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Sunset Bridge

Sunset Bridge

4.4 23
by Emilie Richards

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Former socialite Tracy Deloche has nothing to her name but five ramshackle beach cottages and the unlikely friendships she's formed with her tenants. Wanda, wise waitress turned popular pie-shop owner. Janya, the young Indian wife whose arranged marriage surprises her every day. Alice, a widow raising her complex tween-age granddaughter. And Maggie, Wanda&


Former socialite Tracy Deloche has nothing to her name but five ramshackle beach cottages and the unlikely friendships she's formed with her tenants. Wanda, wise waitress turned popular pie-shop owner. Janya, the young Indian wife whose arranged marriage surprises her every day. Alice, a widow raising her complex tween-age granddaughter. And Maggie, Wanda's daughter, a former Miami cop with a love life as complicated as Tracy's own.

The new man in Tracy's life hasn't mentioned love or commitment—and Tracy has just discovered she's pregnant. Janya longs to be a mother—and suddenly has two young siblings in her care. Maggie helps out at Wanda's Wonderful Pies…but is the kitchen big enough for both Gray women? And Alice may lose her beloved granddaughter to someone no one expected….

As a tropical storm brews, the wind carries surprises and secrets over the bridge to Happiness Key. Now, more than ever, five friends will discover just how much they need one another.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Richards follows Fortunate Harbor and Happiness Key with another sun-kissed tale of friendship, mystery, and the beautiful Florida Keys. Tracy Deloche lost her wealth but gained some ramshackle cabins and delightful tenants. When she discovers that she's pregnant, she hesitates to tell her activist lawyer boyfriend, Marsh Egan, not sure whether he really loves her or is ready to commit. While Tracy frets, her friend Janya Kapur adopts two children whose parents were murdered, giving Tracy a chance to spend time around kids and figure out what she wants. Then Marsh figures out her secret and a hurricane hits the Florida coast, bringing the characters' dilemmas and the murder mystery to a page-turning climax. This delightful story is full of humor and romantic moments, and will be a sure hit with Richards's established fans and readers looking for a lighthearted and well-plotted beach book. (July)

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A Happines Key Novel
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On Thursday afternoon, the first day of her Everglades canoe trip with her lover, Marsh Egan, Tracy Deloche fell overboard into rotten-egg-scented water. Unfortunately, her paddle lodged in a mangrove root. She stayed with the paddle, and Marsh stayed with the canoe.

On Thursday evening of their Everglades canoe trip, she discovered that their campground was a chickee, an elevated wooden platform above a channel that had turned to mudflats, and that the chickee came with no water, although it did come with two whining children and one portable toilet. The cheerful mom explained that this was a homeschooling field trip, and the children would be up and down all night recording observations in their journals.

Next to sleeping on a deflating air mattress, the children were no problem at all.

By Friday evening of their Everglades canoe trip, Tracy Deloche was pretty sure she and Marsh were not meant to spend their lives together.

"Don't tell me about chiggers and no-see-ums! You think I need a biology lecture?" Tracy, perched on a fallen tree, was rolling up the legs of her jeans and spraying her calves with repellent as she spat out the words. Her ankles already felt like smoldering logs. Her arms ached from canoeing for hours through mazes of mangrove-lined creeks. Her head throbbed from wood smoke billowing up her nostrils.

"Here's the deal, hotshot, unless you also want chiggers in places only I ever see, you'd better move over there." Marsh pointed to one of two plastic coolers on the other side of the campfire, where an armload of salt-crusted driftwood was ramping up the smolder factor. "Chiggers thrive in dead wood."

Tracy leaped to her feet, which were—not surprisingly— bare, since that morning she'd found a scorpion in the toe of her water shoes, and found it the hard way. Earlier she'd taken her chances with flip-flops, since her big toe had swollen to twice its normal size, but now even the flip-flops had run for cover.

