Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Beach House for Rent by Mary Alice Monroe - Reshelved Books

I love Mary Alice Monroe's Beach House series.  I discovered these books years ago when my Grandma's friend lent us Swimming Lesson's (Book #2).  After devouring Swimming Lessons and reading it twice, I jumped right into The Beach House (Book #1), and Beach House Memories (Book #3).  And no, they do not have to be read in order... So it's an understatement to say that I was both thrilled and excited to learn that a 4th book in the series entitled Beach House for Rent was due to be released this summer!  

You can check out brief summaries of these novels, as well as other novels by Monroe here.

I wanted to take a #bookstagram with all 4 novels,
but the other 3 are packed away in the basement... So here is my pool.

So a brief background to this series:

These books tell the story of a beach house on the North Carolina coast owned by Olivia "Lovie" Rutledge.  Lovie was known as the "turtle lady" of the shore, active in conservation, and protector of the sea turtle nests.  When Lovie's daughter Cara loses her job up North, she returns home, mending broken ties with her family and discovering both new and old relationships all linked to a love for turtles and ultimately for the beach house.  One of these relationships is in found in Toy, a young pregnant girl fleeing an abusive relationship and family situation whom Lovie takes in, and another is in her romance with Brett, a local man whom Cara falls in love with and begins to replant her Carolina roots with.  As Cara begins to learn more about her mother's past and the woman that she is, she also learns that her mother is dying from cancer. Eventually after Lovie's passing, the beach house is left to Cara, which sets the readers up for the latest installment.

Now on to the latest novel:

Beach House for Rent opens with Cara and Brett working on the beach house and getting it ready to rent for the summer.  Hence the title. The woman renting the beach house, Heather, is a young and pretty 26 who suffers from terrible social anxiety issues that became worse after her mother passed away in a car accident. There is also hinting at financial difficulties that place a strain on Cara and Brett's relationship, which becomes clearly known to reader when it is learned that they cannot make the loan payments on a tour boat they recently purchased.  The couple is now faced with a dilemma.  Should they sell Cara's beach house, or sell their home which is legally Brett's house (his name is still the only one on the deed.)  Like with Nancy Thayer's novel, this part of the book struck me.  Not because it's the life I live now, but the beach house vs. regular home is a fantasy I have contemplated in my head. Can I have a beach house now, please!? After a fight, Brett goes out for a run, where he dies suddenly of a heart attack.  This was an unexpected twist to the story that came out of nowhere to the reader, and ultimately leaves Cara utterly devastated.  Cara returns to the beach house, where along with Heather they learn to heal themselves and grow despite their grief and their guilt.    

Why I like it...
One thing that I adore about this series is how Monroe focuses on endangered wildlife.  In Swimming Lessons, Monroe did this by offering readers short facts about sea turtles.  In Beach House for Rent, Monroe does this by bringing attention to endangered shore birds.  Monroe accomplishes this both by short facts about various shore birds, and also through Heather, who is studying the birds so she can accurately paint them for postage stamps.

Why I don't...
However unlike the other novels, which I felt could be read as stand alones or even out of order, I felt that Beach House for Rent relies too much on the backstories of the other novels.  If a reader had picked up this book instead of one of the other 3 it wouldn't have the same effect.  I also was disappointed that Monroe didn't bring Toy into the story.  She mentioned her character in passing, but she was such a large and important character in Swimming Lessons and The Beach House.  I missed her.

So my dear For the Love of Dewey Readers, I leave you with a rating of 3.5 out of 4 Coffee Beans.  I love this series, but I love Swimming Lessons and The Beach House more.  This novel alone does not do the series proper justice. 


P.S.  This series was one of the group of books that Grandma & I have successfully gotten my non-bookish mother to read and enjoy.   

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