The Bookstore on the Beach: A Novel
Autumn Divac has been living in limbo for more than 18 months. Her husband Nick, who allegedly worked with the Security Service in the Ukraine, never returned from his assignment. Residing in Tampa with her teenage children, Taylor, age 17, and Caden, 16, Autumn is beyond distressed. Private detectives, especially one she hires overseas, cannot supply any information about Nick's location.
School is out of school for the summer and with no leads about Nick, Autumn decides to head to her hometown of Sable Beach, where they have spent many summers with her mother, Mary Langford. Mary and Laurie Conklin are part owners of Beach Front Books. Laurie and her husband Christopher are the only kin Autumn and her children have. Tired of brooding and worrying, Autumn believes this change will be good for all of them.
Upon arrival, Autumn remembers how much she loves this quaint seaside village, and she's happy to be back where she can unburden herself to her mom and Aunt Laurie. The teens are also thrilled to be at the beach and immediately head out to meet some new friends.
With the fresh salty air and the devotion from her family, Autumn starts to find peace as she also helps at the book shop so Laurie and Mary can enjoy time off.
Mary, a single mother who raised Autumn by herself doesn't make much of an income with the business, but all that matters to her is her love of books and the fact she makes enough to live on. Her life is wrapped up in the store though Laurie constantly admonishes her for not taking time off. But Mary adamantly refuses to leave town. As she states to Laurie: "'Autumn gets so mad that I won't go out and see the world. Visit. Travel. That sort of thing,' she murmured, wishing she didn't have the scars and the limitations that had, at times, put such a strain on their relationship.”
Only Laurie knows the truth about Mary's horrendous past, and though she insists Mary tell her daughter what she suffered through, Mary refuses, especially now when Autumn has her own torments to deal with.
One day, Mary is at the local drug store picking up a few items when Lenore, the owner tells her about how the private detective Drake D. Owens is in town inquiring about a missing woman. She passes his card to Mary.
"A chill ran down Mary's spine. 'Who?'
"'Someone named Bailey North,' she replied with a shrug in her voice.
"Mary dropped her wallet, and her change scattered over the floor. She kept Mr. Owen's card in her hand, couldn't have released it even if she'd wanted to, as she bent to gather up her coins. . . .
. . . "'What does her want with her?' she asked as she stood up again.
"'With Bailey North? I have no clue. He said she was once abducted by a man and his wife and held captive for years. I don't remember hearing anything about that on the news, though, do you?' . . .
. . . "Mary's mind flashed back to the day Nora Skinner stopped to ask her for directions, and Mary had been kicking a rock as she meandered home from school.
"She remembered being so willing to help. A woman along seemed safe—which was how she'd walked right into a trap."
Mary's heart pounds as anxiety consumes her. She was abducted at age 12 and held prisoner for seven years until her abductor's daughter, Tammy, aided in her escape. Mary knows the Skinners are incarcerated. Could they have been paroled? With this circumstance in mind, she knows she still cannot tell Autumn about her history. Autumn has enough on her plate as it is.
Weeks pass and the kids settle happily into their new surroundings. Taylor closely befriends a local named Sierra—an outcast being raised by her father. There is something about her that draws Taylor to her. It is like Sierra can almost read Taylor's mind, and she displays incredible support, especially when Taylor confides she is pregnant. Horrified at her situation, Taylor had been depressed and upset by her father's disappearance and one night at a party she drank too much and slept with Caden's best friend, Oliver. When Oliver double crossed Caden by asking a girl he wanted to take to a dance, Caden broke off the friendship and swore he'd never talk to him again. Taylor now laments how this could have happened—it was her first time with a boy and the one boy her sibling hates. She fears he will hate her now, too.
Autumn learns Quinn Vanderbilt, with whom she had a huge crush on and embarrassed herself with him in high school, is back in town. He is recovering from a contentious divorce after his obsessive wife stabbed him, almost killing him, and he has returned and be with his mother who is dying of cancer. Autumn is shocked when she sees him—shocked because her feelings are still there.
This novel offers generational situations containing scenes of grief and suffering. The many subplots make this an exciting read; there is the backstory of Mary's life and the question of if she'll divulge the horrors she once encountered and maybe will continue to haunt her. Autumn is dealing with the absence of her husband and her newfound realization of a long-lost love that never waned. Finally, Taylor battles with her sexual identity while being pregnant, and she stresses over the disharmony between her and her brother. The prose is fast-paced and exciting making this a breathless page-turner with the conclusion proving no problems are too difficult to solve.