times bestsellers. She has also been published under the pen names Bonnie Drake and Billie Douglass.
In 1963, she graduated from Newton High School, in Newton, Massachusetts. She then went on to earn a B.A. in Psychology from Tufts University and an M.A. in Sociology at Boston College.
The Delinsky family resides in Newton, Massachusetts.
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