Return to the bestselling Beach House series with Mary Alice Monroe’s tale of the struggles and triumphs of the historic Rutledge family of South Carolina. “Authentic, generous, and heartfelt” (Mary Kay Andrews, New York Times bestselling author), this is an illuminating story of new beginnings, resilience, and one family’s enduring love.
Cara Rutledge returns to her Southern home on the idyllic Isle of Palms. Comforting in its familiarity, it is still rife with painful memories. Only through reconnecting with family, friends, and the rhythms of the lowcountry can Cara release the hold of the past and open herself to the possibility of a new career and love.
Meanwhile, her niece Linnea, a recent college graduate with an uncertain future, leaves her historic home in Charleston, with all its entitlement and expectations, and heads to her aunt’s beach house. On the island, she is free to join the turtle team, learn to surf, and fall in love. Remembering the lessons of her beloved grandmother, Lovie, the original “turtle lady,” Linnea rediscovers a meaningful purpose to her life and finds the courage she needs to break from tradition.
In “this tender and openhearted novel of familial expectations, new boundaries, and the power of forgiveness” (Booklist), three generations of the Rutledge family gather together to find the strength, love, and commitment to break destructive family patterns and to forge new bonds that will endure long beyond one summer reunion.
About the Author
Mary Alice Monroe is the New York Times bestselling author of more than twenty books, including the Beach House series: The Beach House, Beach House Memories, Swimming Lessons, Beach House for Rent, and Beach House Reunion. She is a 2018 Inductee into the South Carolina Academy of Authors’ Hall of Fame, and her books have received numerous awards, including the 2008 South Carolina Center for the Book Award for Writing, the 2014 South Carolina Award for Literary Excellence, the 2015 SW Florida Author of Distinction Award, the RT Lifetime Achievement Award, the International Book Award for Green Fiction, and the 2017 Southern Book Prize for Fiction. Her bestselling novel The Beach House is also a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie. An active conservationist, she lives in the lowcountry of South Carolina. Visit her at MaryAliceMonroe.com and at Facebook.com/MaryAliceMonroe.
Read an Excerpt
Beach House Reunion
In the spring, mature loggerhead females steadfastly swim thousands of miles through the Atlantic to nest in the region of their birth. The females repeat this journey every two to three years.
ALL ROADS LEAD home. That thought mingled with the soothing sound of Debussy as Cara descended from the majestic highlands of Tennessee toward the sultry lowcountry of South Carolina. Her brand-new red station wagon wound its way past racing rivers and creeks that flowed south to the ocean, past billboards advertising fireworks, fruit stands, deserted gas stations, and tumbledown antiques shops. Signs of spring—yellow jasmine blooms against lush greens—dotted the countryside. From time to time a flock of birds would fill the sky, and she would crane her neck to watch them migrating north. A short laugh escaped her lips. We are all heading home to nest, Cara thought.
She stretched her long legs as best she could while driving in skinny jeans. The cuff of her white cotton shirt was stained with coffee from a quick swerve. Everything had been too fast in the past few weeks as she scrambled to pack up and move home—too many fast decisions and too much fast food. And here she was, journeying the same stretch of road again. Going home never seemed to get easier. She glanced into the rearview mirror as the passing years flashed in her mind. How many times had she made this journey back to the Isle of Palms?
At forty, she’d driven back from the chilly North to seek refuge at her mother’s beach house in the sultry South, as listless as a rudderless ship. Primrose Cottage had been her sanctuary, as it had been her mother’s before her. A special place by the sea to recharge one’s batteries and find renewed purpose. At fifty, she’d buried the past and left again, looking for a fresh start. Now, three years later, like the loggerhead sea turtle she was named for, Caretta was returning to the only place she’d ever considered home.
She leaned slightly to the right to glance in the rearview mirror again. Her dark eyes were smudged with fatigue and had a few more lines around the corners. She wasn’t a child any longer, or even a young woman. Each decision she made now had rippling consequences. Cara felt her resolve stir. She needed to be home now, more than ever.
LINNEA WAS SO done with the four-lane I-26. She’d sped along that endless stretch of highway from the University of South Carolina in Columbia to her home in Charleston so many times in the past four years that she could drive it in her sleep. And there were some trips that had come dangerously close to that. Red Bull could only do so much. This was her last one, however. She’d graduated at last, and after a final round of parties, she’d crammed everything she could into her blue convertible Mini Cooper and headed home.
At last she exited in Charleston. If she’d been a tourist, she would have followed the main road and got caught in the horrid logjams on East Bay, Meeting, and King Streets. Every time she came home, there was another hotel going up in the city. Traffic was a nightmare. She tapped her fingers on the steering wheel and swore the whole peninsula was going to sink in the next flood.
But, having been born and raised in Charleston, Linnea was no stranger to the city. She made a sharp right, then shot down Broad Street toward the water, ducking down narrow alleys only locals knew about—bumpy cobblestone roads lined with parked cars. After two more turns, she veered sharply into their driveway on Tradd Street, then slammed on the brakes. Panting and clutching the wheel, she stared at the imposing black iron gate and exhaled in relief that she hadn’t hit it. Her father would have tanned her hide if she’d damaged that elaborately curved and exorbitantly expensive ironwork.
“Oh, Mama . . .” she muttered as she collected her wits. Her mother had complained for years about how the tourists brazenly peeked into their walled garden or even through the windows. While gardening one Sunday morning a few months ago, her mother had turned her head to see a strange man standing inside their enclosed garden taking pictures as free as he pleased—including one of her bent over pulling weeds. She’d screamed at him, but he’d only laughed and strolled away. Her first call was to the police and the next to an ironsmith. Of course, being Tradd Street, it had to be a skilled craftsman who could create an elaborate, Charleston-worthy gate in the style of Philip Simmons. Daddy’d had a fit when he saw the bill.
“Hell, Julia,” he’d argued, “that fella just took a picture of your best side.”
Mama had won the argument, of course, as she had with each improvement of the grand house on Tradd.
Linnea had completely forgotten about this when she turned into the driveway. Staring at it now, she had to admit that it was imposing, if annoying.
She dug through her purse and pulled out the slip of paper with the combination her mother had e-mailed to her. She raised her sunglasses, then carefully punched in the numbers, and with a gratifying click, the great gate smoothly split open. Linnea felt pretentious driving through and wondered if that was exactly the effect her mother had hoped for. After all, she did love panache.
