What Happens in Paradise
A year has passed, and Irene Steele is still trying to understand how her husband Russ could have deceived her. Married for more than 35 years and parents to Baker and Cash, and grandparents to Floyd, Irene thought they were happy. Russ provided well for them with his lucrative job, and the only downfall was that he was never home.
But when Irene learned he perished in a helicopter crash in St. John and discovered he was hiding a completely different life from her, she is flummoxed. How could she know he owned extensive property on the tropical island? But more importantly, how could she know he had a young mistress and a twelve-year-old daughter. But thinking about it later, how could she not know? She and Russ had become distant, though Irene wonders how much of a role she played in Russ's deception.
To make matters worse, Russ's boss had taken it upon himself to arrange Russ's cremation without Irene's input. Now, she is hoping to tie up loose ends and get on with her life. Until she can attain a certified death certificate, she cannot do this.
Irene and her sons go to St. John for information and learn more about Russ's mistress Rosie and meet her daughter Maia and father Huck. Maia is an enchanting young girl, yet Irene sees something about Huck that is appealing.
Huck discovers a substantial amount of cash in Rosie's things, which he turns over to the FBI, speculating that Russ was dealing with something sinister and illegal, especially seeing their deaths were not an accident. He later decides to call Irene at her home in Iowa.
"He's almost more nervous about calling her than about calling the FBI. He is more nervous about calling her because he has no idea how the conversation will go.
"She answers on the first ring. 'Oh, Huck, is that you?'
"Her voice stirs something in him. He exhales smoke. 'It's me.' He pauses. He had planned to say, I'm calling to check on you. Or I'm calling to see how you're doing. But instead, the words that fly out of his mouth are, 'I have a business proposition. My first mate, Adam, quit on me today and I can't properly run my charter without a mate. So, I'm calling to offer you a job.'
"There's a pause long enough for Huck to take a drag off his cigarette, consider the lights of the Westin below and the cruise ship headed to St. Croix in the distance, and castigate himself for acting like a fool. He should have gone with How've you been.
"'What does it pay?' Irene asks.
"He grins and tells her the truth. 'Hundred bucks for a half day, two hundred for a full day,' he says. 'Plus tips.' He clears his throat. 'Plus fish.'
"'That sounds fair,' she says. 'When do I start?'"
Irene, who was demoted to a part-time position in her job for younger blood to take over, gives her notice. When the FBI snoops around Irene's home and Russ's villa, she wonders if she ever really knew her husband, believing now is the time to start anew.
Cash, a ski instructor is at a loss about the whole situation and when he receives a text from Ayers, Rosie's best friend about a job with her, he jumps at the chance and with Irene's blessing. After all, Russ left a luxurious villa for them, so why not use it?
Baker is dealing with a somewhat acrimonious divorce from his surgeon wife Anna, who now has a female lover, and he's responsible to care for their son, Floyd. When Anna decides to take a position in Cleveland and leave their Houston home, Baker sees no reason not to go to St. John with Floyd and start over. There's a problem though. Both Baker and Cash fall for Ayers and there seems to be a case of sibling rivalry as to who can win her heart.
The scenario makes one wonder how Irene could have been so obtuse about her marriage, and how Russ could have hidden his secret life so well. As the novel commences, more insight is given to Irene and Russ's relationship and see how easy it was for them to drift apart.
Ayers, who discovers Rosie's journal, secretes it from Huck to take home and savor in her spare time. This gives her a chance to understand Rosie's affair with Russ as well as their feelings for each other.
This suspenseful and emotionally riveting novel is the second edition to the Paradise series but the first installment, Winter in Paradise, should be read prior to this, otherwise it will prove to be confusing. The characters and the location are described in vivid detail, but the reader is left wondering if the conflict will ever be settled.