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Sweet Salt Air
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Sweet Salt Air

4.0 87
by Barbara Delinsky

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A New York Times Best Seller! A Washington Post Best Seller! A Publishers Weekly Best Seller! An Indie Next Pick!

On Quinnipeague, hearts open under the summer stars and secrets float in the Sweet Salt Air...

Charlotte and Nicole were once the best of friends, spending summers together in Nicole's coastal island house off of Maine.


A New York Times Best Seller! A Washington Post Best Seller! A Publishers Weekly Best Seller! An Indie Next Pick!

On Quinnipeague, hearts open under the summer stars and secrets float in the Sweet Salt Air...

Charlotte and Nicole were once the best of friends, spending summers together in Nicole's coastal island house off of Maine. But many years, and many secrets, have kept the women apart. A successful travel writer, single Charlotte lives on the road, while Nicole, a food blogger, keeps house in Philadelphia with her surgeon-husband, Julian. When Nicole is commissioned to write a book about island food, she invites her old friend Charlotte back to Quinnipeague, for a final summer, to help. Outgoing and passionate, Charlotte has a gift for talking to people and making friends, and Nicole could use her expertise for interviews with locals. Missing a genuine connection, Charlotte agrees.

But what both women don't know is that they are each holding something back that may change their lives forever. For Nicole, what comes to light could destroy her marriage, but it could also save her husband. For Charlotte, the truth could cost her Nicole's friendship, but could also free her to love again. And her chance may lie with a reclusive local man, with a heart to soothe and troubles of his own.

Bestselling author and master storyteller Barbara Delinsky invites you come away to Quinnipeague…

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“With grace and dignity Sweet Salt Air reveals the fragility of human nature while intimating at the healing powers of forgiveness.” —New York Journal of Books

“Delinsky captures the magic of coastal Maine in this beautifully written book about friendship and redemption. The characters are engaging and their various plights believable. The drama of betrayal, the tension of risk and the triumph of friendship play out in a setting that is a character in itself. [Sweet Salt Air is] a fantastic summer read!” —RT Book Reviews, "Top Pick"

“Delinsky combines her understanding of human nature with absorbing, unpredictable storytelling--a winning combination.” —Publishers Weekly (starred) on The Secrets Between Us

“Delinsky has a knack for exploring the battlefields of contemporary life.” —Kirkus Reviews on Not My Daughter

“Delinsky does a wonderful and realistic job portraying family dynamics.” —Library Journal on While My Sister Sleeps

“A writer who continues to earn her bestseller status.” —Bookreporter.com on Escape

“Delinsky never fails to entertain.” —RT Book Reviews on The Summer I Dared

Kirkus Reviews
Two old friends, troubled by present crises and past mistakes, reunite on an island off the coast of Maine. It's been 10 years since Nicole, a food blogger, has seen her best friend, Charlotte. The separation is due in part to the women's divergent life paths. Nicole married Julian, a prominent pediatric surgeon and sought-after consultant, and is stepmother to his two children. Charlotte travels the world on magazine assignments. Now, Nicole is at her parents' summer home on Quinnipeague Island, publishing contract in hand, preparing to write a cookbook on local cuisine. She is also there to ready the place to sell after her father's sudden passing. When Nicole summons Charlotte to Quinnipeague to help with the book, Charlotte has reservations due to a secret she has harbored for years: Shortly before Nicole's wedding, she had a drunken one-night stand with Julian. A pregnancy resulted; the child was given up for adoption. Sharing the seaside house while Julian is away, Charlotte and Nicole bond once more over the challenges of wresting recipes from the crusty islanders and over best-selling beach read Salt. When told that Leo, son of a reputed witch, refuses to divulge the magical lore of his mother's herb farm, Charlotte, who cannot resist an unwilling interview subject, seeks him out. At first blush an eccentric recluse, Leo proves to be not only a dead ringer for Salt's romantic hero, but also its pseudonymous author, which explains that new sailboat and those expensive renovations to his weather-beaten house. Charlotte is distracted from their blossoming romance by a moral dilemma: Julian, Nicole reveals, has MS and wants to try an experimental and dangerous stem cell treatment protocol. Nicole is opposed to the risky procedure, but when Charlotte reveals how and why she has access to just the genetically compatible umbilical stem cells Julian might need, the friendship is threatened. The result: promising complications, rendered less than compelling by plodding, talky narration. Despite some appetizing menu items, pretty standard fare.