Linnea parked in front of the stately cream stucco house and tapped the horn twice in announcement of her arrival. Manicured ivy climbed the walls of the garage along trellises—her mother wouldn’t allow an untidy mess—and flowers exuberantly tumbled from classic Charleston window boxes. Linnea was always proud to bring her friends to her house near the famous Charleston Battery in the golden perimeter known as South of Broad. The handsome Greek revival never failed to impress with its gracious three-story piazza. But, in the end, it was just home.
She ran her fingers through her blond hair, which fell smooth and straight to her shoulders, the same cut she’d worn some version of since high school. She swiped on a bit of rosy lip gloss and blush to cover up the effects of one too many graduation parties the previous week. God knew, her mother had binocular vision when it came to telltale red eyes.
Linnea climbed out of the car and smoothed out her floral swing skirt. One of her passions was vintage clothing, especially from the 1950s. No sooner had she closed her door than her younger brother trotted around the house from the garden.
“Cooper!” she called out. Her knight in shining armor was coming to carry her luggage.
Cooper Pringle Rutledge was wearing baggy beige shorts frayed at the hem and a stretched-out Porter-Gaud T-shirt. He was in that adorable stage she liked to call a man-child. At eighteen, he was tall and long-legged like his aunt Cara. Like her, he took after the Rutledge side of the family with his thick, dark hair and eyes and his strong jaw and proud nose. He looked like a young John Kennedy. In contrast, Linnea was a tintype of her grandmother Olivia. Petite, blond, and blue-eyed, she fit the stereotype of a southern belle, even if the expectations chafed her.
Cooper trotted toward her with his friendly, gangly gait. He was restless, like his father, always tossing a ball in the air, rushing from place to place, playing sports, and perfecting his game. Linnea was more solitary. She preferred to read, sew her own vintage-style clothes, or walk outdoors and observe nature. The Tortoise and the Hare, her mother had called them growing up. The fact that Linnea was mad for sea turtles made the description apropos.
“Hey, Sis,” Cooper called out. When he reached her side, he bent to kiss her cheek. “Nice to have you back.”
“Nice of you to not make it to my graduation.”
Cooper ducked his head with a wry grin. “Yeah, about that . . . sorry. It was the big Porter-Gaud–Bishop England basketball game.”
“Bigger than my college graduation?” she asked, her words ringing with doubt.
“Yeah, well, I’m on the team.” He looked up at her, eyes twinkling. “We can make it up when you come to my graduation next week.”
Linnea could never stay mad at him. She socked him in the arm. “Yeah, well,” she replied, teasing his phrasing, “I’ll see if I can make it. I’ve got a lot of parties and all. . . .”
They laughed, both knowing she wouldn’t miss it.
A shiny black pickup truck pulled up, dwarfing her car. She was blinded by the amount of chrome on the grille. The big engine rumbled loudly, and inside the cab she saw four boys she’d watched grow up since the first grade. She greeted them all warmly, congratulating them all on somehow managing to graduate high school.
“Gotta go,” Cooper called out as he climbed into the truck—probably the driver’s graduation gift.
Linnea was flabbergasted. “What? You’re leaving? I just got here!”
He shrugged with an endearing grin, and she couldn’t help but laugh. That boy’s smile is going to get him into trouble someday, she thought as she called out, “Thanks for helping me with my luggage!”
The truck’s engine roared with a show of testosterone and whipped out of the driveway. Before it squealed down the street, she heard Cooper bark out to a friend, “Shut up, that’s my sister!”
Linnea shook her head and wondered what kind of trouble her brother was going to get into this time. Mama had called her just last week, worried to leave Cooper home alone for her graduation since Missy Bond’s house had just been trashed by a graduation party.
She wiped away the perspiration forming along her brow. It was four o’clock on a steamy May afternoon. Summer had come early this year. The azaleas had bloomed in February, and it was already hitting the nineties. Early springs and late winters seemed to be the new normal.
She almost burned her fingers opening her trunk. “Thanks a lot, Cooper,” she groaned upon seeing it packed to the gills. As she began tugging out the boxes, though, she heard the rumble of the garage door opening.
Rescue came in the form of her father.
“Hey, baby girl! Welcome home!”
She set a box down on the cement and hurried into his embrace. Her daddy, Palmer Rutledge, took after his mother’s side. Like her, he was blond and blue-eyed. In bare feet he reached five feet eight inches, but most of his shoes boosted his height another inch. Being relatively short was a sore point between him and her aunt Cara. She was tall and dark; he was short and blond. Palmer claimed their mother got the genes mixed up.
He was a handsome man, dependably clean-shaven and well presented in his usual uniform of polished shoes, a pale polo, and tan trousers. Looking at him in the full sun, Linnea could see his hair was thinning on top. His belly was fuller, too. But it was his ruddy cheeks so early in the day that concerned her. In his hand was a thick-cut crystal glass half-filled with ice and a brown liquid she’d bet good money was bourbon.
“It’s a little early for a cocktail, isn’t it?”
He squinted and shook the ice in his glass. “I got home early to see my little girl and now she’s busting my chops?”
“Sorry, Daddy. I’m just teasing,” she said quickly, though it wasn’t true. When her parents had come up to Columbia the previous weekend for her graduation, Linnea had been shocked at how much her father drank. He downed bourbon like water, morning and night. When she’d mentioned it to her mother, Julia had simply tightened her lips and shaken her head, both in resignation and refusal to discuss it.
“Look at you,” he said, holding her at arm’s length. “I swear, you look more like my mama every day.” He smiled wryly at her skirt. “Or maybe it’s just ’cause you’re wearing her clothes.”
“Hey, Daddy,” Linnea said with a teasing pout. “I made this skirt myself.”
“It’s right pretty,” he said, and gently tapped her nose. “Just like you.”
Palmer looked around as he walked toward her car trunk. “Where’s Cooper? I sent him out here to fetch your luggage.”
Linnea followed him. “He took off when a truck full of his friends pulled up. Lord, all those babies are becoming men already. Unleashed on an unsuspecting world.”
“I swear, that boy’s never around when you need him. He’s perfected the art of the dodge.”
“At least he made it through high school.”
Her father made a face. “Thanks to a handshake and a hefty donation. Cooper never took to school like you did. He hasn’t the sense God gave a mule.”
“Oh, he’s smart,” Linnea countered, reaching into the trunk. Defending her little brother was second nature to her. “He’s just lazy.” She pulled out a box and handed it to her father. “And he sure is cute. The girls must be going crazy.”
