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Book Review: Beach Season by Lisa Jackson et al

 Book Review: Beach Season by Lisa Jackson et al

Whats that, you say? Two beach-themed books in a row? Anyone would think that Im a sad little Melburnian rugged up in multiple layers and chasing down my husband so that I can put my cold feet on him.

Beach Season landed on my desk on Friday, and thanks to that oh-so-sunny cover illustration, I pounced on it right away. Surely reading about a warm climate can be an effective (and cheap) form of heating? After all, theres a reason I obsessively seek out books about Maine, Alaska and Siberia during winter.

Unfortunately,'Beach Season does not involve warm beaches and sunbathing, but if you count romance as a way to get your personal fires going, well, this collection has it in spades. The volume comprises four second chance novella-length romances that have less to do with sunshine and warm days than they do with the warmth that comes with finding love where its least expected.

Cathy Lambs Junes Lace gives us June McKenzie, hippie chick turned lawyer turned wedding dress designer whose failed marriage continues to haunt herlargely because her ex, a lawyer himself, is making the divorce process as difficult and expensive as possible. June is doing her best to keep things civil, and spends her days focused on building her alternative bridal gown business and turning her back on all things related to the male species. Until, one day, whilst walking along the beach, June is swept off her feet. Quite literally. Fortunately, country-and-western songwriter Reece is around to pull her to safetybut his interest in June isnt just in her short term safety. June, however, is unwilling to become embroiled in another relationship when the ink on her divorce papers still hasnt been signed, and when her ex refuses to see that things are over.'

Junes Lace is a sweet and generally satisfying read full of quirky characters and heart-and-soul song lyrics, but though I loved Junes hippie background, I disliked the way that her backstory was infodumped into the narrative through a series of long speeches. I also found the final confrontation scene with Junes ex over the top, and struggled to believe the insta-romance between June and Reece.

Junes Lace is followed by Holly Chamberlains Second Chance Sweethearts, a novella that is in many ways similar to the one that precedes it, and Im surprised that the two werent spaced out, as I think the book suffers from having two such stories following immediately after the other.'In Second Chance Sweethearts we meet Thea Foss, a teacher on the run from an ex husband whos proved himself to be a charlatan and a swindler. Broke and down on her luck, Thea seeks refuge in a small town, where she rents a modest flat owned by a wise spinster cat lady (you know the type), and takes a job waiting tables. Things only get better when she bumps into her childhood sweetheart Hugh, and the two begin to slowly rekindle a relationship that was stymied in its early stages by protective parents and a class divide. But Theas new-found happiness is short-lived when her husband tracks her downand proves that hes not prepared to leave without a fight.

If Id read'Second Chance Sweethearts as a standalone, I probably would have been more impressed by it, but I think that it suffers from its position in the collection. Though I enjoyed Theas character, her friendship with sweet cat lady Alice, and the gentle relationship with Hugh, the husband-as-bad-guy element that so resembles that in'Junes Lace'feels repetitive and tired. Not to mention that I found myself wondering why on earth so many women are apparently willing to marry men who are clearly domineering, swindling creeps. Although its good to see these characters making better choices the second time around, it becomes frustrating to read about and sympathise with characters who have been so easily sucked into unhealthy situations.

The third story in the volume,'Rosalind Noonans'Carolina Summer, takes a slightly different tack, but like the two novellas before it, begins with a woman on the run (and also, wheres the warm weather in this so-called beachy volume? Im three stories in by this point, and still feeling cold). Jane Doyle, however, isnt escaping a relationship gone bad, but rather, is fleeing from a hit-man hired by a mafioso who wants to prevent Jane testifying about a murder shes witnessed. New Yorks finest, apparently, have little interest in keeping her safe, so shes off in search of safer shores. Soon enough, Jane finds herself in a small beach-side town where she picks up a cash-in-hand cleaning job and manages to find a place to stay while she hides out. Janes luck, it seems, is about to take a turn for the betterthe place shes renting belongs to the local sheriff. And the local sheriff is keeping a very close eye on Jane.

Although I enjoyed the tension between Jane and Sheriff Cooper, I have to say that the rest of this story was a bit of a head-scratcher. There are so many elements that dont seem to work and that invite questions. Jane goes on the run with only a few hundred bucks in her wallet as she doesnt want to leave a trail, but then says nothing when her brother offers to wire her money. How would she access said money without using a card or using electronic means that would alert her stalker of her presence? And if shes a witness in a gangland murder, why isnt the NYPD keeping her safe? Why dont they do anything when things get so bad that she has to flee the city? All of this, combined with the bizarrely over-the-top final confrontation, which ends with the gunman basically just wandering away, had me feeling a bit bamboozled.

The final story in the collection is Lisa Jackons'The Brass Ring, a second chance story thats very different in tone from the others. Its a story of jilted brides, car crashes, amnesia, and fake paternity claims, and its so unlikely that its kind of brilliant, even if it does use far too many exclamation marks for its own good. Its sort of like reading a novelisation of an episode of'Passions. Shawna is blissfully in love with her fiance Parker, and is counting down the minutes until theyre married at last (by at last, I mean after a few months of meeting). But when Parker doesnt show up to the wedding (an event foreshadowed by a fairground fortune teller), Shawna knows that something must be terribly wrong. And it is. Parkers been involved in a car crash, and has lost his memoryor at least the few months of it that involve Shawna. Shawna, however, is intent on helping her fiance make a full recovery, even if it means that he has to learn to love her all over again. But then a pregnant teenager arrives on the scene claiming that Parker is the father of her baby. And though Parkers memory is fragmented, he recognises the girl

This one has a big-haired, 80s vibe to it, and its full of scenes involving Shawna, whos also a doctor, kneeling at Parkers bedside, and muscling in on his space in her determination to protect him. Even when Parkers accused of infidelity, she just grits her teeth and gets on with helping him learn how to walk again. And yes, this is a man shes only known a few months. (What is it with romance novels and these whirlwind marriages?) I did appreciate that'The Brass Ring has a very different style from the others in the volume, and avid readers of traditional romances will probably appreciate the love-against-all-odds approach of this one. But to be honest, I found it difficult to connect with Shawna and her forceful approach to thrusting Parker back into his lifesurely as a medical practitioner, she would be mindful of the fact that Parker has suffered serious injuries and that his rehabilitation should be an ongoing process? Id be a little afraid of Shawna if I were Parker.

Overall, Beach Season offers a good few hours of diverting romance reading, but readers currently suffering through winter like I am should know that theres a notable absence of warm beaches and sunshine. Moreover, though the books cover indicates that its a volume of mainstream or womens fiction stories, its traditional romance through-and-through. With the exception of Lisa Jacksons, the stories are all very similar in nature, and Id recommend spacing out your reading of this one rather than reading straight through.'

'Rating: star Book Review: Beach Season by Lisa Jackson et alstar Book Review: Beach Season by Lisa Jackson et alhalfstar Book Review: Beach Season by Lisa Jackson et alblankstar Book Review: Beach Season by Lisa Jackson et alblankstar Book Review: Beach Season by Lisa Jackson et al (not bad)

With thanks to Meryl L Moss Media Relations for the review copy

Support Read in a Single Sitting by purchasing'Beach Season from

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  1. Ha ha ha does he scream? Mine does!! LOL

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