Back in the day, I used to love Susan Donovan books. I haven’t read any for a while (the curse of the TBR I think) nor have I listened to any. So, when I had the opportunity to review Sea of Love, I thought; why not? In the beginning, I didn’t have that good book feeling but the story did win me over and I ended up enjoying it.
Rowan Flynn is the manager of the Sea Haven Bed and Breakfast on Bayberry Island. There is a famous legend regarding a mermaid and her grandfather, Rutherford Flynn, and a bronze mermaid sculpture on the island is said to have magical powers. If someone comes with an open heart and no plan of their own to fall in love, the mermaid will lead them to their true love. Bayberry Island has suffered a declining economy since the closure of the Flynn Fishery and tourism is its only real revenue raiser. Every year there is a week-long Mermaid Festival which commences which a “man grab”. A random guy from the crowd is selected to kiss the mermaid sculpture’s hand and recite the magic words to find true love.
The Bayberry Island community has been divided over a land development. A proposal for a golf course and hotel/casino on the island has been floating about for a year and almost all of the landowners have agreed to sell. But if the developer can’t get all the land, there will be no sale for anyone and no development. The only hold out is Mona Flynn. Rowan’s parents, Frazier and Mona Flynn both have their names on the title to the Sea Haven B&B, the large allotment of land and the private beach which would form the centre of the proposed development. Some of the residents support Mona and are concerned about the environmental impact of the casino and golf course while others, just want to take the money and run – including Frazier. As a result, the couple are now separated which causes extra stress for Rowan.
The developer sends in a “closer” to make sure the deal is done. Ashton Louis-Wallace III has a consulting business. Basically that means he gets paid a hell of a lot of money to go and close a deal, by fair means or foul. He sails to Bayberry Island at the beginning of the Mermaid Festival and deliberately sabotages his boat so that he is stranded on the island and then bribes Rowan for accommodation (all the places to stay have been booked up for a year). The B&B needs the money so she lets Ashton stay in her apartment above the old carriage house and he pays her $10,000 for the week. It is all part of his plan to seduce Rowan and have her convince Mona to change her mind. That’s pretty sneaky and underhanded and it did not endear me to him.
To make matters worse, two years before, Rowan and her entire family were taken in by a con-man who was the man grab for that year’s Mermaid Festival. Rowan fell in love, ran away with Frederick, and helped convince her family to invest all their money with him. Then he embezzled (and presumably lost) it. Now Frederick is in jail, Rowan has given up her New York career to run the B&B, and the family’s wealth is gone.
Ashton has done his research on all the key players involved and thinks what Frederick did was pretty crappy. But he doesn’t even consider his plans a close cousin to it. And, when he is this year’s man grab, the similarities are even that much greater.
So, I didn’t like Ashton much at first. He gradually won me over but it took a lot of time and even so, I thought Rowan forgave him too quickly when she found out about his deception and betrayal.
There is an element of magic to the story but it isn’t a paranormal. It doesn’t even have as much magic as Lisa Kleypas’ Rainshadow Road but the basic setup has to do with the influence of a mermaid legend and the man grab on Rowan and Ash’s relationship.
I have enjoyed Amy McFadden’s narrations in the past and her name on the cover was another reason I chose this one to review. I thought she sounded too strident at times and it overshadowed the emotions of the novel occasionally. I didn’t love her portrayal of Mona – to me it didn’t really fit her character. But the other characterisations were good with a fair variety of vocal tones. Mr. Hubie was a really old crotchety guy and he sounded it – it was so raspy that I wondered if it hurt Ms. McFadden’s throat. There is a performance of a children’s play – re-enacting the legend of the mermaid and Captain Rutherford Flynn and I must say that part of the narration was stellar. I don’t think it would have come across the same way in print at all and it was huge fun.
Between the story and the narration, what started out as a fairly uninteresting listen, actually grabbed me by about halfway in and, instead of avoiding my iPod, I started to look for reasons to leave it playing.
Ms. McFadden had a difficult row to hoe in getting me to enjoy the story because I really didn’t like Ash at the beginning. I basically wanted to set him on fire and didn’t care about him getting a HEA. The premise of a slick swindler coming to re-swindle a woman who’s already been taken advantage of was a hard sell. It wasn’t just the writing that won me over – I think it was the narration too. Although it took a while, I did come to enjoy the listen.
Book Content: C+
Steam Factor: Glad I had my earbuds in
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Sea of Love was provided to AudioGals for review by Brilliance Audio.