Judith’s review of Carolina Girl (Dare Island #2) by Virginia Kantra
Meg Fletcher spent her childhood dreaming of escaping Dare Island-her family’s home for generations. So after she landed a high-powered job in New York City, she left and never looked back. But when she loses both her job and the support of her long-term, live-in boyfriend, she returns home to lick her wounds and reevaluate her life.
Helping out her parents at the family inn, she can’t avoid the reminders of the past she’d rather forget-especially charming and successful Sam Grady, her brother’s best friend.Their one, disastrous night of teenage passion should have forever killed their childhood attraction, but Sam seems determined to reignite those long-buried embers. As Meg discovers the man he’s become, she’s tempted to open her vulnerable heart to him. But she has no intention of staying on Dare Island-no matter how seductive Sam’s embrace might be.
Meg Fletcher is the consummate modern woman. She is successful and has worked long and hard to move up in the ranks of her chosen profession. She has the handsome executive boyfriend with whom she has purchased a beautiful condo and even though they have been together for six years and he has never seemed inclined to “pop the question,” Meg is sure that their relationship is all she could ever want. That is, until she shows up at her office, is locked out of her business email and accounts, and called on the carpet, only to be told that she is history. All this with the full knowledge and consent of her executive squeeze, a man who seems far more enraptured with himself and his pursuits than he has ever been with Meg. Now, coming home with her entire career in a cardboard box, she is aware that she is again drawn to her home on Dare Island, a place where her family runs a Bed and Breakfast Inn and where she is needed until her mom fully recovers from a recent automobile accident.
This is a story of a woman torn between what she is, what she loved deep down inside of her, and what she aspires to be in a world of high pressure careers populated by shakers and movers. Until recently she was one of those. Now she is literally back where she started, including being thrown together with her brother’s best friend, the man with whom she shared a night of passion as a high school senior, and who left her behind when he went away to college. This is a story of family and community, of a woman who longs for that sense of being settled but who has had her life ripped out from under her, of her conflicts and her self-doubts, of realizing that she knows little about herself after all this time. This novel is also Sam’s story–a man who has never really enjoyed the support or love of his father. Dear Ole Dad has been far more focused on his own business interests, on wining the affections of the current lady love, and whose rough-around-the-edges kind of communication has never communicated any kind of pride in the accomplishments of his son. Now Same is also back on Dare Island and is locked in a tussle with his dad over construction on the Island. Will it be more luxury homes with private marinas, or will be be affordable housing for those who work on the Island and can’t find a place to live close at hand? All in all, this novel is filled with the messy and gritty stuff of which life is made and the kinds of relational difficulties that are common to all human connection.
I wasn’t sure I was going to like this novel at first. Frankly, I didn’t like Meg very well at first. She was the kind of brassy female that seemed determined to construct a life that looked and felt like she wanted it to, one that was built more on her denial of reality than on the truth within her profession and her personal life. But as the book progressed and I was able to see below the layers of Meg”s external facade, I became aware that she was driven forward by her insecurities the same as all of us, that her dreams were like circles of smoke in the air rather than the kind that involved her talents and abilities realistically. Dreams are often like smoke rings, but those that become reality are those that take one’s abilities into consideration, that may be hampered by life’s challenges or the pressures of finances or family obligations, but are, nevertheless, still based in the desire to use one’s talents and abilities to the fullest. Meg, on the other hand, had a vision of what her life was going to look like and had it not been for the loss of her job, she might not have come to realize how much her life resembled a house of cards. Neither would she possibly had an opportunity to re-connect with Sam and realize what a special man he had become.
This is a beautiful story about people, their insides and their externals, their families and friendships, their responses to life’s challenges and their creativity in dealing with those upheavals. It has been my past experience that a Virginia Kantra novel is always a showcase of how romance fiction ought to be written, and this particular novel is no exception. It is a thought-provoking piece of fiction but it hits home with a solid punch. The romance between Meg and Same is icing on the cake and one of those relationships that has moved from school crush to genuine caring. It’s a fascinating journey of which the reader becomes a part, and I, for one, am delighted to have been one of those readers. Suffice it to say, this is one very fine novel, and I highly recommend it.
I give it a rating of 4.25 out of 5.
You can read more from Judith at Dr. J’s Book Place.
This book is available from Berkley. You can buy it here or here in e-format.