In the latest Bayberry Island romance from by New York Times bestselling author of The Sweetest Summer, it might take more than a magical mermaid statue to bring together a hard-headed Navy SEAL and the mysterious artist who’s loved him from afar...
Duncan Flynn long ago said goodbye to his hometown of Bayberry Island, Massachusetts, where a mermaid statue allegedly grants true love to the pure at heart. So when the injured Navy SEAL gets sent home—just in time to help his family prepare for the annual Mermaid Festival—he’s not in the mood to celebrate. Nor fall in love. But during a night run on the beach, a magnificently naked woman emerges from the surf who bears an uncanny resemblance to the mermaid in Fountain Square.
Adelena Silva’s otherworldly mermaid paintings have made her famous and wealthy, but Lena herself is a recluse—at least until Duncan Flynn comes home. She’s secretly loved him her whole life, and is determined not to let him get away again. But will revealing her truth win his heart, or cause Lena to lose him?
About the Author
Susan Donovan is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of dozens of novels, including The Sweetest Summer and Sea of Love, and a novella in Christmas on Main Street.
Read an Excerpt
Lena tossed her wallet into her canvas bag and exited the farmers’ market near the public dock. Her mind was on the painting she’d been tinkering with all morning and her sudden desire to make grilled eggplant for dinner, an urge that, unfortunately, required a trip to town. She breathed in the cacophony of smells to be found on a summer day during high-tourist season—the briny sea and ferryboat diesel fumes mixed with fried clams, boardwalk fries, pizza, and sunshine—and headed toward her car in the public parking lot. Out of nowhere, her body began to buzz with awareness. Lena looked up. And spotted him.
Duncan towered above most everyone else on Main Street. He walked at a steady pace, with a strong stride. He was about half a block from the water and headed right toward her.
Lena slipped under the awning of Frankie’s Fish-n-Chips, pulled a bistro chair into the shade, and sat with her back against the restaurant’s cedar-shingled wall. Her heart was beating like crazy! What was she—eleven years old? She took a deep breath and told herself to calm down and blend in with the dozen or so tourists dining al fresco. She slumped in the chair and covered the lower part of her face with her shopping bag.
A mother of two glared at Lena, moving her chair to act as a buffer between Lena and her offspring. Good grief! Since when did a woman with a tote full of eggplant look like a threat? Especially in a place where festival-week tourists dress like zombie pirates just to go out for ice cream?
From the shadows, Lena watched Duncan approach the very doorway she’d just exited. It gave her chills to think that if she’d dawdled near the squash only two extra minutes she would have run right into him!
She sighed, resting her chin on her tote, simply enjoying the sight of him. The first and most important thing she noticed was that he had come a long way in the month he’d been home. Her mother had told her that when Duncan first arrived, he’d had trouble walking. Today he seemed steady and sure of himself, even in a crowd. On closer inspection, Lena did detect a slight limp, but only because she was looking for it.
It wouldn’t be much longer before he was ready to return to work, and the thought of that squeezed her heart.
It was embarrassing, but Lena wasn’t just examining his gait. The truth was that she had never, and would never, know a man as crazy sexy as Duncan Flynn. The only reason she wasn’t gawking in shock was because she’d caught a glimpse of Duncan last year during festival week, when she had stopped by the Safe Haven to pick up her mother. Duncan had been coming out the kitchen door with Clancy, and the two of them had been laughing. Lena had carefully backed away from the bed-and-breakfast so as not to draw attention to her car. She had noticed her hands were shaking.
“He looks like a movie star nowadays, doesn’t he?” her mother had commented.
Lena hadn’t answered.
Her mother had turned in the seat to look at her. “Don’t you think he looks like a movie star, menina?”
Lena had kept her eyes on the road.
“Who are you talking about, Mother?”
Mellie had laughed all the way to the house.
Duncan was thirty-four now, six foot two, hard and chiseled and maybe just slightly leaner than she recalled him being the year before. Despite his injuries, he remained a study in masculine lines and motion, sleek and in control. It was no wonder a group of women had just stopped in their tracks and stared as he walked by.
He was that kind of gorgeous.