Palmer rubbed his jaw to hide his smile. It was obvious her father doted on the boy. “Can’t shoo ’em away with a flyswatter.” He narrowed his gaze on her. “What about you? You’ve got some fish on the hook I should meet?”
“Nope,” Linnea said, turning back to the trunk.
“Why not?” he replied, hoisting the box. “You’re as pretty as they come. I used to sleep with a shotgun by my bed when you were in high school for all the tomcats crying at your window.”
She didn’t reply because it was true. In high school she’d been an incorrigible flirt. With experience, however, she’d grown choosier.
Palmer started walking toward the house. Over his shoulder he called, “You’re not getting any younger, you know.”
Linnea felt the drag of the suitcase. “I’m only twenty-two! Hardly an old maid!”
“Your mama married me at your age.” He set the box by the door with a thunk. “Graduation in May. A bride in June.”
She wanted to say, And look how well that turned out, but she wasn’t that stupid. Linnea just parked the luggage by the door, turned on her heel and walked back to the car to carry the last vestiges of her college life into her childhood home. With each step, she felt her family’s expectations closing in around her.
THE SKY WAS as black as tar by the time Cara left the mainland to cross the Connector Bridge to the island. Few stars shone through the night, the moon was hidden by clouds, and the vast acres of salt marsh were as inky as the sky. Ahead, tiny red lights blinked on the island’s water tower, and here and there golden light shone from a few houses. At last, she’d arrived.
“Isle of Palms.”
The name slid from her mouth in a sigh. The gentle name of the small barrier island off the Charleston coast was synonymous with home to her. A sun-kissed place where visitors came to feel the caress of salt-tinged breezes, dip their toes into the warm waters of the Atlantic, and stare out over the expanse of sea and sky. Here they could escape from the sometimes overwhelming strains of a hectic life beyond the marshland. Her mama used to say that barrier islands protected the mainland from the storms. But in truth, the marshes protected the islands from the stress of the mainland.
Life was different on the islands. The pace was slower, the summer wind stronger. And that threat of losing all possessions during the hurricane season had taught Cara early that true joy came from loved ones, not loved things. Knowing that helped her feel free.
Cara flashed back to one particular blustery night when a tidal surge from a hurricane had pushed past the dunes to race through the house. She and her mama had huddled in the attic crawl space, clinging to each other while the water rose higher and higher. On that terrible night, Lovie had held her hand, looked deeply into her eyes, and told her she was leaving the beach house to her, because Lovie knew Cara understood the power of the beach house as a sanctuary.
And it was true. Cara had always been happy at the beach house. Her best memories had been born on this island. She prayed that many more happy memories were yet to be forged. She felt buoyed by an air of expectancy.
Out in the ocean’s swells, the female loggerheads were biding their time, poised to swim to the beaches and begin the summer saga of nesting. Cara hoped it would be a good year, with lots of nests and thousands of turtle hatchlings to scramble to the sea. In a few weeks, the tourists would also return, swelling the island population to more than double. The summer was a busy time along the southeastern coast, but Cara wouldn’t rent her beach house this summer. Or ever again.
This time, she was home to stay.
She turned west onto Palm Boulevard, then slowed when she passed the small gray-brick house on the creek that sat tucked behind a giant live oak tree. She’d spent ten happy years in that house with Brett. A stab of bittersweet memories hitched her breath. Widowhood was a lonely state of being. She’d worked fiercely to create a new life in Chattanooga, but after three years, she still mourned. Now a strange car was parked in the driveway.
With a quick sniff, Cara gripped the steering wheel and drove on. No looking back, she told herself. She hadn’t returned to this island to wallow in the past. She’d come to build a new future, one filled with hope. Turning seaward, she drove the final few blocks. Anticipation thrummed in her veins the closer she got to home. Then she saw it: Primrose Cottage.
The pale-yellow house sat perched on the dune in the shadows of the starless night, dwarfed by the imposing mansions on either side, as small and demure as the wildflower it was named after. A few of the postwar cottages still remained on the island, nostalgic reminders of a quieter time long gone. Back when a nearly impassable maritime forest dominated the northern end.
Cara drove up the short, pebbled drive and came, at long last, to a shuddering stop. She leaned back against the headrest and breathed deeply, letting the sensation of miles flowing beneath her subside. “I’m home,” she whispered, feeling the impact of the words radiate through her body. Home at last.
The porch light shone bright over the ocean-blue door, a beacon of warm welcome.
“Thank you, Emmi,” she said, as a small smile of gratitude eased across her face. Emmaline Baker Peterson had been her best friend since childhood. She’d lived next door during the summer months for as long as Cara could remember. Cara knew she’d find milk, bread, and eggs in the fridge; fresh linens on the bed; and windows open to the evening breeze.
A whimpering noise from the backseat immediately brought her to attention. Cara swiftly glanced again in the rearview mirror. She smiled when she saw the sweet face staring back at her. The baby girl’s large, dark eyes blinked sleepily under her dark brown curls as she yawned widely. Then her legs began to kick, and her plump hands moved in agitation as she started whimpering again. Cara jumped into action. The precious child had slept for hours with nary a peep.
“I’m coming,” Cara said, and quickly released her seat belt. She swung open the car door and stepped out into the moist, balmy air. She paused a moment, breathing in the welcoming scents of wildflowers and sea after hours in the cramped, air-conditioned car. But another whimper sent her scrambling to the rear door.
“I’m here,” she crooned as she lifted the year-old child into her arms, bringing her tight against her breast. The baby smelled of milk and soap and something intangible God put there in His wisdom to protect the innocents. She kissed the top of her head, feeling the delicate strands of hair graze her lips. Soft as a prayer.
“Welcome home, Hope!”
CARA BALANCED THE baby on her left hip as she struggled to find the right key to the front door. On the ground was a box with a chirping bird inside. The baby was slipping, and her arm strained to maintain her grip. At last a key slid in and the lock clicked. With a gusty sigh, she pushed open the front door and hoisted Hope higher on her hip. “We’re here,” she said, and stepped inside.
She immediately felt the welcome of the beach house. All was in readiness. The floors had been washed, furniture dusted, flowers set in vases. She could smell the oil soap. A small table lamp shone golden light across the living room. Not a chair or painting was out of place. All was just as she’d left it three years earlier.
Cara was humbled by her friend’s thoughtfulness. After a long day’s drive, she didn’t have to open the door to a steamy, stagnant, and stuffy house. She always had so much on her mind, projects and endless to-do lists, so when a friend took the time to do something thoughtful to make her life easier—better—just because she cared, Cara had to stop and remember that life was so much more than a job’s progress or a list of accomplishments. Life, if lived well, was enjoying random acts of kindness that elicited joy from giver and receiver alike. Each time she was reminded of this, she vowed to try to be a better giver than a receiver.
