Author: Grace Greene
Publisher: Turquoise Morning Press
Length: 85,500 words
Category: Contemporary Drama
Purchase Link: http://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-beachrental-575765-149.html
Juli Cooke was abandoned by her mother as a young child and grew up in one foster home after another. She learned to become a survivor and lean on her own two feet. Working several jobs at once just to make ends meet, she never expected the sudden turn her life was about to take. One day, while working at her catering job, she meets Ben Bradshaw and she is suddenly swept up in an opportunity that she finds very difficult to refuse. Marrying Ben was just another step in the direction her life kept taking her—doing what it takes to survive another day. The one caveat, Ben is dying and he’s willing to make sure Juli is well-provided for if she just marries him and lives out his dying days in platonic companionship with him.
When Ben dies, she doesn’t expect to be as shaken as she feels and her life moves further down the road in another unexpected turn. She has to deal with a dangerous situation from her past, as well as opposition from Ben’s and his cousin, Luke’s families. The real question becomes, can Juli learn to accept Ben’s faith and find hope that she can have a life with true love.
Juli and Ben married for companionship but as I read this story, I kept hoping for a miraculous healing for Ben and that they’d truly fall in love. That was not the case, but they did grow to care about each other very much. I liked Juli’s character from the get-go. She was very independent and no-nonsense, but with a real vulnerability. I liked how Ms. Greene wove a tapestry of faith into this story through the character of Ben and I loved her reference to faith as a mustard seed.
All of the characters were fun to read about and I didn’t feel the need to rush through any sections thinking, I really don’t want to read about this character. Credit goes to Ms. Greene for creating a vivid backdrop to this story. I truly felt like I was right there and could hear the ocean waves crashing against the shoreline. Not to spoil the ending for anyone, I won’t go into too much detail with this next point. However as I read, I was really wondering if the ending would be predictable and Juli’s character would fall head over heels in love again so quickly. I was pleasantly surprised with Ms. Greene’s unpredictable plot line.
I do not have much to complain about here with the exception that I would’ve liked to see a few more action tags and less dialogue tags—but that is only a minute detail and more likely my personal taste. I have to say that Beach Rental is a very good contemporary drama, with likable characters, awesome scenery descriptions and great tone of voice. Beach Rental is Ms. Greene’s debut novel and I am adding her to my list of authors to watch. I look forward to reading more of her work.
My Rating (Beach Rental): 4 Stars—Top Notch Fiction: Highly recommend you read this book and watch this author
5 Stars--Outstanding Fiction: Rivals my love affair with the classics of Jane Austen
4 Stars--Top Notch Fiction: Highly recommend you read this book and watch this author
3 Stars--Ordinary Fiction: Not earth shattering revelation of greatness, but worth reading
2 Stars--Disappointing Fiction: Hoped for more and you won’t find this book fulfilling
1 Star--Not-so-good Fiction: Difficult to keep reading; you won’t want to read it either
(Disclaimer: I reserve the right not to post reviews with a rating below 3 Stars)
A gratis copy of this book was sent to this reviewer by the author / or publisher in exchange for an impartial evaluation.
To read an excerpt, please click the "Read More" link.
Juli held Ben’s hand self-consciously. She’d certainly done tougher, more embarrassing work in her life. Her part in this was simple and with the ocean breeze gently brushing her hair and toying with her skirt, the working conditions were exquisite.
She looked at the guests, at the pastor, and told herself this was merely another kind of temporary work. Juli focused on the silky coolness of the damp sand beneath her bare feet.
She’d take it one day at a time.
Ben’s friend, Maia, had given her a posy of daisies and baby’s breath to hold. Tiny green stems and leaves peeked from within the frothy white.
Juli was glad to have Maia at her side even if she was more of a stranger than Ben. At least, Maia was friendly. Luke Winters wasn’t. He was Ben’s cousin and closest friend. He was also the tall, aloof man at the party the night she’d met Ben. She’d recognized his arrogant face immediately.
Luke stood near Ben scowling like a bad omen personified. She’d been invisible to him at the party, but now, she was squarely in his sights. Ben’s hand was steady in her clasp and reassured her. If Ben was aware of the negative waves of emotions coming their way he chose not to acknowledge them.
Juli ignored Luke. She never deliberately tried to give offense, but neither would she beg for anyone’s approval.
The pastor’s voice brought her back to the task at hand.
“Do you take this man to be your lawfully wedded husband? For richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, forsaking all others, for as long as you both shall live?”
