We are into our third week of summer vacation and everyone is slowly adjusting to a slightly less frenetic pace. This is the time of year that I’m looking for leisurely reads and beach books to get me in the mood for our upcoming annual trip to the Outer Banks and I will be sharing them with our here!
Mary Alice Monroe is one of my favorite authors in this genre, and her newest novel doesn’t disappoint. Read on for my review of Mary Alice Monroe’s Beach House for Rent.
Beach House for Rent by Mary Alice Monroe
Series: The Beach House #4
on January 1st 1970
Buy on Amazon
New York Times bestselling author Mary Alice Monroe returns to her beloved Isle of Palms to tell the poignant, charming story of two women, one summer, and one very special beach house.
When Cara Rutledge rents out her quaint beach house on Isle of Palms to Heather Wyatt for the entire summer, it’s a win-win by any standard: Cara’s generating income necessary to keep husband Brett’s ecotourism boat business afloat, and anxiety-prone Heather, an young artist who’s been given a commission to paint birds on postage stamps, has a quiet space in which to work and tend to her pet canaries uninterrupted.
It isn’t long, however, before both women’s idyllic summers are altered irrevocably: the alluring shorebirds—and the man who rescues them—begin to draw Heather out of the shell she’s cultivated toward a world of adventure, and maybe even love; at the same time, Cara’s life reels with sudden tragedy, and she wishes only to return to the beach house that had once been her port amidst life’s storms. When Heather refuses to budge from her newfound sanctuary, so begins the unlikeliest of rooming situations. While they start out as strangers, as everything around the women falls apart they learn that the only thing they can really rely on is each other.
And, like the migrating shorebirds that come to the island for the summer, these two women of different generations must rediscover their unique strengths so by summer’s end they, too, can take flight in ways they never imagined possible.
Review of Beach House For Rent
This novel is the fourth in a well-loved series. Picking up one of Monroe’s books is like returning to a favorite place – there is comfort in the familiarity and you can settle in. However, as the author does a good job with providing brief looks into the back story, this works well as a stand alone. However, if this is your first introduction to the series, you may be well enticed to seek out the earlier books. (And you should.)
This book starts out slowly, as if to let you settle into the story like you’d sink into your favorite chair. It’s difficult at times to write reviews when you’ve read and reread the predecessors in a series because you have what feels like a relationship with the characters, I will confess, and this definitely comes into play with Cara’s storyline.
Monroe’s stories are a good mix of character-driven and plot-driven. The story follows two storylines – that of Cara Rutledge, who is the owner of the beach house in question, and that of Heather, an agoraphobic artist from Charlotte who is renting said beach house for the season. For the new reader, Heather’s storyline will have a bigger punch as we see her struggle and then bloom over the arc of the story – all the while Cara’s character shrinks and fades in the face of her own tragedy. (For fans of the series, the tragedy that strikes Cara is a kick in the gut because it happens so quickly and you KNOW their story – but no spoilers from me.)
The juxtaposition of personalities – Heather, quiet and frightened, wanting to be stronger and willing her way through anxiety attacks, and Cara’s brash confidence are contrasted in the beginning of the story, but as the two stories collide the synergy between Cara’s past and Heather’s experience/agoraphobia drives the story forward in unexpected ways.
The book brings back beloved characters: Flo and Ellie, Palmer, Mother Muir and even Lovie (in her own gentle way.) Central to the story is the beach house itself – it is as comforting and familiar as a favorite chair, and her description will have you longing for such a place of your own to escape to.
Mary Alice Monroe’s love for the low country continues to shine through and we once again see the magic of the dunes, the sea turtles, and dolphins; in this book, she turns her attention to the shore birds and quietly works in information on the plight they face (as she has done so well with sea turtles and dolphins in prior books.) Her lush descriptions of the beach, the house, the wind whispering through the dunes and the beauty of the birds that Heather studies will weave a spell and make you long for some sand between your toes.
This story tackles themes of family dynamics, mental health, of loss and grief, and of healing – all of which Mary Alice Monroe deals with deftly and gracefully while delivering what is still a wonderful escapist beach read. I know I’ll be settling in at our rented North Carolina beach house with all the books in this series and now they are demanding to be re-read.
About the Author
Mary Alice Monroe is the New York Times bestselling author of more than a dozen novels, including The Summer Girls, The Summer Wind, The Summer’s End, Last Light Over Carolina, Time Is a River, Sweetgrass, Skyward, The Beach House, Beach House Memories, Swimming Lessons, The Four Seasons, and The Book Club. Her books have received numerous awards, including the 2008 South Carolina Center for the Book Award for Writing, the 2014 South Carolina Award for Literary Excellence, the 2015 SW Florida Author of Distinction Award, the RT Lifetime Achievement Award, and the International Book Award for Green Fiction. An active conservationist, she lives in the lowcountry of South Carolina.
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Thanks to NetGalley, Gallery Books and Mary Alice Monroe for an advance reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.