This was one of the reasons she’d returned to this beach house on Isle of Palms. Cara needed the help of her friends and family to learn how to be a good mother to Hope.
And I need the security of this little house, she thought as she surveyed the small rooms. The beach house was not grand, but it had loads of vintage charm. A row of windows overlooked the breadth of the Atlantic Ocean and gave the house an open, airy feeling. Even now when the ocean was cloaked in the evening’s velvety blackness, she could hear the gentle roll of the waves through the open windows, as soothing as a cat’s purr.
Even though the beach house was now hers, in her mind it would always be the cottage of Olivia Rutledge, Lovie to all who knew her. It had changed little over the years. The art on the walls had been painted by her mother’s friends, local artists. The same ruby and blue Oriental rugs colored the wood floors. Even the plump upholstered furniture was Lovie’s. When Cara took it over, she didn’t want to change a thing; she’d simply freshened it up. She’d painted the walls a soft ocean blue with crisp white trim, replaced the Palm Beach-y chintz with durable white fabric, and removed the countless knickknacks her mother had in every nook and cranny.
“What do you think?” she asked Hope with a gentle squeeze. “Shabby chic, but not too shabby, eh?”
The baby looked back at her with wide, uncomprehending eyes. Chuckling, Cara kissed her cheek. “Well, we look a bit shabby after that long drive. And,” she added with a sniff, “you smell like you could use a change. Let’s freshen you up. How does that sound?”
She went out the front door to pick up the bird box. Her canary, Moutarde, skittered about but didn’t utter a sound. She set the box on the table, then made a beeline to her childhood bedroom down the hall. She paused at the door, stunned by the transformation. Her old black iron bed was gone, and in its place was a brand-new white crib dolled up with pink floral sheets and ribbon-trimmed blankets. Where her painted wooden desk had once sat was a cushy white upholstered rocking chair with pink piping and a small bookshelf filled with children’s books. Cara laughed aloud at seeing the sweet green-and-pink-shaded lamp—it was a sea turtle. Emmi had raised two boys but had always wanted a girl.
“She must’ve had a field day fixing up your room,” she told Hope as she laid her on the changing table. She chatted with the baby to distract her from getting her diaper changed. “You’re going to love your aunt Emmi. I’ve known her since I was just a bit older than you. No one has a smile like Aunt Emmi.” Cara envisioned her friend’s wide, Carly Simon smile. “She’s going to make you laugh. Oh yes she will,” she added, tickling Hope’s belly and eliciting a giggle. “And smother you with kisses.” She nuzzled Hope’s cheeks. Cara had never known what joy a baby’s laughter could bring.
“And your Aunt Flo,” she continued, reaching into her baby bag and pulling out footie pajamas. Cara still felt clumsy in her newfound motherhood and secretly feared she was doing something wrong. For her, it was all trial and error. “Aunt Flo will tell you the best stories,” she said as she lifted Hope into her arms. “Most of them about turtles. She used to take care of me when I was your age.”
Cara set Hope inside the crib, noting the quick frown of disapproval that flashed across the baby’s face. “It’s okay,” she crooned. “Just stay here and play with this turtle.” She placed a stuffed toy in Hope’s lap. “I’ll be right back.”
Hope immediately began to protest, lifting her arms and crying to be picked up. Cara’s heart pinged. She couldn’t bear to hear Hope cry. “I just have to get the suitcases,” she explained with a hint of panic. “I’ll only be a minute.”
Hope was having none of it. Her cries followed Cara down the hall and out to the car. They spurred her on like stings from a whip. She dragged suitcases, bags of baby supplies, and personal belongings out of the rear of the car and up the gravel drive and front stairs, not pausing for a breath and working up a sweat. She dragged in the last bag and plopped it on the kitchen counter, winded.
“No wonder only young women have babies,” she muttered. She cast a weary glance at the pile of brown bags littering the kitchen, but a boisterous cry from Hope focused her anew. “A bottle,” she muttered, and rushed to the kitchen sink to fill the teakettle. “Mama’s coming!” she called out as she set it on the stove.
As the water heated, Cara put her fingertips to her temples to calm herself. She had adopted Hope in February, and with that single decision she’d once again changed her life. The past four months had been a steep learning curve for a woman in her fifties who had never had much to do with children. A single woman at that. Cara was never one to let the moss grow under her feet, however. Once a decision was made, action followed.
She’d given notice to the Tennessee Aquarium that she was resigning her position as the PR director—a job she’d loved—and made plans to move home to Isle of Palms to raise her child. Despite her seeming confidence, there were times, such as now, when the professional businesswoman was a complete and utter klutz.
The baby began howling. From the box on the dining room table she heard the worried peeps from her bird. With mounting hysteria Cara ripped through her carefully packed bags in search of bottles and formula. She tossed bottles, nipples, and tops onto the counter and finally found a matched set. But her success was short-lived. Opening the formula tin was like breaking into Fort Knox. Especially with her shaky fingers. Just as she pried off the stubborn lid at last, the kettle whistled, and jolting forward to grab it, she bumped the open jar of formula powder. She watched in horror as it plummeted in slow motion to the floor, exploding white, powdery milk all over the clean hardwood.
Cara gasped and stared disbelievingly at the mess. “No, no, no,” she cried, dropping to all fours and scooping what she could back into the container. As soft and fine as talcum powder, the disrupted formula created milky clouds in the air.
In that ignominious moment, all the stress of the baby’s incessant crying mixed with the strain of quitting her job in Tennessee, packing up their things to move to South Carolina, and the long, exhausting drive came crashing down on her. She slid her long legs across the floor, leaned against the counter, and brought her powdery hands to her face as her cries blended with the baby’s.
Who did she think she was fooling? She was hopeless when it came to mothering. An utter and complete failure. She was a fifty-three-year-old career woman. Her résumé was great for a PR executive, but she’d never bag a job as a mother. She couldn’t even make a bottle without screwing up.
At moments like this, her greatest fear would surface. Was it a mistake to adopt Hope?
Help me, Mama, she cried into her hands.
The baby’s cries pierced through her desolation. Cara was never one to wallow in doubt and self-pity. Her nature was to get things done. And that bottle wasn’t going to make itself. She finished scooping up as much formula as she could and dragged herself to her feet. She washed the powder from her hands and face, and with a determined swipe of her nose on her sleeve, she started anew to prepare the bottle. She worked quickly, with steady hands, but as she shook the bottle, she suddenly noticed the house had gone quiet. She froze. Hope had stopped crying.
