by Rochelle Alers, contemporary (2012)
Grand Central Publishing, $5.99, ISBN 978-1-4555-0140-3
Sanctuary Cove marks Rochelle Alers's debut appearance with Grand Central Publishing. This one is a bit different from the author's usual fare in that this book is part of a series set in Cavanaugh Island, so the characters in these books are not necessarily family members. Also, there are no millionaire heroes in sight here. That's actually a nice change for once!
Deborah Raleigh is a widow. Now, when the story opens, she is in the midst of selling her house and bookshop in Charleston to move herself and her two children back to her hometown Sanctuary Cove in Cavanaugh Island. Her husband Louis died pretty recently, drowned while trying to save some kids, and before that, his reputation was completely torn apart when he was accused of having an inappropriate relationship with his student. Her husband's name was posthumously cleared, but Deborah understandably isn't keen on staying in that place anymore.
It's up to you to decide whether it is, er, "appropriate" for Deborah to move on to Dr Asa Monroe pretty quickly after Louis died. At least Asa spent a year mourning the deaths of his wife and kid. Deborah is... fast, and I must admit that I haven't come across many romance novels where the widowed heroine hops on to the next guy in the romance chain gang so quickly. Worse, it's just page 67 when Deborah is telling me about how Louis never made her feel like Asa did, and Asa hadn't even touched her in those naughty places yet. The poor man - he was ruined and then he died, and the author couldn't even let his wife mourn him for a decent period of time before revealing to everyone that he was not the most exciting fellow in bed.
Oh yes, Dr Asa Monroe. He's our hero, and he's in town because he's sad about his dead wife and kid. He has vowed never to fall in love with anyone again, and in fact, he's waiting for Doctors Without Borders to accept him into their ranks when Deborah shows up in Sanctuary Cove. He helps out at her bookshop, but these two tell each other that they are never going to fall in love. We know better, don't we?
Similar to this author's previous books, this one is full of descriptions of every single minute thing that happens in the days of the lives of our heroine, so get ready for a very slow story with our heroine interacting for more often with other secondary characters for the first third or so of the book. The author needs to lay down the foundation for the next sixty or so books in this series, after all. There is plenty of information dumping here, as the author gushes enthusiastically about every single thing in Sanctuary Cove, from the heroine's childhood days to the scenery and such. To be fair to Ms Alers, the end result is a very picturesque story, like a gorgeous description of a coastal village in sunset or something like that. I don't mind visiting this place, but I paid $5.99 for a story, not a chance to look at pretty places.
The romance is pretty standard. For the most part, it's slow boil as our main characters tentatively enjoy each other's company. Unfortunately, the author resorts to an overused cliché to force these two to come back again for a happy ending, and this plot device cheapens tremendously the relationship up to that point. Asa spends most of his time whining that he just cannot - cannot - settle down with a woman again, so the author forcing him to marry Deborah has me wondering about the longevity of this marriage. How long before he wakes up one morning and resents the fact that he's pretty much forced to spend the rest of his life with Deborah?
Apart from being a little boy who will die if someone pricked his heart again, Asa is a standard one-dimensional perfect fellow. Nothing new there, although the fact that he's just rich instead of being a billionaire makes him different from the other heroes of this sort. Deborah is also one-dimensionally perfect. In fact, she seems suspiciously like a vehicle for the reader's vicarious fantasies. I just have to roll up my eyes when Asa tells Deborah in awe how she can still stay so sexy and thin despite eating ice cream like a hungry cow. Deborah is also the author's vehicle to wag a finger at land developers, the hypocrisy of nasty town people (nearly all the people of Sanctuary Cove are perfect and wonderful), and anything that catches the author's fancy.
At the end of the day, there is a forgettable romance somewhere in the midst of the lovely scenery. The characters are one-dimensionally perfect and boring, but I have to admit, the whole idyllic coastal paradise vacation vibe of this book can provide a soothing escape from real life. But this only means that Sanctuary Cove more like a charming travel documentary than a decent romance story. File this one under "a pleasant shade of boring".
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