"You know, we're supposed to be having fun here," Marsh said. "That's why I'm with you instead of the rest of the Wild Florida gang. That's why you're with me instead of back at Happiness Key fixing up a cottage for Wanda's daughter. Something going on I should know about? This whole weekend you've been wound tighter than a banjo string. The least little thing sends you screeching."

"Little?" Tracy pointed to her legs, peppered with scarlet dots. "Is little redneckspeak for miserable?"

He squatted to take a closer look, running a finger along her shin before he looked up and smiled. "We'll smear your legs with petroleum jelly. You'll feel better, and I'll get a little thrill."

"And it's the only thrill you're likely to get on this trip, too."

Marsh looked as if he was debating what to say to that. As always, he was dressed a lot more like the Florida Cracker he claimed to be than the pit-bull attorney who was director of one of Florida's most effective environmental organizations. His sandy hair was pulled back at the nape in a short ponytail, and he needed a shave. His faded green T-shirt was ripped under one arm. His cutoffs needed a good trim, and his feet were happily bare. In fact, he looked like the embodiment of Wild Florida, whose success at stopping a wetlands shopping mall had been the motivation for this celebratory camping trip. Marsh was in his element.

Tracy was not.

"You said you wanted to come." He sprang back to his feet without using his hands. "I told you it would be rugged."

Tracy struggled to be fair. Knowing full well that this was not going to be a weekend at the Four Seasons, she had agreed to come along while Bay, Marsh's ten-year-old son, spent a long weekend in California with his mother, Marsh's ex. Some of Marsh's staff were doing a more grueling version of the trip, but Marsh had given that up to plan this shorter one with Tracy.

Tracy had come a long way in the year-plus that she'd lived in Florida, from spoiled Southern California socialite to a woman who held her own in almost any setting. only not this one. Apparently the Wilderness Waterway of the Everglades was just a tad beyond her capabilities, or maybe the problem was everything else in her life, rolled into one giant, torturous sandspur of complications.

Tears sprang to her eyes, so unusual that she immediately credited the campfire. She might be a lot of things, but never a crybaby. She hadn't shed tears on the day that her husband, CJ Craimer, told her that life as she knew it had ended and she was about to become the wife of a felon. Ex-wife, as it turned out, in a divorce she hadn't cried over, either.

Marsh looked perplexed, as if this Tracy Deloche was someone he didn't know or care to.

"Look…" She sniffed. "I'm trying. Okay? So, you warned me. I thought I'd be fine. Just give me a moment to be miserable."

He raised a brow. "I'm going fishing. We could use more firewood."

She heard him. Go in search of mangrove and buttonwood debris for the campfire, and while she was gone, please get her act together.

Even more annoyed, she debated. All she really wanted was to crawl into the tent and pull the sleeping bag over her head, only it was too hot. They hadn't waited until winter, when everyone else paddled the Wilderness Waterway. No, they'd come while the air was still warm and the bugs were frenzied, instead of simply omnipresent.

"I've got a great dinner planned," Marsh added, as if taking pity on her. "You'll feel better afterward."

She supposed he was trying. Last night they had eaten sandwiches and shared an apple, so how petty would it be to point out that not even rack of lamb or creme brulee was going to lighten her spirits, much less the chicken breasts marinating in a plastic bag in one of the coolers? She knew the menu because she'd peeked yesterday before they even slid the canoe into the water.

Yesterday, when she was still young, eager and looking forward to camping together.

"Has it ever occurred to you," she asked instead, "that the only time we're together, we could be mistaken for two good ol' boys swilling beer after an afternoon of cleaning spark plugs? When was the last time we did something that required a dress?"

"I don't look that good in ruffles." He leaned over and kissed her. "Don't stray far. Those dark clouds don't mean night's coming earlier, but hopefully they'll pass. Get a whole armload of wood, okay? If we can keep a good fire going, it will help with the bugs."

"Bugs." She shook her head so hard her ponytail flicked her cheek. "And I was so looking forward to more."