Cara turned on her heel and rushed to the bedroom. She screeched to a halt at the door and sucked in her breath. Fear fluttered in her heart. But as she slowly exhaled, the fear dissipated and wonder took its place. It was as if time were standing still. A hazy white light shimmered near the crib. Hope was standing, clutching the railing. No longer crying, her face bore the sweetest grin of pleasure as she cooed and babbled at the glowing light beside her.
And in that shimmering light Cara saw her mother, or rather, a ghost of Lovie. Transparent yet real. There was no mistaking her. Lovie’s hair was pulled back in her usual chignon, her profile serene as she gazed at the child. Then, in a breath, her mother turned her head and looked up.
Cara felt the unspeakable power of a mother’s gaze. The light seemed to enter her soul, permeate her being, and warm her. Reassure her. Comfort her. Lovie smiled, and Cara felt the weight of her hopelessness lift from her shoulders. In that miraculous instant, she knew she was going to be all right.
Then, in a blink, the light disappeared, and Lovie was gone.
“Mama?” she called out. Cara suddenly wondered if she’d imagined it all. She shook her head and looked down at Hope. The child gazed back at her with innocent eyes.
Cara hugged the little girl and crooned softly as she rocked her in her arms. The room was filled with the scent of jasmine. Her mother’s scent.
“Thank you, Mama.”
Reading Group Guide
This reading group guide for Beach House Reunion includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.
Home is where the heart is. Returning to the idyllic Isle of Palms three years after losing her husband, Cara Rutledge is ready to embark on a fresh start.
Moving into the beach house once owned by her mother, Cara finds everything and everyone on the island to be comforting and familiar. Yet at the same time, heartbreaking memories often resurface. Only through reconnecting with friends, family, and the beauty of the lowcountry does Cara find the strength to release her painful ties to the past and welcome the opportunity for a new love, career, and hope for the future.
Meanwhile, Cara’s niece, Linnea, is a recent college graduate unsure of where her life will take her. Rather than live with her parents in their historic Charleston home, filled with entitlement and expectations, Linnea heads to her aunt’s beach house for the summer. At the house, the presence of her grandmother Lovie, the original “turtle lady,” can be felt all around her. Linnea remembers the lessons her beloved grandmother taught her as a child, which encourages her to rediscover her passions and pursue new possibilities. Rejoining the turtle team, learning to surf, and falling in love, Linnea finds the strength to break from tradition and find her own purpose.
In this heartwarming novel, three generations of the Rutledge family come together to break destructive family patterns, resulting in new bonds that will last far beyond one summer reunion.
Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. Each chapter of Beach House Reunion opens with a fact about sea turtles. Discuss how the information increases awareness of the species. How do they relate to either Cara’s or Linnea’s story?
2. Cara moves back to Isle of Palms after making significant changes in both her personal and professional life. What’s the motivation behind her return? Do you find too much change at once to be overwhelming, or exhilarating? Discuss the role of family support in the life of a new mother. How do friends fill the role of family? Do you agree with Flo that “it takes a village”?
3. “Make do” is a phrase that Cara’s mother, Lovie, used to say. What does it mean? How does this expression relate to Cara’s life? Do you incorporate a similar mantra into your life?
4. What traditional roles in Charleston society do Palmer and Julia expect their children to follow? Do you think their convictions of how young men and women should present themselves are outdated or sexist? Discuss how Cooper and Linnea break from their parents’ conventional values? How are traditions and values changing for the young in your area?
5. Motherhood came as a surprise to Cara: “This opportunity to be a mother came out of nowhere. I was speechless. A deer caught in the headlights. I swear I couldn’t breathe for days while I agonized over the decision” (p. 34). Consider the unique challenges she faces as a single parent in her fifties? What advantages might she enjoy?
6. Lovie has a significant presence in this novel. How does she help navigate the choices of the Rutledge women—Cara, Linnea, Julia? And her son, Palmer?
7. For Cara, Capers Island holds precious memories that tie her to Brett. Describe the pivotal moment when Cara buries her wedding band in a sand dune. How was this act transformative for her? Why do you think she felt it imperative in order to move on?
8. Consider the dichotomy between Cara and Linnea’s feeling of home. Cara relocates her life to move back to her mother’s beach house for a sense of ease and belonging, while Linnea is eager to leave Charleston for a chance of possibility and hope. How can home feel protective for some, and obstructive for others? What symbolizes home to you?
9. Cara begins to accept that her “divided heart” (p. 279) is normal, and admits she is ready to fall in love again. “The love I have for David is different than the love I had for Brett. But I’m different, too. And it doesn’t mean there can’t be love after love” (pp. 279-280). What’s so enlightening about Cara’s breakthrough? How does she come to this place of understanding? Do you think a person can feel different kinds of love?
10. Explore the significance of the rescue and rehabilitation of Big Girl. What does Big Girl symbolize for the Rutledge women, and for Toy? How is she a pillar of strength and resilience? Is Big Girl’s rehabilitation a metaphor for what the women are each experiencing in their lives? The final release?
11. Discuss the impact of the water/ocean in this novel on the Rutledge women, even the baby. Cara goes to the sea “to relieve stress, to gather her thoughts, to recharge her batteries” (p. 98). And Linnea finds joy riding the waves. “The ocean awakened her, leaving her feeling invigorated, confident, like she belonged here” (p. 180). Do you believe in the healing power of nature?
12. Discuss how surfing (and being near the ocean) changed Linnea. What is your favorite body of water—the ocean, a lake, a pool, a bath?
13. Cara is torn about accepting a full-time position at the aquarium, until Flo put things into perspective for her: “Life is a long series of choices. All we can do is make the best decision we can at every turn, hope for the best and deal with the consequences” (p. 310). How does Flo’s advice help Cara? Do you find that her words can guide you in your own life?
14. The issue of destructive family patterns is revealed through Palmer’s alcohol abuse and trend toward domestic violence. In this book he follows the same trajectory as his father, Stratton. And in turn, the pattern is repeated in his son, Cooper. How has Palmer’s drinking affected his family? To what degree are he, Julia, and in a lesser respect, Linnea, contributing to Cooper’s drug use? And how do Palmer—and Julia—ultimately break the destructive family cycle that began with Stratton and Lovie?
