Coming Home (Chesapeake Diaries Series #1)

Coming Home (Chesapeake Diaries Series #1)

by Mariah Stewart

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Overview

New York Times bestselling author Mariah Stewart presents a captivating contemporary romance novel in the tradition of Robyn Carr, Susan Mallery, and Barbara Freethy.

In the wake of his wife’s murder, agent Grady Shields turned his back on the FBI—and everything else—to retreat into the vast solitude of Montana, grieve for his lost love, and forget the world. But after years in seclusion, his sister’s wedding draws him to St. Dennis, a peaceful town on the Chesapeake Bay. Though he swears he isn’t interested in finding love again, Grady can’t ignore the mutual sparks that fly when he meets Vanessa Keaton.

Although her past was marked by bad choices, Vanessa has found that coming to St. Dennis is the best decision she’s ever made. Bling, her trendy boutique, is a success with tourists as well as with the townspeople. She’s made friends, has a home she loves, and has established a life for herself far from the nightmare she left behind. The last thing she’s looking for is romance, but the hot new man in town is hard to resist. And when Vanessa’s past catches up with her, Grady finds that he’s unwilling to let her become a victim again. As together they fight her demons, Grady and Vanessa discover that life still holds some surprises and that love doesn’t always have to hurt.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780345520333
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 03/23/2010
Series: Chesapeake Diaries Series , #1
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 156,751
Product dimensions: 4.20(w) x 6.96(h) x 1.05(d)

About the Author

Mariah Stewart is the award-winning author of the Last series: Last Look, Last Words, and Last Breath; the Truth series: Cold Truth, Hard Truth, Dark Truth, and Final Truth; and the Dead series: Dead Even, Dead Wrong, Dead Certain, and Dead End; as well as Forgotten, Until Dark, and The President's DaughterShe is the recipient of the Golden Leaf Award and the Award of Excellence presented by the Colorado Romance Writers, and has been a finalist for the Holt Medallion. Her books have been nominated for several awards from . Romantic Times magazine, including Best Contemporary Romance and Best Contemporary Novel. Stewart is a native of Hightstown, New Jersey, and lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and their two daughters.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One


At 6:02 p.m. on a Tuesday evening, Vanessa Keaton turned the key in the back door lock of her sweet little boutique on Charles Street and flicked off the lights. Foot traffic had been scarce, and would be, she knew, for another two weeks, at least until the St. Dennis Secret Garden Tour brought the first of the serious visitors to town. And that was just fine with her. Once the tourist season began in earnest, there would be fewer opportunities for dinners with friends or for closing early to enjoy slow walks through the town she had come to call her own.

She turned the dead bolt on the door leading down into the basement, then let herself out through the front and locked that door behind her as well. She paused to take a deep breath of the spring fragrance which she found unique to St. Dennis: salt from the Bay mixed with the scent of the hyacinths, daffodils, and early tulips planted in the wooden barrels—?compliments of the garden club—that stood outside each of the shops along Charles Street. The very colors of the flowers said spring to her: purples and pinks, yellows and whites. Just to see them made her smile.

She stepped back to take a good long look at the window she’d spent most of the day designing. Was it too early to display the tennis whites and the pastels that many of the local ladies liked to sport while golfing at the new country club outside of town? Maybe she should move those items to the smaller windows on the side of the shop, and dress her mannequins in something other than sportswear. Maybe those pretty cocktail dresses she got in from New York last week, and maybe a few of those darling evening bags from that designer she found in Cape May over the winter.

The promise of warm weather put a bounce in her step, and as she crossed the street, visions of all the new items she’d recently ordered for Bling danced in her head.

“Step lively there, miss,” the driver of the car that had stopped to let her cross called out. “Or I’ll have to arrest you for jaywalking.”

“Oh, you . . .” Vanessa laughed. “Why aren’t you out chasing bank robbers or car thieves?”

