|Reading books in a series is often a joy when you are enjoying the series and as a reviewer, at times, it is a chore if you are not enjoying the series. Woods’ Chesapeake Shores novels have been a real mixed bag for this reviewer. The last entry was not engaging and since the characters were introduced in that tale, I was not looking forward to Beach Lane. But sometimes an author rises above and Woods has definitely done that in this tale of two people who are so insecure that they really need a crisis to find out just how valuable they are.
Susie O’Brien is from the “other O’Briens” family. Her father is Jeff, brother to Mick. Mick’s children have been the focus of many of the other stories and Jeff has at times, been the black sheep of the family. Jeff didn’t always agree with Mick and the two have been at odds over the years. Susie is smart, and works closely with Jeff in the real estate side of the family business. She has been non-dating Mack Franklin for several years. They have been a couple, but it has been strictly platonic, except for one kiss under the mistletoe that rocked both of their worlds.
As we discovered in the last story, Susie has been insecure about Mack’s past and ability to stick and Mack is the boy from the wrong side of the tracks that didn’t want to rock the boat for fear of losing Susie’s friendship, something he values. All of their friends and family know they love each other and are stumped when the two just can’t get past it.
The tale opens as Mack has finally taken the step and decided to propose. He is ready to put it all in. But then the unthinkable happens…he loses his job at a Baltimore newspaper. Mack is an ex-football player turned sports columnist. He has not been blind to the trends going on in the news industry but assumed his popularity would protect his job. Susie had been warning him for months to prepare for Plan B but he never listened. Now he is stuck. He has nothing to offer her and so can’t propose. And he is mad and embarrassed, as well as worried he will see either pity or I told you so in her eyes. So he tries to hide it from her.
That mistake is just compounded by the funk he is in and the fact that he is shutting her out. She is hurt, angry and ready to put it on the line with him…be with her or else. Then the unthinkable happens to her…she discovers she may have ovarian cancer and if she does, she will need a hysterectomy leaving her unable to have kids.
While the two of them are working things out, Mack does finally come clean and Susie sets him on the path of a new idea – start his own local newspaper with an internet presence – just for Chesapeake Shores. To do this he decides to hire an old friend and lover from Baltimore. Of course, Rachel is beautiful and threatening to Susie, just further complicating their relationship.
The saving grace of the story is that Susie and Mack both buck up pretty quick and end up with a very mature, very touching and very engaging romance. Dealing with cancer and with the start of a new career in the midst of family and friends challenges them to really think about their feelings and finally acknowledge to the other what they mean and feel. It takes time and it is not a smooth ride, but the tale is moving, sentimental, realistic and at the same time, filled with romance. Mack redeems himself multiple times for past blunders, with only little blinders about Rachel and her impact on things. But in his defense Susie is good at hiding her true concerns and it is only when they finally let down all their barriers does their relationship take that important next step.
This is probably the best of the Woods stories that I have read. Beach Lane is filled with sentiment, sadness, joy and best of all, two people who finally figure out what love really means. Don’t hesitate to pick up this one and enjoy.