15. In Beach House Reunion the character Palmer Rutledge completes a five-book character arc that began in The Beach House. He relentlessly pushed, even bullied, his mother, then his sister to sell the beach house. In The Beach House, Palmer laments, “I never got to say goodbye” after his mother’s death. Discuss how his character grew in each subsequent novel. How did brother and sister persevere, heal and finally unite in the novel? In the series?
Enhance Your Book Club
1. In this novel, readers learn so much about sea turtles and the importance of protecting their habitat. Check out the following resources for more information on conservation efforts, and how you, too, can help.
http://seaturtle.org/: information on sea turtles
https://conserveturtles.org/: the mission of this organization is to ensure the survival of sea turtles
http://www.scaquarium.org/conservation/: learn about South Carolina Aquarium’s conservation initiatives
https://www.worldwildlife.org/species/loggerhead-turtle: learn how the World Wildlife Fund is helping to protect sea turtles’ habitat
2. Research reveals how our brains are hardwired to react positively to water. Being near the ocean can be calming, inspire us to be creative, connected. Take a walk, go for a hike, visit the water, spend some significant time outdoors—even just for a few minutes each day. Do you feel differently? Is being outdoors particularly nurturing or peaceful? Consider having a water feature at your book club meeting or hosting at a lake or beach house.
3. Linnea discovers her passion for surfing—a hobby she’s always wanted to learn. Do you have any interests that you haven’t yet pursued? Take a class, learn a new skill, try something you’ve never done before. It’s never too late!
4. Friendship and family is the heart of this novel and unfortunately; many of us don't take enough time to express our appreciation to our loved ones. Show your friends or family how you care about them. Consider writing cards, inviting them over for dinner, giving them a phone call, or, better yet, organizing a trip.
5. Beach House Reunion can be read alone, but it is also the fifth book in the Beach House series. To go back and read more about the Rutledge family of Charleston read Mary Alice Monroe’s The Beach House, Beach House Memories, Swimming Lessons, and Beach House For Rent.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Author Mary Alice Monroe returns her readers to her much beloved Beach House series in this fifth book, Beach House Reunion. Let me preface my review by saying, I read this novel twice and I never want this series to end. The love, compassion, and family dynamics in the Rutledge family and Lovie's, now Cara's, beloved Primrose Cottage is rife with pain filled memories, new discoveries, hope and healing. Author Monroe speaks from her heart and soul like no other author has ever moved me before. Monroe returns her readers to her beloved Lowcountry, Isle of Palms, South Carolina. Beach House Reunion is so beautifully and thoughtfully written that you'll feel as though you're right there in the summertime on Lovie's front porch, rocking gently in a cane back chair from this multi generational historic home, overlooking the gorgeous beach with the great dunes and ocean as far as one can see, feeling the humidity condensate on your skin, sipping from a glass of sweet tea, reflecting on a history so vast, the present with so many of life's dynamics and yet the hope for a bright and forgiving future. My favorite passage from Beach House Reunion was regarding Brett's pergola that he'd built for Cara. "This one Brett had built for Cara. He'd chosen the best wood, thick and strong. Built to last, he'd declared. Cara looked up and saw that the canes of the roses were twisted and broken. More red petals had drifted down to dot the deck. But this time, Brett's pergola had persevered. Oh Brett, she said, and hugged the pillar of the pergola. This was her sign. Strong and sure. I know what you're trying to tell me. And I hear you. No more tears. I'll weather the storms. I'll persevere. Live Again. Love Again. I will treasure each day. She reached up to wipe away the last of her tears. And each day, she said looking out at the endless sea, I'll remember you." Mary Alice Monroe's newest novel, Beach House Reunion, leaves me with tears of happiness, a sense of renewed hope and love again in my heart. Mary Alice, you are my rock star, in the literary world and have given a part of myself back that has been missing for so long.
Cara Rutledge returns to her cherished family beach home in Isle of Palms, South Carolina after living in Tennessee for three years. She has missed her support system of friends and family and desperately needs their help because of a sudden life altering decision that she has made. In Beach House Reunion, the reader is reconnected with characters from the previous Beach House books including a very comforting ghost. Mary Alice Monroe is a gifted storyteller who seamlessly weaves themes of marine wildlife and ocean conservation, grief, substance abuse, alcoholism, destructive family patterns, motherhood, love, romance, friendship and resilience into this compelling story. Once again, Mary Alice Monroe triumphs with the fifth book in her beloved beach house series. When I began Beach House Reunion I could not put it down and finished in one day, savoring every word. Monroe's readers will be thrilled with this beautifully crafted and poignant novel.
One summer can change your life. After the death of her husband, Cara Rutledge fled Isle of Palms, South Carolina. The memories of her late husband and mother were too hard on her and she needed to try to start her life over someplace else. But she never got past the grief. It just followed her. Now, Cara is finally returning to Primrose Cottage, and with her, she is bringing her newly adopted daughter, Hope. She is ready to make new memories. She starts a new career, is on the Turtle Team again and starts to remember what she loved most about the beach and her home. And she just might be open to falling in love once again. Linnea Rutledge, Cara’s niece, just graduated college and isn’t happy living at home again. She’s unsure what to do with her life. She’s having trouble finding a job and her mother just wants her to marry and settle in Charleston, which is definitely not part of Linnea’s plan. So she decides to spend the summer living with Cara and working as Hope’s nanny. But Linnea also has a lot on her mind worrying about her family. Her controlling father has been drinking too much and she thinks her brother might be falling in their father’s footsteps. Linnea finds solace in her new friend, John, who is there for her when she needs someone the most. With Hurricane Irma is on the way, tensions are high and a lot of things come to light. Lives are changed forever. But will these changes bring the Rutledge family back together or tear them apart even more? I’ll be honest and say I have never read any of this series until now. I saw The Beach House when it was made into a Hallmark movie and fell in love with the story. So, when I saw this was book coming out, I knew I had to read it. I really enjoyed it and plan to go back and read the rest of the series soon. The writer’s style is easy to follow and the characters are some you will come to think of as friends. It’s truly a memorable story. I also enjoyed learning more about sea turtles. At the beginning of each chapter, there is a little bit of information about them.