“There hasn’t been a bank robbed in St. Dennis for as long as I’ve lived here.” Gabriel Beck—chief of police and Vanessa’s half brother—pulled his car to the side of the road and activated his flashing lights. “And the last report of a stolen car we received turned out to be Wes Taylor’s fifteen-year-old son sneaking out in the middle of the night to see his girlfriend.”

“Slow day, eh, Beck?” She walked over to the car and leaned into the open passenger-side window.

“Just another day in paradise.” He hastened to add, “Not that there’s anything wrong with that.”

“Well, wait another few weeks. Once the tourists start pouring into town, you’ll be wishing for a day like this, when you can cruise around town in your spiffy new official police-chief car and stop to chat with the locals.”

“Only way to stay in touch, kiddo.”

“Well, I admit I like the calm before the storm. I like to be able to close up shop at six and have the evenings to myself. I know it won’t last—and I’m grateful that my shop does so well. But it’s nice to have some quiet days to enjoy this glorious weather before the crowds arrive.” She stood to wave to the driver of a passing car. “So where’s the fiancée?”

“I dropped her off at BMI early this morning. She’s on her way to Montana to see her brother.” He glanced at his watch. “Actually, she should be arriving at his place anytime now.”

“Is this her brother the hermit?” The one I like to think of as Mountain Man?

Beck nodded. “She’s hoping to talk him into walking her down the aisle.”

“Your wedding’s in five weeks.” Vanessa frowned. “Isn’t she cutting it a bit close?”

“She already asked her other brother, Andy, and he’s on board. But she wants them both to give her away, since their dad died last year.”

“Well, I wish her luck with that.”

“Yeah, me, too. I offered to go with her, but she thought she’d have a better chance on her own. Mia doesn’t think he’s left his place for any length of time since their dad’s funeral. We’ll see.” He didn’t appear optimistic. “So where are you off to now?”

“I’m meeting Steffie for dinner.”

“I don’t think she’s closed up yet. There was a group in town this afternoon for a lecture over at the Historical Society. From the crowd gathered outside Steffie’s, I’d say they all stopped at her place for ice cream before getting back on their bus.”

“Thanks for the tip. I’ll walk on down and see if I can give her a hand.”

“You just want ice cream,” he teased, and put the car in drive.

“You know what I always say.” She stepped back onto the curb. “Eat dessert first.”

She waved good-bye as he pulled away, and glanced back at Bling, the front window dressing still on her mind. She mentally slapped herself on the forehead. Duh. The display should reflect the upcoming wedding. Pretty dresses and shoes to wear to the event. Flowers—maybe some terra-cotta pots planted with something colorful across the front of the window. Pans?ies, maybe. Vases of budding flowering cherry in the corners. Lots of white chiffon, puffed like clouds . . .

It was less than a ten-minute walk from Bling to Steffie Wyler’s ice-cream shop. Her arms swinging, Vanessa strolled along, marveling, as she always did, at the twists and turns her life had taken since she first arrived in St. Dennis. It was hard to believe that just three short years ago, she’d been destitute and exhausted mentally and physically from the stress of removing herself from a marriage that had started to go bad even before the petals had begun to drop from the yellow roses she’d carried on her wedding day. Even now, the mere sight of yellow roses could make her knees go weak.

That was then, she reminded herself sternly. This is now. No need to go back to that place and time. Keep the focus on all the good things that have happened since I came to St. Dennis.

Finding that she had a half brother—finding Beck—was probably the best thing that had ever happened to her. That he and his father, Hal Garrity, had welcomed her so warmly, had urged her to stay, and had offered to help her start up a business in a storefront that Hal owned just when St. Dennis was emerging as a tourist attraction . . . well, who could have foreseen all that happening?

Timing is everything, she reminded herself. Everyone knows that.

She waved through the window of Lola’s Café at Jimmy, one of Lola’s geriatric waiters, and passed Petals & Posies, the flower shop next door, where tall galvanized steel containers outside held long branches of blooming forsythia and pussy willow, and the windows held the eye with a rainbow display of cut tulips and daffodils.

Next to Petals & Posies, at the corner, was Cuppachino, where many of the townies gathered first thing in the morning for coffee, the latest gossip, and to watch the news on the big-screen TV that hung on the side wall before heading off to their respective mornings. Through the screened door, propped open to encourage the evening breeze to enter, Vanessa noticed Grace Sinclair, the owner and editor of the local weekly paper, the St. Dennis Gazette, at one of the front tables. She was deep in conversation with Amelia Vandergrift, the president of the garden club. Gathering tidbits for a piece on the upcoming tour, no doubt, to remind everyone to buy tickets to the event. Vanessa considered Grace, a white-haired septuagenarian with unlimited energy who knew everyone and everything, the town’s number one cheerleader. Secretly, Vanessa attributed half of what she’d learned about St. Dennis to Hal, and the other half to Grace Sinclair’s weekly editorials about the community.

She rounded the corner of Charles and Kelly’s Point Road, and moments later, passed the municipal building, with its new wing that housed the police department. She noted that Beck’s car had not yet returned to its designated parking space.

Probably out doing what he does best, she mused. Reassuring the locals that all is just skippy in St. Dennis.

At the end of the road, right where it T’d into the wooden boardwalk that ran next to the Bay, stood One Scoop or Two, the onetime crabber’s shanty Steffie Wyler had turned into a charming ice-cream parlor. Seeing the crowd gathered around the tables out front of the small structure, Vanessa quickened her step. She excused herself to those patrons waiting patiently in line, smiling as she walked around them and between the two freezer cases to grab an apron off the pegs that hung behind the cash register.

“I can help the next person in line,” Vanessa announced. She slipped on a pair of thin, clear plastic gloves as a pleasant white-haired gentleman stepped up to place his order.

“I owe you big-time, babe,” Steffie whispered in Vanessa’s ear on her way to the cash register.

“Yes, you do. And you’ll pay up.” Vanessa smiled and turned to the customer. “Sir, did you want the blackberry or the chocolate on the bottom?”

Thirty minutes and four dozen customers later, the crowd had been served and the last cone dipped. When the buses departed, Steffie sank into a chair at one of the small tables that stood along the outside wall.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"No matter what the genre, you're guaranteed a great [listen] with Stewart." —-Romantic Times

Customer Reviews

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Coming Home 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 109 reviews.
Heart2Heart More than 1 year ago
That's exactly what happened to Vanessa Keaton and Grady Shields the night of the pre-wedding party between Vanessa's brother, Beck and Grady's sister Mia. One look was all it took and both of them were hooked. Yet both of them vowed that this would go no further than being nice to one another during the week long wedding plans in St. Dennis along the Chesapeake Bay. Grady was trying to get over the loss of his wife Melissa and his brother Brendan who all worked for the FBI at one time. Grady now spends his time alone in the mountains of Montana trying to find a way to make his life work again. Vanessa Keaton is the owner of a shop called Bling in St. Dennis that sells all things girly, from accessories to clothes. She has vowed that she will never let another man into her life ever again and after two failed marriages, we can understand why not. Yet, something draws Grady and Vanessa together besides the festivities of the wedding between their families and something about both of their pasts is soon to bring them together in a very unexpected way. You'll need to read Coming Home by Mariah Stewart, the first in the Chesapeake Diaries series. I must admit I fell in love with all the people who live in St. Dennis besides Vanessa and Grady. There is Grace, who runs the town's local paper but herself has many secrets to hide, Beck the chief of police as well as Vanessa's brother who is getting married, Mia, her newest sister in law, and of course Steffie her best friend, who runs the busiest ice cream store in the town. I fell in love with the story behind this wonderful book and now can't wait to begin reading the sequel Home Again. I received this book, compliments of TLC Book Tours for my honest review. I must say this is a great summer read and would easily rate it 5 out of 5 stars. The characters are real and likable and you really get to know them through Mariah's writing style.
kimberouch More than 1 year ago
This was my first Mariah Stewart novel and won't be my last. She has a way of creating characters that makes you want to keep going. I read this book in two sittings because I couldn't put it down. Although we are in St. Dennis for Beck and Mia's wed...moreThis was my first Mariah Stewart novel and won't be my last. She has a way of creating characters that makes you want to keep going. I read this book in two sittings because I couldn't put it down. Although we are in St. Dennis for Beck and Mia's wedding, it is Grady and Vanessa's story we are involved in. Both have come from hard pasts and need to find the time to work out their troubles. The budding love story has all the bell and whistles of a fairy tale until Vanessa's boutique is broken into and trashed. St. Dennis is a sleepy quiet town that reels from the very personal crime. Vanessa does her best to do what she needs to do to stay on top of her life. Grady is trying to keep her safe so that he doesn't have anymore regrets in his life. The intrigue, love, and family keep the story fresh and exciting all the way to the end.
quaintinns More than 1 year ago
#1 in the Chesapeake Diaries Series – This is my favorite thus far (as not reading them in order). Grady Shield (former FBI agent-my favorite character) is living in solitude in Montana after the murder of his wife and comes to St Dennis for his sister’s wedding. Of course his sister has him secretly matched up with her best friend Vanessa, who owns Bling the boutique town (with a troubled past which is coming back to haunt her). Mix in a bad childhood, love spells, gossip, break ins, good friends, secrets from the past, weddings, horrible mother, stand in dad, and a budding romance! Reminds- me of writing style and series of Sherryl Woods, Susan Wiggs, and Debbie Macomber.
SAGE4AB More than 1 year ago
I enjoy reading anything that Mariah Stewart writes, especially her Chesapeake Diaries Series. Can't Wait for the next one!!!!!!
edith61 More than 1 year ago
This book was enjoyable and couldn't put it down. The following three are just as wonderful.
Karen Johnson More than 1 year ago
It took me a little time in the beginning of the book to figure out how the characters fit in together. Once I got where and how the characters fit in the story, the story really started moving and I did not want to put this book down. I love these series that continue for several books and this one is no exception. I already have purchased Book#2!
ShereadsALOT More than 1 year ago
This was the first book I've read by Mariah Stewart. I prefer to read books that are apart of a series. I love getting invested in the characters. The characters are very warm and welcoming. Mrs. Stewart did a great job of pulling you in. I read this book in about two days. I couldn't wait to find out what was going to happen next. This is a series that you will love.
Jlibn1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Mariah Stewart does it again! A romance that takes place in a small town when everyone. Comes together for a wedding. It was difficult at the beginning to determine who the main characters were, but as the story unfolded the many secondary characters were more interesting.
tipsister on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Coming Home, by Mariah Stewart, is a typical, yet enjoyable romance novel. Vanessa is a woman with a violent past who has made a new life for herself in a small town. She's found family, friends, and opened a business. Grady has his own past and is living alone in a remote area of Montana. When Grady travels to his sister's wedding, he meets Vanessa, sister of the groom. They circle around each other until Vanessa is targeted by someone from her past. They have to work together to survive. I did enjoy this novel a lot. I haven't had much patience for romance novels lately but I was pleasantly surprised by the likeable characters, the small town charm, and the promise of at least two more sequels. It's well written and worth a look.
Cats57 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a perfectly adequate romance as it contains almost all the elements that the genre requires but to call it romantic suspense would not do it justice. I found the plethora of characters annoying to keep straight and the tempo of the story to be painfully slow. It didn't engage me, make me laugh, shiver with apprehension or desire a cold shower for it's steaminess.A beach read yes...but not a keeper.
dyarington on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Coming Home was a nice little romance/mystery story. It was quite slow reading until just past the middle of the story. Then it held my attention. This is not a book that I shall remember. As my mother used to say,"It does not have enough meat to it." I doubt if I will seek out the previous or yet to be published books from this author.
jusme2 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This suspense/romance barely kept me interested, I longed for it to end.
adeptmagic on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is hard to characterize. It is far more romance than suspense even though the hero is a former FBI agent with a dark past and the heroine has her own scars (literal and figurative) that put her in danger. She's menaced in a couple of different ways, but the danger is never of the heart-pumping, nail-biting variety. And yet, even though there's the requisite happily ever after, this is not so much a romance, either, because the other relationships in the book (family, friendships) are just as important as the romance. If the romance weren't so prominent, you could almost classify this as women's fiction, but that doesn't work, either, because the happily ever after *is* so important to the book.OK, all that muddling stuff aside, the story here is quite sweet and definitely worth reading if you're a romance fan. Two damaged people who are slowly emerging from the messes of their pasts come together and begin to see a future. The setting is well-described, almost a character in itself, and all the secondary characters are fully developed.The only weaknesses of this book are that 1) it tends to get a bit repetitive and 2) it can be a bit on the sugary side. But it verges into those territories only rarely and they're easy enough to ignore.I'd begun to despair of Mariah Stewart after the last couple of Mercy Street novels, but she's definitely found her feet again here.
bookbeat on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It¿s been a while since I¿ve read any books by Mariah Stewart. After reading, Coming Home, I want to go back and read the books I¿ve missed; I enjoyed this book that much.I liked the characters, the interactions between them and the small town in the fictional St. Dennis, Maryland on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay. When the next book in the series comes out, I¿ll be rushing to the bookstore to get it ¿ can¿t wait to see what¿s been happening in St. Dennis and how everyone is doing.
readinggeek451 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A spin-off from Stewart's FBI series, featuring brother Grady. A light romance, with a crime sub-plot, but not enough to classify this as romantic suspense.Enjoyable but forgettable.
lrobe190 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Vanessa Keaton has made a life for herself in the small town of St. Dennis. She owns her own boutique and has put her two failed marriages behind her. When Grady Shields comes to town for his sister's wedding, sparks fly between Vanessa and Grady. When Vanessa's shop is vandalized she and Grady work to discover who from Vanessa's past wants to harm her.This is a light entertaining romance.
momgee on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Vaness Keaton has been living in St. Dennis. a small town on the Chesapeake, for three years now since she escaped an abusive marriage. She owns her own home and boutique; two things she thought she would never have. Life is finally okay thanks to meeting her half brother Beck and his father Hal who takes Vanessa under his wing and helps her regain a self of self- respect There is no one special in Vanessa's life and that's the way she plans to keep it. As she too well knows, there are no fairy tales out there. She has the emotional and physical scars to prove it.But now when her half brother Beck is getting married, his fiancee asks her to show her brother Grady around town during the week of pre-wedding festivities. Grady himself is still recovering from the death of his wife, Melissa, and has been living in a remote part of Montana after quitting the FBI. Despite their feelings about past hurts, Vanessa and Grady hit it off. When part of Vanessa's past comes back to haunt her in a very dangerous way, Grady and Vanessa discover how much they really do mean to each other. As Vanessa tells Grady, "sometimes you have to let go of the past for the sake of the future."This book is mostly a romance story, extremenly predictable though it is, the little bit of suspense and danger element helps to make the story more interesting. Stewart manages to bring the small town atmosphere of St. Dennis to life and peoples it with likeable and believable characters. The secondary thread of Vanessa's and Beck's troubled relationship with their mother, Maggie, gives the plot a little more depth. All in all, an enjoyable , quick read perfect for romance fans who are just looking for something light.
cal8769 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Grady Shields, ex FBI agent and self imposed recluse, is coming to St. Dennis for his sister's wedding. Little does he know that he will meet Vanessa, the beautiful sister of the groom. Overcoming a terrible past, she has made a life for herself. Can Grady protect her when her past comes back?Overall this was a pretty good book. I like romance/mysteries so this was right up my alley. Stewart developed the story well and had believable characters and situations. I'm not sure if this book is part of a series but the author wrote it like it was. She included a lot of background info, a lot of it seemed unnecessary. It's a pet peeve of mine when an author needs to 'explain' things instead of letting the story reveal it. This author did this some but not enough to make me put the book down. I liked that she didn't overemphasize the sex scenes. A little information can go a long way in my opinion on that matter. I will look for more books by this author and would recommend her to friends who like reading this genre of book.
MaisieD on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Coming Home, written by Mariah Stewart, is the first book in the new Chesapeake Diaries series.When I started to read the book the characters and details led me to believe there was a previous book...Last Words stars the main characters siblings.Vanessa's stepbrother, Beck, is marrying Mia. Mia's recluse brother, Grady, ex-FBI, is coming to the wedding. Vanessa and Grady meet at the rehearsal and immediately hit it off. At the same time Vanessa is being targeted...possibly by her abusive ex-husband. I really enjoyed the book and will definitely pick up the next book in the series, Home Again, when it is released in the fall of 2010.
VickiLN on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
After his wife¿s ismurdered, agent Grady Shields turned his back on the FBI and friends and moves to Montana to grieve for a love lost. Years later, he goes to St. Dennis, a peaceful town on the Chesapeake Bay, for his sisters wedding. Even though he says he isn¿t interested finding love agian, he can¿t ignore the sparks that fly when he meets Vanessa Keaton.In the past Vanessa made some very bad choices, but thinks coming to St. Dennis is the best decision she¿s ever made. She's opened a boutique and is loved by everyone she meets. Like Grady, she isn't looking for romance either, but feels herself drawn to him. When Vanessa¿s past catches up with her, she and Grady fight together to keep the past where it belongs, in the past, and find that love is what they both really want....and need.This was so well written that I felt like I was eavesdropping on a conversation. I felt that I was there with Grady and Vanessa, and grew to love them both. If you're a romance fan, check out this book!This is the first book by Mariah Stewart, and is the first in the Chesapeak Diaries series. Book two will be out in September and I can't wait to read it.*Thanks to Ballantine Books through Early Reviewers @LibraryThing for this copy*
cyncie on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A classic beach read, mystery/romance with lighthearted dialogue,family drama, and enough FBI characters and dysfunction to lend intrigue. This is part of a series interesting enough that you will want to buy the next book.
nasagirl on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This romance was a nice surprise to receive and review. The main characters at first glance couldn't be more different with loads of unresolved issues that seem unlikely to be overcome. However, Ms. Stewart weaves their motivation into an intriguing and entertaining story with many side threads like burglary, kidnapping, and a strained mother/daughter reconciliation brought about by a crazed killer. Loads of interesting characters and a satisfying ending leaving you wanting to follow these folks further. I recommend it!
ImBookingIt on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
My previous experience with Mariah Stewart has been with her romantic suspense novels. The (absolutely beautiful) pastel cover on this led me to expect something much more sedate. The cover copy left me unsure: "sister's wedding", "peaceful town" both go with the quieter story, "FBI", "victim again", "fight her demons" all led me to think there might be more of an excitement factor.The book was both, and they worked together very nicely for me.At its heart, Coming Home is a book about people in a small town. I started out writing that it was the characters that made the book work for me, but that isn't quite true. I liked Vanessa, and I found her story interesting, but she's not really going to stick with me. Same with Grady. He had interesting demons to fight, but he was in many ways a stock romance character leading man (although I did like his sense of humor with his sister).It was the town-- the collection of secondary characters-- that really pulled me in. Some of them will probably be getting their own books down the line, although Grace (the woman that retired from the local hotel to run the local paper) seems likely to keep to her observer role. There were just enough characters to be interesting without being overwhelming.And yes, there was suspense. There was a bad guy doing bad things, and several ex-FBI characters to go after the culprit. It's not a mystery, since there's not much time spent wondering who it is, but rather how to stop the danger.All in all, I enjoyed reading this book, and am looking forward to continuing with the series.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed reading this book!