Author: Mary Alice Monroe
Overview from Amazon:
Get swept away to the beautiful and breezy Isle of Palms with New York Times bestselling author Mary Alice Monroe’s return to her “exceptional and heartwarming” (Publishers Weekly) Beach House series, set in South Carolina’s lowcountry.
Two women. One summer. One very special beach house.
Cara Rutledge rents her quaint cottage on Isle of Palms to Heather Fordham for the entire summer. As beautiful as the Isle of Palms is, Heather’s anxiety keeps her indoors with her caged canaries as she paints birds for postage stamps. Eventually, however, the shore birds—and a man who rescues them—lure her outside.
As the summer progresses and Heather begins to blossom, Cara’s life reels with sudden tragedy. She wants only to return home but Heather refuses to budge from her sanctuary. As everything around the ladies is coming apart, they discover they can only rely on each other. Now, the two women who don’t really know each other are forced to live together and support each other as they navigate the next chapter of their lives.
Featuring Monroe’s signature “lyrical, emotional, and gripping” (RT Book Reviews), Beach House for Rent demonstrates the power and strength of female friendships.
Our novel balances between two protagonists – Cara (from previous books in this series) and Heather (a newly introduced character). Although I was able to follow along to the main story without reading the first three in the series, I feel that I greatly missed out on Cara’s backstory. As you meet Cara in this part of the series, she is beginning to question her current situations as it seems some her dreams were put on the back-burner, such as, a career that she finds more fulfilling. Because I read this as a standalone, originally, I missed out on the backstory of what Cara’s life was like before, aside from her being a former advertising agent, and why she came to this point. Because of this, some of Cara’s story doesn’t have a huge impact compared to reading the entire series (or maybe at least book#3). However, even if you haven’t read the previous novels in the series, you are still able to immersed in this tale.
Our second protagonist is Heather, an artist, who currently resides with her father and new step-mother. Her father rents Cara’s beach house in order to (1) allow Heather to work on her latest commission to paint seabirds for U.S. postage stamps and (2) gain some alone time with his new wife. Heather is a refreshing character where the reader has a chance to explore her anxiety and slight fear of being in an unfamiliar environment, which can sometimes lead her to have panic attacks. This seemed to stem from the car accident that she was in and claimed the life of her mother. I greatly appreciate how throughout the story Heather uses the tools she learned in therapy and has a journey to help her learn to not let this anxiety control her. It’s a more realistic approach as Heather doesn’t just suddenly “defeat” her anxiety or her grief without any actual work on herself. Her love interest in this story is Bo, a contractor, who helps Heather not only adjust to island life, but also help her grow and move forward. Throughout the story, you get to learn about Bo and his backstory and how he and Heather complement each other well.
The story takes place on the Isle of Palm’s at the beach house Cara inherited from her mother. Her brother, Palmer, is pushing Cara to sell the prime real estate property and when Cara discusses that her and her husband, Brett’s, finances are not as on track as they would like, selling the beach house becomes more tempting. As Heather is currently renting the house for the summer, they put off the idea of firmly selling. However, after tragedy strikes, Cara has a need to return to the comfort of the beach house before Heather’s moved away and together both Heather and Cara must find a way to live together for the summer.
The novel introduces tidbits about pelicans at the beginning of each chapter, a favorite seabird of Heather’s. Each fact tied in directly or indirectly to the upcoming chapter. Even though I extensively studied zoology/biology, there were many new fun facts that I was able to learn. Everything relating to nature in this book was refreshing as you learn about Heather’s pet canaries, the vast variety of seabirds on the island, and the wonder of sea turtles. There is a strong emphasis on preserving the environment, such as, don’t let your dog chase sea birds on the beach. I wasn’t entirely aware of the Isle of Palms’ existence, but now it’s on my vacation destination list!
Throughout the novel, you experience the themes of love, loss, personal growth, family, and friendship. It goes through a myriad of emotions as there are parts filled with laughter, parts with tears, and some parts in-between. All the characters feel realistic. You feel as if you would meet people similar to these characters when you either visit these places or even your own neighbors. It’s a very heart-warming story in a magical island environment. Overall, it goes through more emotions than a typical beach read, but you walk away feeling satisfied (even if you read this as a standalone) and you can’t wait to read another novel by this author!