If you are in need of a major beach fix set in Charleston, South Carolina, look no further than this awesome read! It's been three years since Cara Rutledge set foot back home in South Carolina after being in Tennessee but she didn't come alone. Cara adopted a baby girl named Hope who is the sole purpose of moving back to Isle of Palms. At the same time, her niece Linnea just graduated college and doesn't really know what to do with her life until Cara suggests that she becomes Hope's nanny for the summer. It's only then that both Cara and Linnea find love in the most unexpected ways while dealing with family issues that come to a head during the worst possible time ever, a Hurricane is about to hit Charleston. It will take a storm for a family to fall about to only fall into the place that they are meant to be. You have to love a story that makes it feel like you are in Charleston while reading it. I was totally rooting on Cara and Linnea for what they had to overcome to find the place that they are meant to be in the end. I so hope that this isn't the end for this family but if it is, I'm glad to have read at lest two of the books in this great series so far!! Thank You to Mary Alice Monroe for this story that will make anyone homesick for a place like Charleston, South Carolina! I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book from NetGalley!
This is the quintessential summer beach read series! Mary Alice Monroe adds another delightful addition to her Beach House series. Loved so much I’m re-reading the whole series this summer.
Wonderful book. It took me a bit to get into the storyline, but then it was so good. I hadn’t read any other books by this author, so I do think reading her prior Beach House novel would have added to the story. She interweaves past and present, happy and sad, hurt and healing. I loved the characters, beach setting and turtles! Overall a beautiful story of acceptance and moving forward. Loved it!
Thank you to Gallery Books and Mary Alice Monroe for sending me a copy of Beach House Reunion. I was given this copy in exchange for an honest review. The perfect way to begin the summer is to make another trip to the beach house. It is three years after the events of the previous book Beach House for Rent which has been reviewed here. Also I hope that everyone has seen the Beach House movie that so perfectly introduced readers to Lovie’s family and many of the characters we will see in this book. Synopsis: Cara Rutledge returns to her Southern home on the idyllic Isle of Palms. Everything is comfortingly the same, yet each detail is rife with painful memories. Only through reconnecting with family, friends, and the rhythms of the lowcountry can Cara release the hold of the past and open herself to the possibility of a new love, career, and hope for the future. Meanwhile, her niece Linnea, a recent college graduate who doesn’t know where her life will take her, leaves her historic home in Charleston, with all its entitlement and expectations, and heads to her aunt’s beach house. On the island, she is part of the freer, natural ocean lifestyle she loves, rejoining the turtle team, learning to surf, and falling in love. Remembering the lessons of her beloved grandmother, Lovie, the original “turtle lady,” Linnea rediscovers a meaningful purpose to her life and finds the courage she needs to break from tradition. In this heartwarming novel, three generations of the Rutledge family gather together to find the strength, love, and commitment to break destructive family patterns and to forge new bonds that will endure long beyond one summer reunion. (maryalicemonroe.com) My Thoughts: I always look forward to each summer to sharing the latest Mary Alice Monroe book. I will confess that I have not read all of the Beach House Books. I still enjoyed Beach House Reunion. Ms. Monroe moves the book forward three years from Beach House for Rent. Cara comes back bringing a new daughter into the family. She hopes to get family involved while she hunts for a new job. Linnea the daughter of Palmer comes to help Cara. I enjoyed seeing her blossom as a character in this book, and see what Palmer’s family is like. Palmer does not have an easy path in this book. It concludes with a magical ending, which changes Palmer’s mind about the beach house. My only issue with the book is the timing of some of the things mentioned in the book like the hurricane that happened last year or the age or Heather’s baby.
I really enjoyed this book in the Beach House series. Even though I have not read any of the previous books from this series, it did not affect my enjoyment of this one. Lots of wonderful beach activities and family relationships abound. I am a huge beach fan and wanted to move in with Cara and Hope in the beach cottage. And one of my favorite aspects was the turtle team activities. I enjoyed the information before each chapter about turtles...especially the loggerhead turtle. What wonderful details and it continued throughout the story with part the story surrounding the family and turtle nests and rescues. This was a delightful read for curling up in a chair on a porch feeling the ocean breeze and smelling the salty air as you get lost in the story of Isle of Palms and Charleston. Delightful characters and some family dynamics and exciting weather will keep you turning the pages. Thank you to NetGalley and Gallery Books for an ARC in exchange for my honest review.
Three years after the death of her husband, Cara has returned to Primrose Cottage, a beach house she inherited from her grandmother. She wants to get away from the stress of the city and raise her adopted daughter, Hope. She hopes to rediscover the peace and tranquility of summers spent at the cottage while she was growing up. At age 53, Cara is finding taking care of a one year old a bit overwhelming. She hires her niece, Linnea to be Hope’s nanny. Linnea, a recent college graduate, is happy to be a nanny and enjoy a summer at the beach before starting her career. Beach House Reunion is a captivating story of family love, conflict, secrets and new beginnings. The information on sea turtles at the beginning of each chapter is a bonus. I thoroughly enjoyed Beach House Reunion. The story and characters were well-developed. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who loves a good contemporary read.
I always love when a new Mary Alice Monroe novel releases. It is always full of strong southern women taking on the world and making it better. What would be better than a return to the beach house series with Beach House Reunion? Cara returns home with a new baby to the beach house where she can reconnect to her family both blood and chosen. This time she gets to know her niece Linnea better. Linnea is a recent college graduate trying to escape her family’s expectations and discover what she truly wants to do with her life. You will also be reacquainted with the sea turtles and the healing power of the beach house. After reading this book, you must read the entire series starting with The Beach House, which was filmed as a Hallmark movie.
Enjoyable, good character development, yeah for the turtles!
ks Browse ▾ Community ▾ Search books 1 Debbie Krenzer Debbie Krenzer's Reviews > Beach House Reunion Beach House Reunion by Mary Alice Monroe Beach House Reunion (Beach House #5) by Mary Alice Monroe (Goodreads Author) 12691311 Debbie Krenzer's review Jun 05, 2018 · edit really liked it bookshelves: ebooks, net-galley-books First off, I want to say that this book in the series was much better for me than number 4, it was too morbid and sad. It's a beach and holiday book. Let's not get tied down with sad things. And now my review: We are back on Isle of Palms and the Rutledge family is in turmoil brought about by previous family influences and a more common destroyer of families. Cara has big changes in her life and lets Palmer in on a very big secret. One that has plagued him for years. Hurricane Irma hits the coast. "Big Girl" revisits the island and causes quite the commotion. Lovie returns in spirit and I liked it! A much better read, while still some sad things happen, they are not emphasized over and over and over again. I did enjoy this one and seriously look forward to the next installment. Thanks to Gallery, Threshold Pocket Books and Net Galley for providing me with a free e-galley in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.
