The cover blurb for Under the Boardwalk provides the link which
ties these five rather disparate short stories together. It calls them
“all new summertime love stories.” I guess the anthology’s title and
its cover led me to expect stories set in ocean resorts (my favorite
places is all the world and where I happen to be at this very moment.)
Well, such is not really the case at all. Four of the stories do take
place around large bodies of water; the other is set in an Alabama
Despite the lack of a truly unifying theme, these are all well written
and enjoyable tales by talented authors. Just the thing for reading on
the beach, which is exactly what I did.
My favorite of the bunch is the one which most closely met my
expectations, Mariah Stewart’s “Swept Away.” Most of the story
takes place in “Ocean Point, N.J.,” a town that truly resembles the
South Jersey shore resorts I know and love. Private investigator Jeremy
Noble needs a vacation; he also needs to see if the attraction he felt
for the chef at Laura Bishop’s Maryland shore inn is the real thing.
But when he arrives at the inn, he finds that Jody Beckett has gone on a
vacation of her own, to Ocean Point where she spent her teenage
summers. It happens that Jeremy was raised in the Pine Barrens near
Ocean Point. He has not been back since a tragedy destroyed his
But the allure of spending time with Jody leads Jeremy to return to his
old haunts. Together, they do all the things that folks do on a shore
vacation while they fall in love. With Jody’s support, Jeremy can at
last face the pain of the past and move on to the future.
Miranda Jarrett’s novella, “Buried Treasure” is my other favorite.
A sort of a prequel to her new book, Moonlight, it is set on the
Massachusetts coast in 1722. Zach Fairbourne’s half-sister Miriam Rowe
is about to marry Mr. Chilton Chuff who is about to take up a teaching
post at Harvard. Zach does not approve. He thinks that Miriam is still
in love with their childhood friend, Jack Wilder. Jack, the son of a
noted pirate, had been spirited away by two of his father’s old
shipmates four years earlier and had taken up a pirate’s life. Now he
is back in Westham and he has enlisted Zach’s help in convincing Miriam
that dull respectability is not for her. This is a light-hearted tale
of love lost and regained.
Which is not to say that I didn’t enjoy the other three stories as
“Ruined” by Jillian Hunter is set on the Cornish coast in 1843.
Lovely Sydney Windsor is yachting with three of her fiance’s friends
(she has, to her surprise, become engaged to a duke), when the boat
runs afoul of some treacherous rocks. The party is rescued by Lord
DeWilde, generally known as “Wicked” DeWilde, renowned both for his
wicked ways and the frightening novels he and his brothers write (think
a 19th century Stephen King.) Rylan is immediately taken by the sweet
and beauteous Sydney and knows that her dissolute betrothed is not
worthy of her. He will have her to wife if he has to ruin her to do so,
and Sydney finds ruin in the arms of “Wicked” a deliciously enjoyable
Geralyn Dawson provides a story of a “second chance at love.” Ten years
earlier Drew Coryell and Hannah Mayfield had married, but her outraged
papa arrived before the vows could be consummated. A beach bum who
lived on an island off Galveston was not good enough for his daughter.
In the intervening decade, Drew has become a success as the owner of the
Castaway Bait Company, which produces some of the best fishing lures
around. Hannah revisits Castaway Island to convince Drew to donate his
family’s copy of the Texas Declaration of Independence to the state.
She doesn’t realize that Drew is no longer a ne’er do well. Ten years
have not dimmed the love between the two, but they have some hurts and
misunderstandings to overcome before they can admit their feelings.
Dawson makes delightfully humorous use of the names of Drew’s lures,
including the “8 inch Throbbing Bob.”
Of course, the featured story is by Pocket lead author, Linda Howard.
“Blue Moon” is vintage Howard. Sheriff Jackson Brody hates full
moons and this month there are two of them. His dispatcher warns him
that troublemaker Thaniel Vargas was seen heading up the bayou towards
the home of Delilah Jones. As a relative newcomer to the county,
Jackson doesn’t know about Lilah Jones, but he knows that Thaniel is up
to no good.
Lilah is a recluse with special powers. She can read people’s auras and
she sometimes experiences precognition. When Sheriff Brody rides to her
rescue, she realizes that he is the man she is going to love. Thaniel
flees, but he steals their boats. Marooned by a thunderstorm, Jackson
and Lilah enjoy a night of love. But then Thaniel turns up dead.
The stories in Under the Boardwalk have, as you can see, little
to do with boardwalks. But if you happen to be sitting on a beach near
or under a boardwalk, and want a fun book to read, this one will do