When Duncan disappeared into the market, Lena felt her body relax. There was no denying it. She was a coward. The reason she hadn’t run into Duncan in the month he’d been home was because she was afraid to. She had waited till the very end to stop by Frasier’s dinner party, in the hopes that Duncan would have already called it a night.
And just now she’d run away from him.
Lena gathered her tote and wound her way through the bistro tables, once again headed toward the parking lot. She longed to spend time with him, to hear him laugh and see him smile, but the truth was, she was too afraid to risk getting her bubble popped.
What if he was nothing like she’d built him up to be all these years? What if he was not the man of her imagination? What if she’d been wrong so long ago and had continued to be wrong every year since?
What if Duncan was not her one and only?
Duncan sat at the desk in his room at the Safe Haven, the only light coming from his laptop, his whole body nothing but a ball of frustration. He couldn’t keep putting this off. Duncan placed his fingers on the keys and forced himself to start writing.
Dear Nestor and Beth,
I think of you both every day, and I know I’ll be visiting you in San Diego soon. I’m headed to Little Creek next week to meet with Capt. Sinclair, my first official step toward getting back to active duty. I still have a ways to go before I can even think of passing my physical screening and dive medical, but I’m running again, and hope to start swimming in the choppy Atlantic soon. (No pansy pools for me!) As Justin used to say—“It ain’t a good swim unless you damn near drown.”
Duncan stopped typing. Would the Jaramillos want old jokes from their dead son? Would they hear Justin’s voice in their heads and laugh with him, or would they think Duncan was being flippant about death? Their only child’s death.
He could change it later. Right now he needed to keep typing. It had been two months since the Jaramillos had come to visit him on the rehab unit at Walter Reed, and he hadn’t yet reached out to them. That was unacceptable.
As I continue to get stronger, my memories of the ambush become clearer. I believe it is my responsibility to share with you some of the details of that night, not because I want to cause you additional suffering, but because it is my duty, as Justin’s best friend and teammate, to share everything I know. I realize the Navy has given you an official report, but I am the only man on earth who can tell you about the last seconds of your son’s life. It was a promise we made to each other during Hell Week, when we both knew we would be among those going through. We said that if anything ever happened to one of us and the other survived, we would be the eyes and ears for our families. I am not a writer, but I will do my best to help bring you closure.
Duncan paused, his trembling fingers resting above the keyboard. He had to keep going. He owed them this.
Justin was on point for our eight-man insertion team that night. He never flinched, never hesitated. Your son was the most courageous man I’ve ever known, and he remained so all the way through the last seconds of his life. Even when he knew he was facing death, his concern was for his team.
We were dropped in a godforsaken stretch of rocky hills in the Middle of Nowhere, Kandahar Province. Our orders were to stake out a single-story shack that intel indicated was the hiding place of one of the region’s high-value terrorist targets. We’d been stalking him for six months. So with night-vision binocs, we lay on our bellies in the rocks until we could verify that the structure was occupied and our target was on the premises. We got the order from base to execute the mission, which was to take the target alive and kill his bodyguards and lower-level soldiers.
All these months later, we know the target had been tipped off and escaped via an underground tunnel—but not before the structure was rigged to explode upon our entrance.
I will never forget how it unfolded. Justin signaled for me to cover the rest of the squad while he took the front door with Mike and Scotty. He sent Terrence to the back, Paul and Jax around to the sides, and Simon, who was running coms, remained stationary behind a boulder just thirty feet from the structure.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wondered why Justin made that last-minute change to the mission profile and put me where he did. I should have been at his side, right there at the front door when they blew the lock and rammed it in.
But I was crouched behind an old burned-out Jeep parked about a hundred feet from the front door. I monitored the windows through my night-vision rifle sight, scanning back and forth, three windows in all. But I saw no movement. And just like that, a sick feeling flashed through me.
It was over in a split second. Everything happened at once—they popped the door; a tiny pinprick of red light flashed three times in the darkness; Justin screamed, “Get down!” A rolling wall of pressure and heat smacked me and sent me flying. The force of the explosion lifted the vehicle up in the air and tossed it on top of me. I was trapped under the weight, flames everywhere, debris flying over my head. I could not move. I strained and pulled, but I was trapped. I realized my skin was on fire under my vest. The pain in my left leg was brutal. But I knew it was my duty to find anyone alive from my team and get them out.
