Crossroads Publishing House, $4.99
Contemporary Romance, 2015
When it comes to romances set in small towns by the sea, usually I can expect a few things.
One, despite all that talk about small town life being the best, romance in this lovely place only works when the hero comes with big city money.
Two, the heroine has some kind of impractical job designed just to let her go all cute in a small town apple pie way, but that’s okay because she doesn’t need her own money when her future man is coming up the road with his big city money.
Three, that one local who is all about selling out to the big city, which is bad. Good small town people don’t sell out for big city money, they only marry into it, duh.
Four, a romance between an aw, shucks small town gal and a yo, slick big city dude.
Nancy Naigle’s Sand Dollar Cove has three and a half of these things – the romance is missing.
Oh, I’m told that Elli Eversol, who came back to Sand Dollar Cove to help her grandparents rebuild their hurricane-hit shops, falls in love with Brody Rankin, the big city dude who is looking for a place to set up a warehouse, but these two actually spend very little time interacting in a believable “We’re falling in love!” manner. More often than not, the author is more concerned with having Elli running around being all so cute and small town precious, as well as giving me what amounts to a sightseeing tour of that place by the sea. Things can get a bit too sweet for my liking – Ellie stays in a place called Sol~Mate, for one – but on the whole, the story is a pleasant kind of blah.
The problem here is that the romance ends up taking a backseat to this tedious small town trip. The hero shows up far later than he typically would in a standard romance novel, and the romance takes place in an accelerated manner that it sure feels like the author has skipped a few stops along the way.
As for the conflict, well, it’s the same old stuff. Elli keeps crying because she reads those newspaper articles about Brody sticking it to fancy hot women in big city so oh, oh, oh. With that attitude, I don’t know why she doesn’t just marry some virgin in the neighborhood – she will never have to be insecure about whom the man had stuck it to in the past, then. At any rate, Brody has to pass her purity test before she magnanimously agrees to marry him and roll in contentment on his pile of dollar bills.
This leads to another issue: nothing interesting happens for the first half or so, then it seems like everything can’t happen fast enough in the second half. This includes the romance. The express pacing isn’t even interesting, because the things that happen are made up of standard small town tropes, eye-rolling jumps to conclusions, and communication breakdown. I’ve read all these things many times before, and the author’s treatment of them doesn’t deviate much from the formula.
Predictability issues aside, this story also suffers from the fact that the author’s narrative style is basically full information dumping from start to finish. Everything is told, often repetitively so. Some authors can execute such a style perfectly and still come up with an engaging story, but the author in this case only ends up a story that is as lively as a textbook tract one has to cram at the last minute before a big exam.
So, Sand Dollar Cove is predictable, is narrated in a dull and uninteresting manner, and features a half-baked romance. It may be worth a look if it had been, say, a dollar, but at the price I bought it for, I’m getting buyer’s remorse.