Driftwood Cottage: A Book Review



A Moment of Perspective: With my penchant for classic or highly acclaimed English literature it may come as a surprise to most that my first book review on this site is a novel from the romance genre. My reasoning is two-fold. First: I was asked. Given the opportunity, I chose not to decline. Second: I have a respect for the writers of the genre. After two years of university and then two years off from university in which I got pregnant, got married and gave birth to my eldest son (in that order)… I went back to school. It was there, in the midst of brain strain from simultaneously reading Chaucer for one literature class, Shakespeare for the next, Tennyson for poetry class, Sophocles for drama and Aristotle for literary criticism, that a friend suggested I pick up romance novels as “light reading” to rest my mind in between assignments. I scoffed. Then I followed her advice. What I discovered is that romance writers (most of them, anyway) have a ridiculously astounding grasp on humanity… emotions, fears, motives, etc. They also have a gift for composing dialogue. Yes, sometimes that dialogue is incredibly cheesy. Yes, sometimes the stories are over-the-top; but, very often they are real and tangible, though fictional, character driven tales of life.

Driftwood Cottage: A Chesapeake Shores Novel
Author: Sherryl Woods
Publisher: MIRA Books


Single mom Heather Donovan’s dreams of home and family are tantalizingly within reach when she settles in Chesapeake Shores. The welcoming arms of the boisterous, loving O’Brien clan embrace her and her son. But accepting their support seems to further alienate her son’s father, Connor O’Brien. His parents’ divorce and his career as a high-powered divorce attorney have left him jaded about marriage.


Then everything changes. Will the possibility of a future without Heather make Connor look at love and his career differently? Heather’s just about given up on her old dreams—of love, of family and especially of Driftwood Cottage, the home she secretly wishes were hers. It’s going to take a lot of persuasion—and some help from the O’Brien family—to make Heather believe that some dreams are worth fighting for.

Heather is a woman who has given up on her version of Happily-Ever-After once realizing she wants more than Connor O’Brien, long time love and father of her son, is willing to give. Despite becoming involved with him knowing Connor’s strong negative feelings toward marriage, reinforced by his career as a divorce attorney, Heather decides that she does want the wedding ring… and so she walks away to make a life on her own in Chesapeake Shores, the town where Connor was raised, and where his family opens their lives and sometimes meddlesome hearts to Heather and little Mick. She opens a quilt shop and lives in the apartment above. Connor’s visits to see his family and his son strain the resilience both he and Heather have to their own stubborn viewpoints.

Driftwood Cottage has two major strengths: characters and location. Connor comes from a large family and the presence of someone in the O’Brien clan becomes expected in almost every scene. Each appearance draws more information, good and bad, about Heather and Connor onto the page while simultaneously feeding the reader snippets of family history or teasing with enticingly delightful future stories. Every character has a background due to the charming world Sherryl Woods has created in Chesapeake Shores. Despite being the fifth book of the Chesapeake Shores series, Driftwood Cottage manages to keep new readers from feeling entirely detached from preceding story lines... which is no mean feat for the author.

Sheryl Woods has a gift for painting a picture with words and for making the reader genuinely care for the characters in her pages. I intend to spend some more time in Chesapeake Shores in the near future. Had Driftwood Cottage been a stand alone novel it would have been good but it is the power of a completely thought out and realistic community that gives this book its magic. And, just because it’s a romance novel and the preconceived notion is always there that things will all work out in the end doesn’t mean Driftwood Cottage doesn’t have a surprise or two hidden between the front and back cover. Overall, it was a lovely escape to a seaside town where I got to visit for a short time with one amazing family.

My one major disconnect? The cover art. It does not work for me... or the story.

On a traditional rating scale, I give Driftwood Cottage 4/5 stars… or hearts, as it were.

“Though there were a lot of words on the tip of his tongue, things he wanted to say but knew he shouldn’t, Connor turned and walked away. Unlike so many times when they’d parted, for some reason this time felt a whole lot more like goodbye.” ~Sherryl Woods, Driftwood Cottage


Musings from Barnes & Noble Café



“Well I’m just people watching the other people watching me; and, we’re all people watching the other people watching we.” ~Jack Johnson


Does anyone really need a book titled The Secret Language of Cats? Lady, your cat is indifferent. If you do not understand your cat then your cat does not want to be understood.