“Yes.” A gust of wind snatched the word away from her lips. She spoke again, more forcefully, defiantly, “yes.”
“Do you take this woman to be your lawfully wedded wife? For richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, forsaking all others, for as long as you both shall live?”
“I do.” He said it strongly not letting the wind or the roar of the ocean overpower his affirmation, as if denying reality the chance to diminish his happiness.
A short distance down the beach, with waves churning around their knees and thighs, two darkly tanned men worked together casting a large red net fastened to a frame. They hefted the straight ends together out of the water and it billowed, catching the wind before they bent in unison, dropping it back down into the rushing waves. She admired the grace of their actions in unison.
She squeezed Ben’s hand. Together was a new concept for her. Ben returned the squeeze and met her eyes. Today his skin was flushed. From the sun or from the nuptials? His face showed happiness with a hint of apprehension in the set of his lips.
The warmth of his touch pulled her from her thoughts. She gasped as Ben slipped the gold wedding band, then an engagement ring onto her finger. The engagement ring was unexpected.
The diamond glittered with captured light and the gold had a shiny, new sheen.
Juli heard, “I now pronounce…” and anxiety rushed through her, but there was no invitation to the groom to kiss his bride.
This was a tremendous leap for both of them, but what was the risk? The pre-nup was the safety net and time was on her side. She knew empathy wasn’t her strong point, but she could be kind to a dying man.
“Allow me to be the first to congratulate you, Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin Daniel Bradshaw.” The pastor extended his hand and they shook in turn.
Maia said, “Ben and Juli, stay where you are. Stand close together and smile.” She was grinning broadly and holding a camera in front of her face.
They obeyed as she snapped a few photos. Then the pastor took one of Ben and Juli with Maia and Luke on either side—the entire bridal party.
Ben’s sister, Adela, did not attend, but Luke represented the official family displeasure. He offered congratulations with a dour expression.
“Juli. Best wishes.” He barely brushed her outstretched hand with his own.
She stared into his eyes, refusing to release him gracefully, angry that in his world she was invisible, or if visible, then unwelcome. He broke away, but not before the amber lights in his eyes flashed, warning her of his suppressed anger.
Luke took Ben’s hand and wrapped one arm around his shoulders, pulling him in for a quick hug without a word said. She had the distinct impression many words had already been shared privately and Ben had moved forward regardless of his family’s feelings on the matter.
There was no reception following the ceremony. They moved together, a small group of conflicted well-wishers, across the soft mounds of warm sand and up the rough, weathered steps to the wooden dunes crossover leading to Ben’s home.
Three stories of duplex, named Sea Green Glory, rose on pilings above an open parking area directly below. The homes on the oceanfront had names. Most were weekly rentals that ran from weekend to weekend. There were only a few hotels in Emerald Isle. Most were further down the island in the Atlantic Beach area and near the bridge to Morehead City.
The crossover ended at the porch on the main living level. Luke, Maia and the pastor headed for the stairs to go below to the parking area, but paused to look back.
Maia’s round cheeks dimpled in a kind smile. She looked especially petite and sweet, overshadowed by Luke’s stern demeanor. She waggled her fingers in a goodbye wave. Luke touched Maia’s arm and they left.
Ben turned to face his bride. “Are you regretting our agreement?”
Was she? A reasonable woman, certainly a woman with money and family, would never have agreed to his proposal. But a woman who was on her own, who’d grown up in a succession of foster homes and who understood cash, not dreams, fueled life—that woman might accept it, and had done so.
What had Ben purchased? He deserved better than a hardboiled cynic. Juli smoothed the sharp edges from her manner and adopted a softer attitude.
“Regret? No. It feels strange. Unreal.”
“No wonder. We moved quickly.”
“You moved quickly. I now understand what being ‘swept off my feet’ feels like.” They’d met a week ago. How had a man as mild-mannered as Ben managed to find a fiancé, get the pre-nup drawn up, and arranged a wedding on the beach, however small, within four days?
“I have a surprise for you.” He escorted her to a chair beside the round white patio table. “Sit here. I’ll be right back.”
There were faint noises coming from the far side of the wooden partition as, only a few feet away, the renters on the other side of the duplex packed up. They’d leave first thing in the morning. That half would be re-occupied when the new renters arrived later in the afternoon. Ben lived in his half, the western side, year-round.
The waves rolled in, gulls squawked and scavenged from the few beach-goers, and she, Julianne Cooke Bradshaw, sat on her new porch and wondered how long her marriage would last.