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Book Review: Ocean Beach by Wendy Wax

 Book Review: Ocean Beach by Wendy Wax

My computers autofill has a habit of trying to update my address to Melbourne, Florida rather than Melbourne, Australia. From what little I know of the former, Id say that theres one key difference between the two: the weather. Todays commute to work involved a battle against Antarctic winds, freezing sleet, and four wheel drives intent on splashing everyone and everything in their wakesuch is the nature of the sadistic 4WD owner the world around. My umbrella turned inside out, tried to escape my clutches, then indulged in a bit of self-harm, snapping half of its spokes. The hood on my coat mocked me by proving too short and too shallow, and my shoes laughed in the face of their apparent waterproofing. Needless to say, I am quite damp, cold and frizzy right now. Sure, Florida has hurricanes, but theyre warm, right?

Wendy Waxs Ocean Beach offers yet another data point in the comparison of weather conditions between Florida and my native Victoria: you can virtually feel the heat blistering off the pages of beachy read set in Miami, and as I read I found myself hoping that it would somehow vicariously imbue me with the Vitamin D in which Im sadly lacking. If sunshine and bikinis are the essential elements of a summer read, then this one ticks all the boxes.

Following on from'Ten Beach Road, the novel describes the continuing exploits of a tight-knit group of girlfriends who have turned to home renovation and flipping as a way of getting back on their collective feet after a series of unfortunate financial disasters. But the stakes are higher for this new renovation project: after the home-made footage from their first restoration endeavour turned them into YouTube sensations, theyve been courted by a TV network to participate in a warts-and-all home makeover reality series.

But the potential financial boon of the TV show is tempered by the fact that the participants are less than happy about having their dirty laundry aired on national television. Theres young Kyra, a new mother to a child fathered, scandalously, by a married movie star, and who wants to keep her son safe from prying network eyes. Nicole, whose brothers dodgy Ponzi scheme has bankrupted most of her friends and destroyed her match-making business, and who fears public scrutiny. Avery, whos still smarting from the betrayal of her ex-husband and worries about being portrayed as a ditz. Deirdre, Averys estranged mother, whos desperate to re-establish a relationship with their daughter. And then theres Maddie, whose 25-year marriage is on the rocks, and whose husband is disgusted by the very idea of her appearing on television.

But their reticence about having their troubles beamed into lounge rooms around the country pales in comparison to the dire financial positions of those involved: the show represents fiscal make-or-break for the friends. Not to mention that they want to do right by Max, the sweet, recently widowed 90-year-old owner who wants to restore the building to its former glory in order to honour his beloved wifes memory.

The setting of the novel immediately appeals: the estate in question is a ramshackle Art Deco mansion on the Florida coast, and its brimming with all sorts of architectural arcana and delicious design (and yes, as anyone who attended my wedding might have gleaned, I am a bit of an Art Deco buff). Indeed, its largely the aesthetics of the setting and the obvious strength of the friendships and relationships between the main characters that carries the book, with the nostalgic Max playing a key role as the centrepoint for their interactions. Despite the characters diverse motivations and positions, its Max who is the uniting factor here, and we watch as the characters, both major and minor, set aside their differences in order to restore the home he once shared with his beloved wife Millie. Truly, its worth reading this for Maxs character alone.

Unfortunately, the novel derails a little under the weight of various high stakes plot lines that suddenly begin filtering into the narrative. Although the book is written in a tone that is well-suited to commercial womens fiction, there are certain over-the-top moments that make it feel like a chick lit novel. Take, for example, the movie star who sneaks into the house dressed in turn as a female, an elderly man, and a gardener. Or the mystery surrounding Maxs long-missing sona mystery that the main characters decide to solve, and do. Or the characters bizarre foray out into a hedonistic Hollywood star-filled party. And I cant say that I feel that a gun-toting would-be killer is really necessary in an otherwise quiet book such as this. (Indeed, its never a good sign when you exclaim, oh, come on! when reading.)'Ocean Beach is at its strongest when its focus is on the main characters, their relationships and their efforts to restore the Millicent, and unfortunately I found that the scenes that took place beyond this key settingNicoles efforts to revive her business, and the characters occasional ventures out to a club or restauranttypically felt extraneous and diluted the books overall impact.

Still, these quibbles aside, the appealing beach-side setting and relatable characters make this one an enjoyable, quick read, and Id happily pick up'Ten Beach Road should I come across itand not in small part because Im desperately jealous of that warm, sunny Floridian weather.

Rating: star Book Review: Ocean Beach by Wendy Waxstar Book Review: Ocean Beach by Wendy Waxstar Book Review: Ocean Beach by Wendy Waxblankstar Book Review: Ocean Beach by Wendy Waxblankstar Book Review: Ocean Beach by Wendy Wax

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

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Other books by Wendy Wax:

 Book Review: Ocean Beach by Wendy Wax Book Review: Ocean Beach by Wendy Wax Book Review: Ocean Beach by Wendy Wax

Interview with Wendy Wax about her previous novel Ten Beach Road

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