She started down the beach and around the end of the tiny key where they'd made their new campsite. She supposed she ought to be glad that tonight Marsh had chosen a beach and not a Calusa Indian mound in the middle of the mangroves, or yet another platform. This site allowed campfires, and it had a portable toilet down the beach from their tent, while many sites only had instructions for waste management. Just for her, she supposed. Considerate to a fault.

She determined not to go back until her mood improved. Sure, she could make a case for ruining the evening, but the thought gave her no pleasure. She had come on this trip because she wanted to spend time with Marsh. As much as she enjoyed Bay, hours alone with his father were rare, and when the three of them were together, she and Marsh still promoted the illusion that Tracy was just a friend, despite their being lovers for two months.

Chalk up another problem.

Tracy was still barefoot, so she decided to stay close to the water. The sun was sinking fast, and already the sky was layered with violet and amber. Although dark clouds were moving in, the Gulf of Mexico was still relatively calm. Normally she was a fan of evenings on the beach, and normally she was able to tolerate a little discomfort as payment. But since the moment she had helped Marsh drag the canoe into the water near Everglades City, she'd been out of sorts and miserable. She almost felt sorry for him. Almost.

She had dragged more than a canoe on this trip. She'd dragged problems that weren't going away. She'd been feeling tired and out of sorts for weeks, unable to concentrate. Wanda Gray, who lived in one of the five cottages Tracy owned in a shabby development called Happiness Key, had warned her this might be the start of menopause, even though Tracy was only thirty-five. Her periods had become increasingly spotty and erratic, although at her last checkup, doctor had blamed her condition on a prescribed break from birth control pills. Thirty-five was young for menopause, but not unheard of. She had made another doctor's appointment for next week, but she wasn't looking forward to the diagnosis.

She had never really yearned for a baby, and she wasn't sure she had much to offer one. Still, having the decision taken away from her by a whacked-out biological clock didn't seem fair. Night sweats, facial hair, a libido on holiday? None of it appealed to her. Change of life? She had just begun to like the one she had, thank you very much.

When she'd called her mother, to see if such a thing ran in the family, Denise Deloche, with her usual level of maternal support, had cackled that maybe now Tracy would understand what it felt like to be over the hill and poor. Good old Mom had never gotten over the fact that Tracy's ex had taken everyone in the family down on his way to prison for financial hanky-panky. Never mind that Tracy herself had lost everything along the way.

Well, almost everything. She had ended up with Happiness Key. Which was yet another problem.

Fifteen minutes later, hauling branches behind her, she was back at the tent. Charcoal-hued clouds blanketed the horizon so thoroughly that if the sun had already slipped behind it, she was none the wiser. But darkness was falling quickly, and Marsh's fire had already petered out.

In the distance, she could see him about ten yards from shore, submersed up to his hips, contentedly casting a line into water that was growing choppier as she watched.

She was filthy. She could wade out and splash off the worst of the dirt and sweat, but Marsh wouldn't appreciate her scaring away all hope of a catch. Instead, she decided to fill a bowl and take a sponge bath with some of their limited store of water. Marsh had assured her he'd brought enough for that along with cooking and drinking.

The guy was all heart.

She dug a metal bowl and hand towel from a pile of supplies by the tent flap, and found a bar of soap in her own small day pack, the only thing she'd been allowed to bring in the crowded canoe. The pack contained little more than a few clothes and some toiletries, but she'd hidden her secret stash of power bars and chocolate inside her sleeping bag. Just in case Marsh got lost in the maze of mangrove trails, and their three-day trip morphed into a spectacular rescue.

She decided to change her T-shirt after she washed. Maybe a clean T-shirt wasn't exactly dressing for dinner, but she probably owed Marsh that much. Soap, water and a fresh coat of bug spray. She might feel almost human again.

Squatting, she threw open the tent flap and leaned forward to grab her shirt. From inside the tent a hissing ball of fur launched itself in her direction.

By the time Marsh got to shore, Tracy's screams had dwindled to whimpers.

* * *

"How're you doing?" Marsh asked an hour later, approaching Tracy warily, as if he fully expected her to propel herself at his throat, hands squeezing in anticipation. She was sitting beside the fire, staring at the flames, and for a moment she didn't look up.