There is a middle-aged schoolteacher type and her mousy elderly mother (the resemblance is simply too stark for the relationship to be anything but as stated) discussing a book titled Good Girls Just Don’t Get It. Uh… research?


A child throwing a tantrum in French is just as frustrating to the parent and as irritating to the “audience” as a child throwing one in English. “Angry Child” needs no translation.


Why share a dessert when you are both drinking your own Vente Mocha Frappuccino? You have maxed your caloric intake for the entire day with one beverage. Why sweat those of a whole brownie vs. a half?


There is a woman with a stack of magazines. I don’t think she intends to purchase a single one. (She didn’t.)


There is only one person with a laptop. She is also the only person in the café (minus the baristas) who is younger than me.


I should start a book club.


Order the spinach quiche. It looks and smells divine. Not to mention, the woman consuming it clearly looks as though she is having a special foodgasm moment.


People still read V.C. Andrews.


I should write more “thank you” notes like this chick next to me. I envy her dedication… or I am pissed at her for making us non-note writers look bad. It’s one of the two.


I am guilty of always thinking someone in a crowded public place looks familiar to me.


Some people should be banned from having the opening to The Lion King’s “Circle of Life” as a ring tone. Those very same people need to remember there are places where a phone should be on silent.


If your pen dies in a Barnes & Noble Café… the baristas will likely loan (or give) you a spare. Common occurrence, me thinks.

Two Months More


“I can live for two months on a good compliment.” ~Mark Twain

There is a small Mexican restaurant located in a strip mall somewhere in Pine Bluff, Arkansas called “El” something or other (I could ask or look it up but I do not feel so inclined.).

The food is lovely. Authentic. Not Tex-Mex. The colors are bright. The staff is very friendly and glad to greet each guest come to dine. And… there are more varieties of Patrón on the counter at the bar than I have ever seen in one place before.

A waiter there thinks I am beautiful.

He said so… to my cousin as she paid and I was walking through the door.

“She is beautiful,” he said once with a nod in my direction and then, with a bit more urgency as if to emphasize his point, “She is BEAUTIFUL!”

My cousin inquired if I heard the compliment as we neared the car. I had not. I really was not too far out of earshot… not at all considering how acute my hearing.

I think, in truth, I simply wasn’t listening.

Self-Talk


"Every waking moment we talk to ourselves about the things we experience. Our self-talk, the thoughts we communicate to ourselves, in turn control the way we feel and act." ~John Lembo

I have decided, sitting in this Barnes & Noble Café with not one starving artist but a lot of individuals substantially older than I (the others must all be at Starbucks), that I must do something different with my life. My days are far too ordinary. Not boring. Ordinary. Really. There is too much work to be done… never-ending parenting, chaos and, oh yes, the job. These things do not allow for an over-abundance of boredom. Not to mention, I find those who suffer greatly from being bored are as such because they are ultimately boring. I am not boring.

What?

What do you mean, "What?"

What do you want to do that is so different from what you are doing now?

I have absolutely no idea.

You better figure it out before you become bored or, worse, boring.

Perceptions


“I am surprised at the way people seem to perceive me, and sometimes I read stories and hear things about me and I go ‘ugh.’ I wouldn't like her either. It's so unlike what I think I am or what my friends think I am.” ~Hillary Rodham Clinton

Facebook Status (July 9, 2011): “Describe me using (3) adjectives. (I'm curious to see if a particular one shows up... at all.) A n d... GO!”

It appears much like a vanity quest. It isn’t. I was discussing with a friend my very, very real lack of dating life and the word “intimidating” came up. Granted, I brought it up… but only because it has been mentioned before by others… over and over and over again. I simply wanted to see if that one word surfaced in a random poll. It didn’t. Included in the responses are:

Poetic. African. Witty. Pretty. Smart. Awesome. Maternal. Beautiful. Passionate. Cerebral. Cultural. Sarcastic. Multifarious. Forthright. Kenyan. Jedi. Supermom.

They were generous. Yes, I am flattered. But… intimidating? Not so much.

At least, I do not think I am intimidating… but I am me. My perception is different than the individual perception of my friends, acquaintances and coworkers; and, quite clearly, I have no idea how I come across to the rest of the human species.

The Wanderlust


"Travel is like adultery: one is always tempted to be unfaithful to one's own country. To have imagination is inevitably to be dissatisfied with where you live." ~Anatole Broyard


I haven’t set foot out of the United States of America in more than nine years. Which, seeing as I am a born American and vote in American elections and carry an American passport, doesn’t appear as shocking in nature to my casual acquaintances as it really is. In fact, I live and work in an area where people are born, raised and die without ever setting foot outside the state… let alone the country. They don’t understand me and my flippant, yet deeply seriously, remarks about needing to leave the USA from time to time, if not permanently. I am okay with that. I certainly don’t understand why they feel the need to live within a stones throw of all their “kinfolk” from the time they enter this world until the time they leave but I don’t judge them for it and, for the most part, I am not judged in return. Traveling, it appears, is not for everyone. For me it is vital.

The first time I was on an airplane I didn’t even have to set foot on it. Seeing as I was a mere four months old and incapable of walking, my parents did that for me… stepping on board with me in their arms or cradled in a piece of cloth and slung across my mother’s back African style. That’s where we were headed, by the way: Africa. Kenya, to be exact. My parents and older brother had already spent four years making a home there as missionaries. I was simply the new addition. In the month between December 1, 1974 and January 1, 1975 I was initiated into the ranks of world travelers around the globe. We trekked through five states, six countries and nine airports. I spent my first New Year’s Eve on an airplane over the Sahara Desert between Rome, Italy and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

From that month of my life until age twenty I was a regular globe nomad. Every four years we returned to the States for a year (give or take a month or two). My father arranged our itineraries so that we stopped in different countries leaving and returning to Kenya. We also never seemed to spend that period of time in the same state. I have come home from school in Mississippi (Kindergarten), West Virginia (Fifth Grade) and Louisiana (Tenth Grade). To me, a childhood of perpetual motion was a gift and I will be forever grateful to my parents for it; however, those memories and experiences often serve to heighten the discontent I experience in my current all but stationary life.

My last trip home to Kenya was over sixteen years ago.

Eleven years ago I became a travel agent. I did it in part because I knew I would be good at the job, partly because I could live vicariously through my clients and partly because I thought it would also afford me the opportunity to get on an airplane or a boat or a train and go anywhere. But travel agents don’t receive the perks that people seem to think they are afforded simply for doing the job. There are a few… here and there… but the perceived floodgate of free travel for agents is a myth.

In 2001 a bunch of religious radicals decided to hijack several airplanes and use them as missiles against Americans. In the midst of the carnage, anger and pain I shared with my fellow Americans, I also had to cope with the realization that my time in the travel industry needed to come to an end before the agency where I worked closed its doors. In 2002, two months before leaving the agency, I took advantage of my one and only travel perk and went to Bermuda for three days. It was a business trip, a familiarization tour of the island in order to better sell it to my clients, which left little downtime for exploring the off-the-tourist-trail parts of a new destination that I adore discovering. But, I did get to enjoy the country and it was another stamp in my passport. It was also the last.

My passport expired in 2003. I didn’t renew it because future travel was not a blip on the radar of my life and I preferred to have an expired passport with visa stamps from varying countries than a valid passport which would have remained blank. An empty passport is just sad. The other stark reality? I simply couldn’t afford the renewal cost.

NOTE: The above was composed as the beginning to a potential autobiographical travel journal rediscovering, as an adult, the places I had explored in childhood. I was planning a trip to much beloved England at the time and the entire piece was constructed solidly in my mind... before the trip fell through. Therefore, my passport remains expired and I remain stateside and the book remains 3.15 chapters long and entirely unfinished. 

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