True-Blue Texan

 
The House on the Beach
by Linda Barrett
(Harl. Super. #1192, $5.25, PG) ISBN 0-373-71192-1
****
The start of the Pilgrim Cove series is an engaging romance with real kids and real people living on a small island off the coast of Massachusetts. The realism adds to the story, as does the subplot about surviving breast cancer.

Laura McCloud has just lived through the worst two years of her life. First, she discovered she had a lump on her breast and had to go through radiation, chemo and surgery. But she survived. Then her mother got sick and she spent a year nursing her before she died. Her career of audio recordings and commercials is in a slump due to all the distractions and she needs to rejuvenate herself. Where better to go than the island which holds many happy summer memories – Pilgrim Cove.

She is reunited with a slew of people from her past. There is a group of retired men who call themselves the ROMEO’s (Retired Old Men Eating Out) who meet at the diner every day for breakfast. One of these men is Bartholomew Quinn, who still has a hand in his real estate business. He rents Laura a home on the beach for three months. Once there, she meets the son of one of the other ROMEO’s, Matt Parker. Matt and his dad Sam run the Parker Plumbing Supply store. Matt and Laura met briefly one summer and shared a kiss under the moonlight. Now they are both grown up and attracted.

They have lots to work out though. Matt is a widower with two sons, Brian and Casey. Casey has a stuttering problem and Brian is on the verge of getting kicked out of elementary school for fighting all the bullies who pick on Casey. Matt lost his first wife from ovarian cancer. But they have built a life and Matt is ready for a new relationship with Laura. Laura was dumped by her previous boyfriend and is afraid to tell Matt about the cancer for fear he will ditch her too. Can true love prevail?

The story is handled with grace and lots of fun. While Laura rejuvenates her soul, her career takes a turn for the better. It is interesting to see how she juggles everything she does and makes a career of this talent she has for speaking. She grows to love Matt and his boys, and they grow to love her too. Laura is resourceful and courageous. She is an all around good heroine.

Matt is the kind of man every woman hopes for. He loves his kids and his dad; he works hard and cares about his friends and the island family. He gets down at times, but always bounces back and never feels sorry for himself. He has a great sense of humor and of romance.

The author handles the breast cancer topic with insight and care without resorting to melancholy or melodrama. She is obviously passionate about the subject but it is refreshing to read a story of this type and not feel preached at.

There is a thread running through the story about Matt’s missing brother and those he left behind. My guess is this will be a theme running through the series but the inserts about this brother were a bit distracting in this tale. They just seem to be thrown out there and are left unresolved at the end of the story.

Matt and Laura fall in love and the sexual tension builds nicely, along with the question of when Laura will tell Matt about her surgery. When things fall together it seems a natural culmination of things.

The House on the Beach refers to the house where Laura is staying and one which Bartholomew promised special things happen. This story is indeed a special tale and a nice way to get to know a new small town series.

-- Shirley Lyons


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