I received an arc from netgalley. This book travels back to The Beach House Series. You get reacquainted with the characters and remember what you drew you to them in the first place. In this novel, three generations of the Rutledge family gather together to find the strength, love, and commitment that are needed to forge new bonds that last beyond the summer.
I love this entire series! So much so that I made my husband take me to the Isle of Palms! Mary Alice Monroe is brilliant in her writing!
A great summer read!
The Beach House Reunion sweeps you back into the world of Cara Rutledge and her family in the beautiful setting of Isle of Palms, SC. It's a journey of discovery. Like the Loggerhead Turtle who weaves her way through the sand to continue the circle of life, this amazing story takes you through life's journey of love, loss and new beginnings. And as she does do well, Mary Alice Monroe weaves in the characters we have come to know and love in her previous books. This is a great summer read - Enjoy!!
BEACH HOUSE REUNION This captivating story reunites us with an ensemble of Monroe’s characters, which show up to take a bow. Their appearance thrills like the sight of a long loved friend. Monroe’s thoughtful prose impels her readers to savor each word. This story is of Lovie Rutledge’s legacy, her Beach House, on Isle of Palms, South Carolina. Lovie’s life impacted the lives of many. Through her beloved beach house and her turtles, her love and wisdom transcends generations. Cara Rutledge, Lovie’s daughter is finding her way from the darkness of grief and loss through Hope and Love. Linnea, her niece, is dealing with family drama and struggling to find her path. The two women come together to ease each other’s burdens for the summer. Each woman painfully carving their way into a new life, becoming stronger, independent women on their own terms. Beach House Reunion is a beautiful messy story about a family whose love runs deep as the ocean. It’s about forgiveness of self and others, of understanding and compassion and of Hope and Love. A tale of the incredible bond of friends as family and family as friends. BEACH HOUSE REUNION is a gift from Mary Alice Monroe to her readers and a true Gem in her collection.
I absolutely adore Mary Alice Monroe and her Beach House series! With each book, this being the 5th in the series, I am swept away to the tranquil atmosphere of Isle of Palms and the laid back Southern charm of Charleston. Beach House Reunion is about coming home, friendship, family and new beginnings. Curling up to read one of Mary Alice's books is like going on vacation without ever leaving home. I highly recommend this book, as well as the entire Beach House series for anyone in need of an escape. My thanks to Gallery Books for providing a review copy of this book through NetGalley.
I have read all the Beach House series and loved them. I was shocked, when just 18 pages in, I realized the author had completely changed the story! Lovie was not Cara’s mother but her grandmother. The Beach House belongs to Harper not Cara! Mary Alice Monroe needs to reread her own books to get the story straight. Very disappointed!
I love all of MAM's novels. Each new one is my favorite! I feel I know the Rutledge family personally. Living through reconnecting with family and friends, Cara finds her way to happiness. My favorite part is the return of Big Girl. "That's right." Cara thought on seeing the reaction. "This girl's been through some tough times, taken a few knocks but she's moving forward, as steady and relentless as a tank. She's going all the way home." Big Girl is a therapist and doesn't even know it, or maybe she does? I believe it. This is the theme and lesson of the book. I enjoyed reading it and my heart feels so warm! I;m ready for the next novel. Mary Alice Monroe is the best at characterizing the relationships between animals and humans. I am so happy Cara found her way home.
Beach House Reunion. Mary Alice Monroe. 5/22. Done 4/29. Need to review I was happy to return to South Carolina and be reunited with the characters who feel like old friends in The Beach House Reunion. This delightful story reunites Cara Rutledge with her friends on Isle of Palms and brings her niece “home” to also find her way after graduating college. The healing vibe of their beach house brings clarity and healing to both their lives. I loved this book and highly recommend it!
This is a great book; this is the fifth book in the Beach House series written by Mary Alice Monroe. Cara Rutledge returns to her Southern home on the idyllic Isle of Palms. Everything is comfortingly the same, yet each detail is rife with painful memories. Only through reconnecting with family, friends, and the rhythms of the lowcountry can Cara release the hold of the past and open herself to the possibility of a new love, career, and hope for the future. This is a great book with a wonderful story and well developed characters. This book will keep you reading long into the night. If you are looking for a great book, then you need to read this book. I am looking forward to reading the next book by this great author. I voluntarily reviewed an advanced reader’s copy of this book. The free book held no determination on my personal review.
We begin this tale with the return of Cara to the beach house where it really all began for her. Cara has a baby now that she adopted named Hope and now Cara is struggling with the demands of motherhood verses career and her guilt at enjoying work while struggling with adjusting to motherhood. Meanwhile things are going downhill fast for Cara’s brother Palmer’s family. Linnea, Cara’s niece, cannot leave the her family’s beautiful and historic house in Charleston fast enough, she takes the nanny position for Hope and moves in with Cara for the summer. I enjoyed how this installment of the Beach House series continued to deal with the environment. I have really learned so much about turtles and birds from this series. We also deal with issues such as alcohol, drugs and verbal abuse. This book gets heavy at times in some places then becomes light and romantic in all the right places. We learn more about what Lovey, Cara’s mom, had to endure from a verbally abusive and controlling husband. We see the effects that it has on Palmer and how he tries to control his family as well. Meanwhile Cara has found romance in the most unlikely of places. Sit back, sip wine or lemonade and savor this installment of the Beach House Series.
It was a chilly grey Saturday in my part of NC but I spent the weekend at the beach and never left home! Reading a Mary Alice Monroe book is like taking a vacation at the beach - her love of the lowcounty shines through in her books and her descriptions of the area make you feel like you're there. This is book 5 in the Beach House series. It can be read as a stand-alone but all of the books in the series are so good that you need to read them all! In this book, Cara Rutledge returns to Primrose Cottage on Isle of Palms. She left three years earlier after her husband died but felt like it was time to go home to raise the new baby that she's adopted. When she tries to work from home, she finds out that it's difficult so asks her niece Linnea to move to the cottage to take care of the baby while she's job hunting. They both lead a more relaxed life style at the beach with lots of friends and a bit of romance for both of them. Through their time together and the beauty of the island, the Rutledge family is about to become even closer despite issues that have been passed down from previous generations. This is a beautiful story of love and family, new beginnings and learning to live in the future instead of the past. As with all of Mary Alice's books, her love of the environment shines through her novel. In this book, its the loggerhead turtle and every chapter starts with a fact about sea turtles. There is also a lot of information about how pollution in the ocean hurts the turtles and other sea animals. So along with my mental trip to the beach, I was able to learn more about sea turtles! I highly recommend this book!