"I'm fine. I really am. It's just…I just wasn't expecting a raccoon scrambling over my chest to freedom."

"That's why we don't leave food in the tent. They'll steal anything that's not tied down, even eat right through water jugs. That's why I slung ours from that tree a little while ago." He inclined his head toward a spot just above their tent. "We don't want to encourage them. They steal eggs from nests and generally wreak havoc on bird life."

She crooked a brow and hoped the message wasn't too subtle. If Marsh continued the lecture, she was going to kill him, or swim back to Everglades City and take her chances with gators and sharks.

"I guess you don't need to hear that right now, huh?" He smiled a little. "You need some cheering up?"

"I'm supervisor at the rec center, remember? I don't sit at a desk all day. I took the older kids camping in June. I'm not some kind of lightweight prima donna. I can build a fire, erect a tent, even lead a rousing chorus of 'Kumbaya' if I'm forced to."

"Let's hear it."

She glared at him.

"Or not," he said quickly. "Okay, I'll admit this trip's a little more grueling than I let on."

"Yeah, about that…"

"I just wanted to get you to myself, Trace."

She sighed. How could she stay angry? Marsh had only recently begun calling her Trace, as if he was welcoming her into his little family with its cute geographical nicknames. Marsh and Bay, now Trace. He'd explained that a "trace" was a path through uncharted territory, which, to her, seemed a fitting description.

"And I wanted you to myself, too," she said. "I'm just not at my most adaptable right now."

"Let me get you some wine. And I've got something special to go with it."

Now she was sure she was stressed, because a glass of wine really didn't sound good. Her stomach was still roiling from the raccoon encounter. Nevertheless, the man had hauled a bottle of wine in the crowded canoe just for this moment. She'd disappointed him enough for one trip.

"Great," she said. "Need help?"

"Let me take care of you."

She smiled in thanks and relaxed a little. The clouds hadn't yet produced rain, and there was enough sky still visible to enjoy the few stars willing to shine. Best of all, a strong breeze was blowing off the Gulf, and between breeze and campfire, a percentage of mosquitoes had zoomed off to find easier prey. She had managed to wash up, and except for paw prints, her T-shirt was clean. Surely she would survive.

He came back with a glass, which she cradled in her palms; then he left for a minute and returned with a plastic plate and held it out to her. At first, by the flickering light of the camp-fire, she wasn't sure what he was offering. Then her stomach dived to her toes.

"Oysters," she said. "Wow. Raw oysters on the half shell. You got these out there?" She nodded toward the water.


Meet the Author

Emilie Richards’s many novels feature complex characterizations and in-depth explorations of social issues. Both are a result of her training and experience as a family counselor, which contribute to her fascination with relationships of all kinds. Emilie and her husband enjoy dividing their time between the Florida Gulf Coast and Chautauqua County, New York. She is currently working on her next novel for MIRA Books.

