Carolina Girl
by Virginia Kantra
(Berkley, $7.99, PG) ISBN 978-0425-25122-5
****
Not having read the first book in this trilogy about the Fletchers of Dare Island, NC didnít stop my enjoyment of this story of daughter Meg and her hunk of a hero, the sometimes carefree, sometimes brooding Sam Grady. Their story is one to savor.

Meg and her family settled on Dare Island, their ancestral home, after her father retired from the military. An Army brat, Meg was resilient and determined to fit in. But she was also determined to get off the island, especially after a painful fling with Sam, her brother's Matt best friend. She was in high school and he was home from Duke University when their passions flared. Partly due to embarrassment due to his drunken state and partly out of concern for his friendship with the Fletchers, Sam did not handle the aftermath of their interlude well. He and Meg avoided each other and both went their separate ways.

Meg went to New York where she used her hard-earned Harvard degree to work her way up the corporate ladder, landing a great marketing job as well as the CFO of the corporation. Meg and Derek worked their way up their relationship, both workaholics who understood the need to work and soon they bought a condo. Her parents were disappointed that they didn't marry, but Meg was comfortable with her choices and with Derek. Until her mother got hurt in a car accident and she had to return home during a critical merger. Despite assurances from everyone that she should take the time she needed, she was fired when she got back. Derek then abandoned her by suggesting they needed a break and he would even buy out her half of the condo due to her soon to be financial difficulty.

Meg returned to Dare Island to "help her mother," knowing she needed to regroup and find a new job. She has every intention to get back to New York. But then Sam Grady gets in her way. Sam is always charming, except with Meg. He and her brother Matt were inseparable as kids and due to a divorce laden life at home, Sam often spent time at the Fletchers. He always felt the Tom Fletcher was as much his father as his own. Sam a dream to build something worthwhile and he has never gotten over Meg, despite the way they ended things.

This story is fresh even with a plot line that feels familiar. The writing style pulls the reader in and uses the Dare Island community to feel like home. I laughed at the antics of the family and yet, there was a poignancy too. Luke, the youngest who is currently in Afghanistan just discovered he had a daughter, Taylor. When Taylor's mother died, her friend and lawyer contacted Luke, who picked Taylor up and dropped her at the Fletcher home in the capable hands of his family. Taylor's adjustment is a nice backdrop and a set up for Luke's story.

The tale also gave us a glimpse of Matt and his fiancee Allison from the earlier story. Reading Carolina Girl was such a pleasure that I want to find Matt's story and you can bet I will be keeping my eye out for Luke's. Meanwhile, I can highly recommend Meg's story as one that will enthrall the reader and offer lots of satisfaction.

--Shirley Lyons


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