But I didn’t. I couldn’t. I failed Justin and all of my brothers and I’m sorry.
Duncan stared at his hands on the keys. Why were they covered in blood?
I’m trapped. Trapped. Trapped. Stinging pain. The metal taste of blood in my mouth. Still hearing shit hitting the ground in the distance. And then the faint sound of my name being called . . . “Flynn . . . Jesus, Flynn.” And then everything went silent . . . time passed . . . hours . . . Then there was the sound of the helo. Medics handling me. Shouting and screaming. A tourniquet on my leg and burn pads on my side. I kept asking, “Where are they? Where are they? Who survived?” And then nothing . . . not until I woke up in a recovery room in Germany.
Duncan pushed himself from the desk chair, sweat pooling in the hollow of his collarbones. He glanced outside—dark. How long had he been sitting there staring at the laptop screen, the words flowing in his head but not on the keyboard? It didn’t matter. He needed to get out of that room and get some air.
He laced up his running shoes and headed down the back steps to the kitchen, hoping to hell he didn’t run into any of the bed-and-breakfast’s guests. The place was filled to capacity with couples and families and would remain that way until fall.
Duncan moved without making a sound, down three flights of stairs, through the kitchen, out the side door, across the lawn, and down the beach access steps. His feet hit the sand. He jogged to the water’s edge, finding that sweet spot of hardened sand, not wet enough to collapse beneath his weight but not so loose that he couldn’t get traction. And he took off.
Within minutes, the rush of sea air into his lungs had cleared his mind. He told himself he was a world away from the blast, the blood, the pain, and the cries of his dying friend. That’s whose voice he heard. There was no question—Justin called out to him just before he died.
And Duncan had failed him.
He ran, directing his awareness down, down into his body, feeling the miraculous ease of movement he had that night. He decided to shoot for three miles, halfway down the public beach and back, which would be his longest run to date. Finally, all the hard work was paying off.
Duncan listened to the rhythmic thump of his stride on the sand, his perfectly timed breath, and felt the salty seawater spray against his face.
A gaggle of junior high school girls lounged on beach towels, smoking cigarettes and looking for trouble. Duncan had a hard time understanding how parents could let girls that age go free range—it never ended well. He would never allow Serena or Christina to behave like that.
He ran right past them.
“Hey! We were talking to you, Gramps!” The girls burst out into a fit of giggles just before one of them said, “I don’t care how old he is—he is hot!”
Duncan chuckled to himself, keeping his focus on his run, which was a challenge since the beach was a teenage wasteland that night. He smelled pot about every ten yards. There were dozens of illegal beach fires and as many parties, with kids making out on blankets and beer cans clattering in trash bags. Everything from Latin dance music to pop country to hard-core rap was broadcast from portable speakers, so loud it could be heard over the roar of the sea. Duncan almost tripped over a lip-locked couple rolling around in the surf like they were gunning for a remake of From Here to Eternity.
He kept on, in search of silence and privacy, but it was nowhere to be found on the public beach. He slowed his run as he neared a newly built chain-link fence. A large white metal sign read, no trespassing. private beach. security cameras. A quick scan of the surroundings revealed that no such cameras existed, so Duncan hopped the fence. While suspended in the air, an instant before his feet hit the sand, he realized where he was. This was old Harry Rosterveen’s land, now Adelena Silva’s property, and she’d given it the ridiculous name of Moondance Beach. Too bad Sea Spray was already taken.
Though his only near-contact with her had been the night of Da’s ill-fated birthday dinner, she’d pop into his thoughts every now and then. How could she not? Her paintings were all over the Safe Haven. Once his mother discovered Duncan had removed that witchy-woman mermaid portrait from his room, she went and found him another one—even bigger and with even more naked flesh!—and slapped that sucker right up over the mantelpiece. “Maybe you’ll like this one better,” she said.
Since Lena made her living painting mermaids, it was a sure bet she was just as flaky as his ma, but that didn’t mean she’d shoot Duncan for trespassing. Shy, artistic chicks weren’t usually the type to carry rifles.
After about ten more minutes of running, the exhaustion caught up to him. He’d run as far as he’d planned but had to get all the way back. So he slowed to a walk, waited for his pulse to return to normal, then plopped down in the sand for a stretch and a rest.
As much as he disliked them, he couldn’t really blame the tourists for coming here. Bayberry Island was a pretty place, and though he’d traveled most of Asia, Europe, and North and South America, he’d seen none prettier. Duncan lay back, tucked his arms behind his head, and indulged in a little stargazing. It was a perfect spot for it, with very little light pollution and a new moon. He could see the cloudy sweep of the Milky Way and a fiercely bright Jupiter taking center stage. The Big and Little Dippers hung suspended overhead. And suddenly, a meteor shower burst across the sky, shooting out from the constellation Aquarius and arcing overhead, flashing and diminishing as it dipped below the northwest horizon line.
And that’s when he noticed something moving.
Duncan’s gaze shot to the water, where he saw a great swish of a tail breaking the surface not twenty yards from shore. What was it—a dolphin? He blinked. Waited. Nothing. Wait. It hadn’t been a tail at all—the head and shoulders of a person now appeared above the waterline. His instinct was to jump into the surf and carry out a rescue, but the swimmer was in no obvious distress. Something told him to be still. To wait and observe. So in stunned silence, Duncan watched a form rise slowly from the surf. He blinked again. Okay. He had to be hallucinating. It had happened to him once in the smothering heat of Afghanistan, so why not here and now? Maybe he had pushed himself too hard.
Without making a sound, Duncan flattened himself into the sand, disappearing, remaining perfectly still while he stared in disbelief. This was better than any hallucination. Hell, it was better than any wet dream he’d ever had.
Not twenty feet away, a woman had materialized. She was gloriously naked, her pale skin gleaming in the starlight, a stream of dark hair flipped over her left shoulder and cupping a breast. As she continued to rise from the water, the rest of her loveliness was revealed. Duncan saw a slim waist, flared hips, and a dark vee between a set of perfect thighs.
He stopped breathing. He willed himself to be invisible. And she walked right past him, so slowly it was like she was in a dream state. That was when he saw her face in profile—lovely, delicate, and somehow bold. That was a strong woman. But who was she?
Could this vision be Adelena Silva, Mellie’s daughter? It was her beach, after all. But when had that timid little squirt become a mesmerizingly gorgeous woman? Duncan squeezed his eyes shut, telling himself he had to be confused. Sure, the babe who’d just come out of the water reminded him of someone—something, really. A moment, maybe. A fleeting sensation. And though he couldn’t quite put his finger on why she seemed familiar, he was certain she wasn’t Adelena.
Duncan opened his eyes. He watched her as she continued down the beach, his brain now on high alert. Pay attention, it said. Then he saw it—the feminine curve of her calf and the daintiness of her ankle. Put a frilly little sandal on it, and that was the leg he’d seen in the dining room of the Safe Haven.
Duncan waited until she was far enough up the beach that he could make his exit. Because he had been lying still for so long, tensed up and on alert, he had become quite stiff. He grunted as he pushed himself from the sand, somehow got himself over the fence, and headed down Safe Haven Beach. He jogged the three miles back to the bed-and-breakfast, his mind racing as fast as his heart.
“Gather ’round, ye maids.” Mona paused, swallowing hard as she blinked back tears. Oh, of all the ridiculous things! Here it was, three weeks before the festival, and she suddenly doubted her ability to step into the role of president of the Bayberry Island Mermaid Society. She’d held the job for forty years, for goodness’ sake, and she could conduct their rites in her sleep. Just because she’d found a suitable replacement and had finally retired last year didn’t mean she’d lost her knowledge and experience. She needed to calm herself.
Mona took a steadying breath and joined the sacred circle along with her friends. “O, Great Mermaid. Hear this plea of pure heart.”
The ladies gazed up at the face of the bronze goddess, who began to glow in the first hint of morning light. Eight female voices said in unison, “Hear this plea of pure heart.”
Mona continued. “O, Great Mermaid! We are twenty-one days away from our celebration of your power and grace. Your followers are already arriving. Bless the pilgrims who come to pay their respects. Bless the travelers who return again and those who come for the first time. Hear the pleas of those who yearn for their heart-mate.”
The women responded together. “Hear them.”
“Help them remain open to the mystery of the sea.”
“Ease their resistance to true love.”
“Allow . . .” Mona felt her eyes begin to sting. She sniffed. “Allow the water of love to flow through the hearts of all who come here.”
“Light their way to—” Mona had to stop. She felt as if she were about to burst into tears.
“You okay, Mona?” Polly Estherhausen twisted the tip of her flip-flop back and forth, extinguishing her cigarette butt on the brickwork of Fountain Square. “Would you like one of us to take over?”
As soon as the question escaped Polly’s mouth, she realized how insulting it had sounded. She raised her shoulders and winced. “Oops.”
No one was gazing at the mermaid now—they were all glaring at Polly.
“I’m sorry, okay?”
“I think we need to do some kind of sensitivity training. You know, as a group.” Abigail Foster peered through the pale pink light into the faces of the eight members present. “Should we take a vote?”
“Sensitivity?” Izzy McCracken seemed puzzled. “I think we’re all plenty sensitive as it is. I mean, I suffer from gluten sensitivity. And I know Barbara can’t use those kitchen gloves because of that stuff . . . Oh, what’s that called, again? You know, what condoms are made of?”
“Latex?” Barbara Butcher offered.
“I have sensitive skin.” Layla O’Brien seemed happy to join the conversation. “Every brand of sunscreen I’ve tried breaks me out.”
“And that’s not even counting emotional sensitivity,” Izzy added. “I cry every time that Folgers commercial comes on. You know the one I’m talking about.”
“Oh, for the love of all that’s holy.” Polly pushed her wig back into place and rested her fists on the waistband of her spandex mermaid tail. “Just say it, Abigail. You don’t want to fix our group. You want to fix me! Last fall I needed anger management. Last festival week you wanted me to stop using the F word. Last winter you told me I needed to sit under a full-spectrum sunlamp because I become a raging bitch after every Thanksgiving, like clockwork.”
Abigail crossed her arms under her coconuts. “Your mood swings are more accurate than the TV Guide, Polly.”
“That’s a symptom of menopause, you know,” Izzy offered. “But that ended forever ago for you, didn’t it, Polly?”
“I wish Darinda were still here.” Mona couldn’t believe she’d said that aloud! Tentatively, she raised her eyes to see each of her fellow mermaids cringing with guilt. She had not intended to take a passive-aggressive jab at them. It wasn’t her preferred way of dealing with conflict, but she was clearly off-balance that morning. “I apologize,” she told her friends.
“No.” Barbara approached Mona and took her hands in hers. “We are the ones who are sorry. We let you down, Mona. You finally got a break from serving as president, and then Darinda up and quits.”
“It wasn’t like she wanted her mother to break her hip.” Izzy’s cheeks flushed. “She had no choice but to move back to the mainland. It’s what any of us would have done.”
“Yes, but not a single one of us offered to serve out the rest of Darinda’s term.” Abigail pursed her lips. “We just assumed Mona would do it.”
“And that wasn’t right.” Barbara squeezed Mona’s hands tighter. “One of us should have stepped up. You’ve carried this organization for nearly half a century, and you should be allowed to retire.”
“She’s right!” Layla scanned the faces of the other mermaids for support. “She has her grandbabies now, and Duncan is home, and then there’s the Frasier issue.”
“He’s not still dating Sally, is he?”
Polly shook her head at Abigail. “Open mouth, insert fin.”
Everyone got quiet. The only sound to be heard was the tinkling of the fountain, the cries of seagulls, and the distant whisper of the ocean. Mona wandered over to a bench and sat down, suddenly more exhausted than she had a right to be. The other mermaids followed, unnaturally silent, finding places to sit or stand near Mona.
“Have you talked to him since his birthday?”
Mona chuckled at Abigail’s question. “No.”
“Is he still calling you?”
Mona shrugged. “Calls, flowers . . . He even wrote me a ridiculous poem about sea spray and mermaids and shoved it under my front door.”
Polly nearly choked. “A whaaaat?”
“My question is, why all of a sudden? I think it’s because he embarrassed himself in front of the family with the whole Sally thing,” Mona said.
“Ha! He should be embarrassed! What an ass!”
Mona continued. “Honestly, I think our marriage is beyond repair. I’ve been thinking I should call a lawyer later this week and file for divorce—three years is a long time to be stuck in limbo.”
“I know what you mean!” Layla smacked her palms against her spandex-covered thighs. “I was stuck in Lubbock with my ex for three years and I nearly lost my mind!”
“We will be with you every step of the way, Mona.”
Everyone agreed with Barbara.
“And Duncan? Is everything all right with him?”
Mona put on a brave smile. “He’s great. I believe he’s going to make it back to active duty. It’s been remarkable to watch how focused and determined he is, and I’m happy for him.” She paused, careful to put a lid on her disappointment. “Really—I am. I am happy whenever my children are happy. I just wish that he would have discovered something—someone—worth staying for.”
“Oh, no!” Izzy slapped a hand over a coconut. “He can’t go!”
Mona sighed. “We gave it our best shot.”
“Lena’s painting . . .?” Barbara didn’t have to finish her question.
Mona shook her head. “I replaced it with another one and he took that one down, too. Number three is in there now, covered with a beach towel. He says they give him headaches.”
“Aha!” Abigail nodded knowingly. “He is not completely immune, then. Maybe there’s still time.”
“No.” Mona placed a hand along the side of her cheek, rubbing her temple. “Neither of them are in the right place. Duncan is already gone to Afghanistan, if not in body then in spirit. Lena has gotten lost in her art—I’m not sure how much of that magical little girl still lives inside her—and she’s shown no interest in him at all. It’s just not working.”
“But they are each other’s heart-mate!” Izzy began crying, pulling a tissue from her shell to blow her nose. “Ever since they were children! It’s the truest of true loves!” Izzy appeared panicked. “We’ve got to stop Duncan from leaving!”
Mona shook her head. “He is blind, and she will not make the first move. This has all been for nothing.”
“I don’t know what to believe anymore,” Mona said, hearing the despair in her own voice. “Sometimes I look back on the last forty years and wonder if I was a fool to spend so much of my life in the service of love.”
Polly struck a match on the park bench and lit another cigarette. She took a puff, blew the smoke over her shoulder, and lowered her chin. “I’m just going to spit this out—all right, girls? I’m gonna be blunt, and I might offend some of you.”
Abigail feigned shock. “Say it isn’t so!”
Polly ignored her. “The writing’s on the wall, maids. We’re old. We’re cranky. We’ve got grandkids and wayward husbands and a whole range of illnesses—hell, even our bowels are irritable! We’ve hit a dead end.” She took a drag on her cigarette. “We’ve tried for years to get somebody—anybody—under the age of forty to join our society, but our recruiting efforts have failed. Who wants to hang out with a bunch of whiny old hags in mermaid outfits? We’re a throwback to another time and place. We’re irrelevant.”
“Absolutely not!” Abigail stomped her Easy Spirit walking shoe onto the bricks. “Who will coordinate the festival? Who will register Island Day vendors and hold auditions for the children’s play? Who will decorate for the Mermaid Ball?”
Barbara shrugged. “This thing is way bigger than just us nowadays. The Chamber of Commerce and the festival board of directors run things nowadays. They don’t need us anymore.”
“But we are the festival!” Abigail seemed shocked that no one was taking her side. “If we disappear, who will testify to the power and mystery of the Great Mermaid? Without her—without the heart and soul of the legend—then what’s it all for?”
Everyone lowered their heads.
“Let’s face it,” Polly said, her voice just above a whisper. “None of us was even willing to serve as temporary president when Darinda left. Rowan, Annie, and Evelyn have repeatedly refused to consider joining—hell, Rowan and Annie have made fun of us since they were kids! There isn’t a soul on earth to lead the next generation of mermaids!”
No one had a comeback for Polly. Layla used the back of her wrist to wipe away tears. Izzy stared down at her Birkenstocks. Mona sat on the bench, watching the pale sunlight hit the faces of the Mermaid Society members the way it had for one hundred and twenty-seven years.
Was Polly right? Was this really the end?
The Great Mermaid stared out to sea, as stoic and unchanged as the day she was unveiled. She never grew old. She never doubted herself in the face of change. But she was made of bronze, of course—not flesh and blood—and though she might possess mystical knowledge of true love, she would never know the human heartache associated with losing it.
“Polly is right,” Mona said. “Without some kind of miracle, the Bayberry Island Mermaid Society is dead in the water.”
Excerpted from "Moondance Beach"
Copyright © 2015 Susan Donovan.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
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.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I have mixed feelings about this book. I liked Lena's character but I was a little bit concerned with the way she's been pining after Duncan all these years. He treated her like sh*t, dismissed her friendship as teenagers and completely forgets about her for years. Even when he's at home healing as an adult, Duncan still treats her poorly and all Lena can say is that he's her one and only, she loves him but he doesn't know it...blah blah blah. I literally wanted to shake some sense into this poor girl. Duncan is at home recovering from an explosion that wiped out his entire unit leaving him with a bad case of survivor's guilt. He vaguely remembers Lena, but thinks she's hot. Ugh. He’s always so stoic and unbending in every interaction. I didn't like Duncan at all and I think Lena could do so much better. But she's a glutton for punishment, and so am I because I had to finish the book hoping that my opinion of Duncan would change. It did not. I'm glad though that we did get closure on Fraiser and Mona's side storyline. That's Duncan, Clancy and Rowan's parents. I was also a little sad that there wasn't much more on what happened to the Mermaid Society. Is there going to be another book? And if so, who'd star in it? Inquiring minds want to know! Overall, it was a so-so read. I really wished I'd liked it more. ***I was gifted an eBook copy from the publisher via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review. All conclusions reached are my own***
Moondance Beach by Susan Donovan is the 3rd book in her Bayberry Island series. This is my first book by Donovan, and it will not be my last. I loved Moondance Beach, and now I have to go back and read the first two books of this series. This book does read very well as a standalone, as you learn about the earlier couples, but if you have the chance to start at the beginning, it probably is more fun to do so. The backdrop of this series is Bayberry Island, where there is a mermaid statue that supposedly grants true love. The older women in town have their own mermaid committee and an annual Mermaid Festival, which they promote heavily, especially during tourist season. Duncan Flynn has come home to recuperate from severe injuries he incurred as a Navy Seal. Duncan is a life time Seal, and pushes himself over and above to heal and go back to his duties. Duncan hates being in Bayberry Island, even if it is nice to see his family. As he runs on the beach late one night, he sees a naked woman come out of the waters, and swears she has a tail (like a mermaid). Adelena (Lena) is our heroine, and has secretly loved Duncan since she was a child. But Lena is now all grown up, and a famous wealthy artist, who watches Duncan from afar, telling no one how she still loves him. Lena knowing Duncan is home for now, refuses to see him, since she feels he would need to come to find her, especially after all these years. Duncan accidently does come across Lena, and is shocked that this beautiful woman is the girl who followed him everywhere when they were kids. Duncan fights his attraction to Lena, since he is leaving town as soon as he is able. Knowing that he hurt her years before when he would ignore her as a kid, he doesn’t plan on hurting her again. But again, the chemistry between them is scorching, and they both succumb to their lust for each other. What follows is a nice steamy romance that is destined to be short lived, as they both know Duncan will never stay home at Bayberry Island. The Flynn family does their best to push them together, especially Duncan’s mom, who prays the mermaid legend will avail. Will Duncan leave Lena and break both of their hearts? Can he get over the horrid memories of when he was injured and lost his friends? I enjoyed this story so much that I could not put it down. As much as I loved Duncan, I ended up loving Lena even more. She was such a great heroine; smart, savvy, strong, sensual, loving, independent and talented. I loved the entire Flynn family and enjoyed all the camaraderie between them. This is pure romance, with a great couple and wonderful secondary characters. Susan Donovan has now been added to my must reads.
This was a wonderful story. I need to read the other books, this one was to good to put down. I enjoyed the story and to have such a wonderful couple come together. She always knew he was the one from when they were growing up and he just thought of her as the pesky girl that followed him around. She becomes a famous artist and he becomes a decorated Navy SEAL. He comes to heal from bad injuries and the loss of his team and friends and she is there getting ready for a show and paint. The Mermaid Festival will be full swing and there is something in the air that helps couples find love. And it has been there all along he just doesn't want to accept, but she waits and he figures it out and make both mom's very happy. Of course there is the family members who are very much involved in their own ways. Wonderful story