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Sunset Bridge 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 23 reviews.
BookHounds More than 1 year ago
A beautifully written story about Happiness Key and the women who inhabit the community. Tracy, a socialite with a name but no money (well, except some beach cottages), has now thawed and is in a relationship with Marsh, but will it go the way Tracy wants it? Jayna, a product of a strict family and arranged marriage, has made the best of a bad situation and comes out on top, but she really wants children and that isn't happening. Wanda has the pie shop of her dreams, but those dreams might be ruined in the form of her daughter, Maggie who leaves her job and boyfriend and moves back to Happiness Key. Alice is taking care of her granddaughter and quickly become part of her life, but what if she loses her? This is just the perfect beach read, to get your mind off things and go inhabit a different place for awhile. You will be swept up in the characters and their stories. Even though there are lots of different threads and angles, the full story is easy to follow since everything intertwines and meshes well together. I couldn't help but be reminded of Debbie Macomber's stories. This is the third book in the series, but I thought it could stand alone. I had no trouble getting into any of the plot points or details. This is a book club pick for a group I just joined. I am going to have to go back and get the first two in the series so I can catch up.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was a little hesitant when I started reading this book, thinking it was just another in the mindless beach reading genre. It turned out to be so much more! There were issues of friendship and family that were not easily resolved. Some of the descriptions (the canoe trip through the everglades and the hurricane, especially) were very realistic. While some of the storylines were a little far fetched, this book was a perfect companion for a day at the beach.
Marcie77 More than 1 year ago
Sunset Bridge by Emilie Richards in the third book in the Happiness Key Novels. The book centers around a myriad of fantastic characters and a few story lines that take place in the quaint little town of Happiness Key. I love the chemistry between the characters especially the women. They're drawn together despite their various background and ages. They have an enviable friendship. My favorite character is Wanda. She is a spunky lady with an affinity to make delicious pies. Her character made me drool. Literally. Every time she was in the kitchen making pies, my stomach growled. Wanda and her daughter, Maggie don't see eye to eye on a lot of things. Maggie moves back after events in her personal and professional life leave her questioning her life's direction. Maggie is quick to make friends with Tracy. They are sorta in the same 'not sure what to do next' boat. Life has thrown them a few lemons and they don't know what to do with them. Maggie is also helping to solve the mystery of Janya's friends unexpected disappearance. This is one of those books that I picked up and thought to myself I'll just read a few chapters and before I knew it, I was almost finished with the book. I love all the story lines. They are all so interesting, mysterious, heartwarming and funny. Even though there are elements of mystery and suspense in this book, it's a character driven novel. I love how the characters interact with each other. They are there for each other through the good, the bad and the ludicrous. This is a great summer read. It's fast paced and delightful. Sunset Bridge is the third book in the Happiness Key novels. The first two are Happiness Key and Fortunate Harbor. I have not read the first two books yet. However Emilie Richards did a fantastic job. I did not feel lost at all when reading this story. She gives you a twitter version on past events when necessary. I do want to go back and read the first two books because I fell in love with Happiness Key and would love to read more about the characters in these books. If you are looking for a great summer read you should check this book out. I highly recommend it.
autumnbluesreviews More than 1 year ago
As a first time reader of this Emilie Richards writing I can say I have been pleasantly surprised. Richards has brought the beach to the reader and I have found her destination relaxing and enjoyable, even with a lurking hurricane. She gives the reader a mix of characters soft spoken Janya, the feisty and funny Wanda, Wanda's daughter Maggie the ex-cop, Alice who struggles with her stuttering due to a stroke, and the I'm not as tough as I think I am Tracy. Sunset Bridge takes place in Florida in a quaint area named Happiness Key. An area that has not been developed other than for a few beach cottage homes belonging to the current property owner Tracy Deloche. Tracy not only struggles with the thought of selling the property but also lacks confidence in the man department. Not sure where she stands in her relationship with Marsh, the man she has only known and dated for a few months, she is now pregnant and seems quite paranoid. Self-centered Tracey avoids her boyfriend Marsh throughout this book and it makes you wonder why he sticks around or even if she really deserves Marsh. Marsh is the typical type of male who is not good at speaking about his emotions and you can't blame the guy, he has been burned before. I liked the character of Maggie for she can be anyone's daughter. Although Maggie seems timid and at first unlike her mother Wanda, it turns out Maggie has inherited part of her mothers fire and is not afraid to bring it on. Richards did well in providing Sunset Bridge with this tangible mother daughter relationship. Just like a real life bunch of friends Richards makes sure you get to know them a little at a time as the book progresses. For this very reason I found myself liking a character at the beginning of the book and hating them later. Sunset Bridge provides many surprises along the way and does not disappoint when it comes thrills with an added touch of mystery. The relationships and friendships amongst the main characters are just like in real life, at times heated and other times loving. Keeping it real Richards makes sure they hate each others pet peeves and tell each other so throughout the book. If you are looking for the perfect summer read and have not read any of the other books in this series don't let it stop you as this book holds up well on it's own.