Product Details

St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
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Product dimensions:
6.20(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.50(d)

Read an Excerpt

Sweet Salt Air

By Barbara Delinsky

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2013 Barbara Delinsky
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9781250007032

Excerpt from SWEET SALT AIR

Barbara Delinsky


Charlotte Evans was used to feeling grungy. As a freelancer, she traveled on a shoestring, getting stories other writers did not, precisely because she wasn’t fussy about how she lived. In the last twelve months, she had survived dust while writing about elephant keepers in Kenya, ice while writing about the spirit bear of British Columbia, and flies while writing about a family of nomads in India.

She could certainly survive a mizzling, as the Irish called it, though the heavy mist seeped through everything— jeans, boots, even the thick fisherman’s sweater she wore. The sweater was on loan from the woman under whose roof she was sleeping on this least populated of the three Aran Islands, and though Charlotte did have a fireplace in her bedroom, hot water was in short supply in the small stone cottage. She could have used a steamy shower, a thorough washing of her clothes, and a solid day of sun.

Her assignment was to write about the youngest generation of Inishmaan knitters, women who were adapting traditional patterns in breathtaking ways, and as with the pattern on her own sweater, she could now describe moss stitch, panel repeats, right and left twists, and cable designs. It was time to leave. She had to go home to put the story together and get it to Vogue Knitting, before heading to the Australian outback to do a piece on aborigine jewelry- making for National Geographic, a coup that one. Still, she stayed here.

Part of what kept her was the woman who owned the house, as warm and motherly as any she had ever met; part was the craft that permeated the place. No knitter herself, she could watch these women for hours. They were at peace with themselves and their world, enviable for Charlotte, who had no roots at all. So close to her age that they might have been schoolmates, they were trying to teach her to knit. She told herself this was cause enough to stay.

Bottom line, though, it was the island that kept her here. She had loved islands from the time she spent her first summer on one. She was eight at the time. Thirty- four now, she still felt the island aura— an isolation that made worries seem distant, a separation from the real world that lent itself to dreams.

Her eyes went to the horizon, or where the horizon would have been if the mist weren’t so dense. Thick o’ fog they called it in that other place, and it lent a sheen to her skin and a bulk to her hair here as it did there. She pulled those dark curls back now, fingers lost in the damp mass, and turned just enough on the scruff y cliff to face a few latitudinal degrees south.

There, on the far side of the Atlantic, would be Maine, but despite the shared ocean, her island and this one were worlds apart. Where Inishmaan was gray and brown, its fragile man- made soil supporting only the hardiest of low- growing plants, the fertile Quinnipeague invited tall pines in droves, not to mention vegetables, flowers, and improbable, irrepressible herbs. Lifting her head, eyes closed now, she breathed in the damp Irish air and the bit of wood smoke that drifted on the cold ocean wind. Quinnipeague smelled of wood smoke, too, since early mornings there could be chilly, even in summer. But the wood smoke would clear by noon, giving way to the smell of lavender, balsam, and grass. If the winds were from the west, there would be fry smells from the Chowder House; if from the south, the earthiness of the clam flats; if from the northeast, the purity of sweet salt air. Oh yes, across the Atlantic would be Maine, she mused as she opened her eyes and tried to penetrate that great distance through the fog, and this being April, she would think if it regardless of where she was. That was ingrained. Spring was when she started to plan her Quinnipeague summer.

Or used to. But no more. She had burned that bridge ten years ago with one stupid act. She couldn’t go back, though she wished it sometimes. She missed the spirit of summer on Quinnipeague, so much more intense for being apart from the rest of the world. She missed Quinnie lobster rolls, which tasted better than lobster rolls anywhere else. Mostly, she missed Nicole, who had been as close as a sister to her once. She had never found another like her, though Lord knew she had searched. Perhaps that was what staying on Inishmaan was about. The women here could be friends. They understood independence and self- sufficiency. Charlotte had felt such instant rapport with several that she sensed they would keep in touch.

Would? Maybe.

More likely not, the realist in Charlotte admitted. For all the writing she did for a living, she was a lousy correspondent. Within a day or two, she would leave Inishmaan behind and return to Brooklyn, and from there? In addition to Australia, she had go-aheads to do stories in Tuscany and Bordeaux, the appeal of the latter being the lure of Paris before and after. She had friends there— a writer, a ceramist, and a would- be fashion designer whose clothes were too bizarre for mass appeal but whose personal warmth was winning.

Would it be the same as Quinnipeague time? No.

But this was the life she had made.

Nicole Carlysle lived in blissful ignorance of the past. She had enough to handle in the present, though no one knew it, and that was the problem. No one knew. No one could know, which meant no outlet, no emotional support, no badly needed advice. Julian was adamant about silence, and, because she loved him, she gave in. She was his lifeline, he said, and what woman didn’t want to hear that? But the strain was awful. She would have gone out of her mind if it hadn’t been for the blog.

Whether she was writing to tell her followers about a local cheesemaker, a new farm- to- table restaurant, or what to do with an exotic heirloom fruit that was organically produced and newly marketed, she spent hours each day scouring Philadelphia and the outlying towns for material. As spring took hold, the local offerings were growing.

On a different mission now, though, she sat in front of an iMac in Julian’s study. There was no view of the Schuylkill from this room, as there was from most of their eighteenth-floor condo. There were no windows here at all, simply walls of mahogany shelves that held medical books Julian had either inherited from his father or collected before publications had gone digital. Nicole owned shelves here, too, though fewer in number. Hers were filled with the novels she couldn’t part with, and books about entertaining that were both resource and inspiration.

Organized as she was, the papers to the left of the computer— jottings, printouts of fan comments and endorsement requests from vendors— were neatly arranged. Her camera sat behind them, hooked to a USB port, and, in a ceramic bowl on the computer’s right, lay the newly photographed subject of her upcoming blog: a head of purple cauliflower, still cupped by the veined green leaves within which it had grown. A leather sofa, with a matching side chair and ottoman, filled the room with the smell of lemon oil and age.

But that smell wasn’t foremost in her mind as she read what she had already typed. "I go to farmers’ markets all the time. Field-to-table is so my thing. But none of the herbs at any of them comes close to island herbs. Those herbs make Quinnie food— well, those herbs and freshness. Quinnipeague was growing organic and cooking local before farm-to-table was a movement, but, still, we think of the herbs first. I can’t write about island cooking without talking about them, but I can’t not talk about the people, either. That’s where you come in, Charlotte. You’ve eaten Dorey Jewett’s lobster stew and Mary Landry’s clam fritters, and you always loved the fruit compote that Bonnie Stroud brought to the Fourth of July dinner each year. These people are all still around. Each has a story. I want to include some in the book, but I’m better at writing about food than people. You write about people. And you’re so good at it, Charlotte. I google you all the time. Your name shows up in the best of the best travel magazines."

She paused, thinking about those pieces as she studied the mirror of her own eyes in the gloss of the screen. Just then, they were sea- green with worry, wondering what the chances were that her friend would accept. Charlotte was big- time professional, certainly used to having her own byline. She would have to split the billing here, and Nicole’s advance wasn’t all that much. If the book sold well, there would be more, but for now all she could offer was a small stipend, plus room and board in one of the nicest homes on the island— plus reading and talking and hanging out, all that they used to do before life got in the way.

She typed in the thoughts, rewording once, then again. Finally, tired of parsing, she added a blunt, "I need you, Charlotte. A Quinnie cookbook won’t be the same without your input. I know you’re busy, but my deadline is the fifteenth of August, so it’s not the entire summer, and you’ll get stories of your own out of this. It’ll be worth your while. I promise."

Her eyes rose above the computer screen to find Julian in the open doorway, and she felt a visceral flicker of warmth. It was like that whenever he caught her unaware— had been since the first time she’d laid eyes on him in a Starbucks in Baltimore twelve years before. Back then, as a new environmental studies graduate of Middlebury, she was getting her feet wet writing publicity pieces for a state agriculture organization. Hoping to work during her afternoon break, she had set down her grande-caramel-frappucicno-with-whip on a table without noticing much of her surroundings, until she opened her laptop and became aware of an identical one, identically opened and angled on the table beside hers. Having made the same observation seconds before, Julian had an amused smile waiting.

He was a surgeon, in town from Philadelphia for a seminar at Johns Hopkins, and he had a quiet strength. That strength had been sorely tested in the last four years and yet, seeing him in the doorway of the study, she still felt the pull. He wasn’t a tall man, but his bearing had always been regal. It was no less so now, though regular workouts helped with that. His hair had grayed in the last year or two, but even after a full day at the hospital, he was a good- looking forty- six. Tired, always tired now. But good-looking.

Wearing a smile, he approached. "Doing a write- up of last night?" he asked. They had eaten at a new restaurant with friends, a working night out for Nicole, who had insisted that everyone order different dishes and evaluate each while she took notes.

By the time she shook her head no, he was facing her with a hip on the desk by the keyboard. "The cookbook, then," he said as his smile grew knowing. "You always get that look when you think of Quinnipeague."

"Peaceful?" she acknowledged. "It’s April. Two more months, and we’re there. You’re still coming with me, aren’t you?"

"I told you I would."

"Willingly? It’s an escape, Jules," she urged, momentarily serious.

"It may be only for a week, but we need this." She recaptured lighter thoughts. "Remember the first time you ever came? Tell the truth. You were dreading it."

His brown eyes laughed warmly. "What wasn’t to dread? A godforsaken island in the middle of the Atlantic—"

"It’s only eleven miles out."

"Same difference. If it didn’t have a hospital, it wasn’t on my radar screen."

"You thought there’d be dirt roads and nothing to do."

He gave a wry chuckle. Between lobstering, clamming, and sailing, then movie nights at the church and mornings at the café, not to mention dinners at home, in town, or at the homes of friends, Nicole had kept him busy.

"You loved it," she dared.

"I did," he admitted. "It was perfect. A world away." His eyes saddened.

"And yes, baby, we need this." Taking her face in his hands, he kissed her, but there was sadness in that, too. Hoping to banish it for a few more seconds— especially in the wake of the baby that always turned her on— she was reaching up when he took her hands, pressed them to his lips, then smoothly slid behind her. With his arms braced on either side, cheek to her hair, he read the words on the screen.

"Ahh," he said with a sigh. "Charlotte."

"Yes. I really want her on board."

He angled away only enough to meet her eyes. "You don’t need her,

Nicki. You can do the cookbook yourself."

"I know that," she said as she had more than once. "But she’s an accomplished writer, and she has a history on Quinnipeague, too. Add her people pieces to my food ones, and the book’s that much better."

"She hasn’t stepped foot on the island in ten years," he said in the measured way that spoke of knowledge. Oh, he was knowledgeable— a pioneer in his field, always savvy on a personal vein.

But Nicole wasn’t deterred. "How better to lure her back? Besides, if you’re gone after a week, and Mom won’t be there, I want Charlotte." He was quiet. Nicole heard the argument even before he said, "She hasn’t been the best friend. She called your dad her surrogate father, but she didn’t even make it to the funeral."

"She was in Nepal. She couldn’t possibly get back in time. She did call. She was as upset as we were."

"Has she called again since?" he asked, though they both knew the answer to that.

"We e-mail."

"Often? No. And you’re the one who initiates it. Her replies are short."

"She’s busy."

He touched her cheek. "You haven’t seen each other in ten years.

You have different lives now. If you want to lure her back to recapture what you once had, you may be in for a fall."

"I miss her." When his expression grew guarded, she insisted, "No, it is not about that. I promised you. I will not tell her." She grew pleading.

"But it’s like all the stars are aligned, Jules. There’s the cookbook, and your being in North Carolina for the month, and Mom not wanting to go to Quinnipeague and needing someone to pack up the place— like I want to do it? That’ll be bad enough, but being alone there while you’re away? This is the last summer I’ll ever have at the house, and Charlotte is part of what that place means to me."

He was quiet. "You don’t even know where she is."

"No one does. She’s always on the go. That’s why I e-mail. She’ll get it wherever. And yes, she always answers." He was right about the brevity of her replies, though. Charlotte never shared much of her life now.

And yet, from the first mention of this project, Nicole had pictured her taking part in it. Oh yes, Charlotte knew Quinnipeague. But she also knew Nicole, and Nicole needed to see her. She and Julian were going through a rough patch, tender moments like this one— once commonplace— now further between. A month at Duke training incoming doctors in the technique for which he was known would be a much- needed distraction for him. And for her? Charlotte could distract her. The memories were good; she and Nicole had always been in sync.

If there was any fun to be had this summer, Charlotte was her one great hope.

Julian tucked a long strand of hair behind her ear. His expression was aching— and Nicole might have reached for him again if he hadn’t cupped her head. "I just don’t want you hurt," he said and kissed her forehead. Then he held her back. "Do you think she’ll accept?" Nicole smiled, confident in this at least. "Absolutely. I don’t care how much time has passed. She loves Quinnipeague. The temptation will be too great to resist."

Copyright @ Barbara Delisnky 2013


Excerpted from Sweet Salt Air by Barbara Delinsky Copyright © 2013 by Barbara Delinsky. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

BARBARA DELINSKY is a New York Times bestselling author with more than thirty million copies of her books in print. She has been published in twenty-eight languages worldwide. A lifelong New Englander, Delinsky earned a B.A. in psychology at Tufts University and an M.A. in sociology at Boston College. Delinsky enjoys knitting, photography, and cats. She lives in Needham, Massachusetts.

Brief Biography

Newton, Massachusetts
Date of Birth:
August 9, 1945
Place of Birth:
Boston, Massachusetts
B.A. in Psychology, Tufts University, 1967; M.A. in Sociology, Boston College, 1969

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Sweet Salt Air 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 87 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Barbara Delinsky is a fine writer. Her new book is very thoughtful and moving. It is a story of great friendship. The characters are wonderfully developed and the plot is very interesting.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Why is it necessary for some of you who write your reviews to include the plots of the books and in depth details of events that occur in the book itself? Why can't you just leave those details out of your reviews? I want to read the book and be intrigued by the authors twists and turns, their character development, their plot. When you tell me everything in advance you basically ruin the book for me so why buy it? Thanks a whole lot a**hats!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A beautifully woven story that makes this a tough one to put down
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Barnes and noble you should monitor comments---do not give story away just say if it is worth reading and stop with non book related comments--be fair to readers!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was perfect - friendship, romance and the beach - great beach book. Definitely recommend getting this to read. :)
StephWard More than 1 year ago
'Sweet Salt Air' is a contemporary women's fiction novel that focuses on two women, Nicole and Charlotte, who were once best friends on the island of Quinnipeague. Since growing up, Nicole and Charlotte have slowly grown apart and lost the close relationship they once shared. Nicole is a travel writer, and when she is assigned to write a book about island food, she immediately invites her old friend to accompany her back to their childhood home. While there, both women must face the secrets they've kept from themselves and each other - and may cost them dearly if brought to light. Will they be able to fully open up to each other once again or will the secrets they have kept for so long tear their friendship apart? This was a beautifully written and heartfelt novel of friendship, love, loss, and the power of healing. The setting was perfect for the story - the small island of Quinnipeague really drew me in to the world that the author created. She tells the story with such detailed description and vivid imagery that I could easily imagine myself on the island alongside the characters. Speaking of the characters, Nicole and Charlotte were great leads in the book. Their relationship is long standing and full of complex emotions and secrets - just like most friendships are. I really enjoyed reading about both women and their relationship with each other as well as to others in their lives. The author did a superb job of creating a layered storyline for each character and then entwined them to make the overarching plot. All the parts flowed effortlessly together, creating a wonderful novel. The writing itself showcases the author's immense talent and her knack for revealing the complex nature of friendship and of people themselves. I highly recommend this book for fans of contemporary fiction and women's fiction - or for those readers who would like to sit back with a fantastic summer read. Disclosure: I received a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hadn't read a Delinsky book in a long time but decided to read this one! Very happy I did! The characters were very interesting although in a flawed way that really kept me intrigued. The setting in Quinnepeague Maine makes me want to summer there!
MadisonCA More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed reading this. It held your interest throughout .
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a really great book...I loved every minute! Characters were well developed and I liked the way the story was told - by the perspective of both friends. I didn't want the story to end!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Boring, repetive, predictable and much too long for the story that was told---seems like a long version of the old time Harlequin romances. Used to love this author --what happened?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very boring book.
Thiltpold More than 1 year ago
The subject matter held my interest (though very far fetched) as well as the Quinnie lifestyle but the relationship between the friends was also hard to understand. I can see having a strong connection with a friend you last touch with but it seemed to strained to be real.
LynDenise More than 1 year ago
This was an absolute Must Read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was so easy to get into this book. There was more than just one story line, but they blended so well. I have always enjoyed her books and continue to do so. I do not like to tell the story, as others do, so I will just say that this one kept my attention and I looked forward to reading it evey night. It would make for a good book club read.
jmc004 More than 1 year ago
This book was thoroughly enjoyable. It's a story of two best friends that a lot of us can relate to. One of Barbara Delinsky's better books.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Noone quite writes a novel like barbara Delinsky... It has warmth and fiendship and disappontment and heartbreak and always a secret thrown into the mix... Seems she writes from the heart and grabs all the feelings one experiences in life. I guess you can tell I am a fan! Can't wait for the next book!
kadydid More than 1 year ago
So many tragedies, so many beautiful outcomes. All of the characters with their faults and quirks were so real and each told a different story of love found, lost, and found again. I was left satisfied yet wanting more. This is "the" read of the summer.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My newest favorite by Barbara Delinsky. Held my interest from page one. I 've been reading her books from her first till this and she always pleases and this is no exception
Karins3841 More than 1 year ago
Enjoyed the characters, the location and the story line.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Slow read. Takes awhile for story to develop, but if you stay with it, it is a good read. Very descriptive of area so that you feel you are actually there with the land and surf pounding at your feet.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A warm story about friendships that will steal your heart. Plus I love New England, and i wish this island exhisted so i could visit !
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Maybe it's my love for herbs or for islands or big, affable dogs, but I enjoyed this book alot, even if parts of it dragged on a bit.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I can't think of anything that I've read by Barbara Delinsky that I haven't enjoyed. Her "romance" novels are not over the top but more like real life mixed in with romance. And I am really liking the seaside stories since my own visit to the shore not so long ago. Not able to explain that one, just how I feel.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love Barbara Delinsky's books but this one was about 200 pages too long. I got so tired of reading about plants, gardens and spices. The story line was awesome but the rest was so boring.
NotEnoughTimeToReadGI More than 1 year ago
You can tell that she has changed editors and publishing houses. This book is more tightly written and not as sappy and predictable as some of hers have been in the past. I will look forward to her next book to see if she keeps in this new writing style.