harstan More than 1 year ago
In Happiness Key, Tracy Deloche rents five seaside cottages to female tenants. Once affluent but now near broke, Tracy has never been happier as the leaser quintet has become her BFFs. She also has a hot relationship with lawyer Marsh Egan, a divorcee. When she becomes pregnant, Tracy is shocked with her lover's reaction as he seems unable to commit to her at a moment when she needs him to do so. At the same time, her buddy Janya Kapur adopts two orphaned children whose parents were murdered. As Marsh finally realizes what is disturbing Tracy, a hurricane hammers the Keys. The latest visit to Happiness Key (see Fortunate Harbor) is an engaging contemporary tale filled with jocularity and friendship as the sisterhood has each other's backs especially in the down times. Even Marsh recognizes the bond as he turns to the tenants to confirm his position and for backing too. Although the story line is somewhat slow-paced as Emile Richards drills deep into the psyche of her ensemble cast, fans of the saga will relish this warm relationship drama. Harriet Klausner
dhaupt More than 1 year ago
The women of Happiness Key have grown together as more than a community, more than friends into family. They've each grown together and individually into better people than they were. They've faced many challenges together and fought for and against each other, unfortunately the fates have more surprises in store for each of them. The before Tracy was the socialite with the heart of ice and who could blame her, she learned from the best and from the cradle, today she's warm, caring and has never been happier especially now that she and Marsh have become the couple she'd hoped they would, is it too good to be true. Jayna was a disappointment to her family but although her marriage was arranged she was determined not to be a disappointment or disappointed in it, so she took what was given and she made it better and now she is happily married and the only thing that could make the marriage better would be children. Wanda finally got her pie shop and everything seems to be merrily rolling along and wouldn't you know it that's when disaster breaks, disaster in the form of Wanda's daughter Maggie walking away from her job as a cop and her boyfriend and life in Miami to move into Happiness Key. Emilie Richards has brought us to the end of the rainbow once again with the end to her series about the women of Happiness Key she does it with humor and heart and with compassion as she tells her tale. This is a contemporary tale of suspense of mystery and of relationships. She makes it real by bringing us very life-like characters, characters who will and have endeared themselves to her readers, who are all an important part of the story as a whole and individually. She brings these characters and story to life with her fluent and expressive dialogue. There are love stories here but the main objective is the interaction of these three women who against all odds became the best of friends and as a result became family, how they support each other through bad times and good times and how they each enrich the others lives. If you haven't read the first two novels in this series, have no fear this could easily stand on it's own, however, if you want the total picture of not only where these women are but where they came from read the other two also. If you're looking for that perfect beach read or a novel to get you through that endless vacation drive or flight, here it is. If you need that edge of your seat action and suspense, this will fit your bill too. Thank you Emilie for letting me get up close and personal with these incredible women, letting me be a fly on the wall of their lives and taking lessons from them on friendship.
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ProudGrandma More than 1 year ago
This book was amazing. It has a little of everything, drama, love, suspense, compassion, you name it. I truly enjoy Emilie Richard's books and this is one of her finest
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jbarr5 More than 1 year ago
Sunset Bridge by Emilie Richards Tracy owns the 25 acres of Happiness Key where there are 5 cottages that are rented out. She's in her 40's with not much hope of having a child but that one night with her boyfriend, Marsh was just enough to make her prgenant. Also we are brought up to date on what's happening with the residents of the cottages. Love to hear of the sleep overs on the shores of the ocean. Wanda baked pies and had waitressed at Gaylords til they went topless. so she's started her own place, cuz she knows what others really want for a meal. Blend of women and their talents come together to make the area work for them all. They all rally and help another get over their problems. Some knit/crochet, some organize, some bake and some use their religion for a happy medium. Maggie is on the trail of Blake who she feels used inferior things on the bridge and was responsible for a murder. Love the uptodate technology of an emergency SOS beacon via cell phone. Tragedy of the hurricane could wipe them all out...
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Alison Salisbury More than 1 year ago
Definitely the best of the three Happiness Key books!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago