RITA Reader Challenge Review

RITA Reader Challenge: Summer at Seaside Cove by Jacquie D’Alessandro


Title: Summer at Seaside Cove
Author: Jacquie D'Alessandro
Publication Info: Berkley 2011
ISBN: 978-0425241493
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Book Cover This review was written by Karen Frank . This story was nominated in the Best Contemporary Single Title Romance category.

The summary: After Janie Newman's half sister Laurel steals her boyfriend, Jamie leaves New York and the humiliation behind for the island of Seaside Cove, North Carolina. But the cozy cottage she booked turns out to be a rundown bungalow. And she's not alone. Her drama-prone mother, angst- ridden niece and newly dumped Laurel all follow her down. With a cottage this crowded, will she ever have a chance at finding love again?

And here is Karen's review:

I gravitate toward the quirky-characters-in-a-small-town genre, so I was looking forward to reading this book. However, an ominous gong of doom sounded when I went to download it to my Nook.  Apparently I already owned this book.  Apparently I’d already read it.  I had no recollection of doing so.  Was this a sign of previously undiagnosed memory disorder? Of simply the sign of a boring book?

Well, neither, actually. When I re-read Summer at Seaside Cove , the plot came back to me quickly.  Even on the second read, it was enjoyable (and I will definitely read any sequels to it). I liked this book.

I just didn’t love it.

After discovering her boyfriend is cheating on her with her older (!) sister, restaurant manager Jamie Newman flees (with grumpy cat) to Seaside Cove to both repair her broken heart, and escape her overly dependent mother and niece. Once there, she discovers her vacation rental is not paradise, as advertised, but a hovel, complete with a leaky roof and a bag of rotten clams in the sink. The owner of the rental, Nick Trent, conveniently happens to be her next door neighbor (with friendly dog), and Jamie wastes no time letting him know how she feels about the false advertising and dead mollusks.

All this is a perfect sit-com set up for an “opposites-attract” love story.  For the first third of the book, the humor is situational, while Jamie and Nick trade “I-want-you/I-don’t-like-you” banter without doing much to change or advance either condition. To the book’s credit, as the story advances, they learn to like each other long before they act on the physical attraction, so by the time they fall into bed, the pay-off seems earned.

What really gets the story going though, is when Jamie’s relatives start descending upon her, one at a time (Mom; Mom’s lover; the niece; the man-stealing sister).  Jamie learns to establish much needed boundaries, and the women begin to finally work through the pain of Jaime’s father’s death.  I loved it when the women in the family rediscovered and began to appreciate each other for themselves.

What keeps this book from being instantly memorable, is that there isn’t one big overarching conflict driving the story forward.  Yes, Jamie and Nick clash instantly over the state of her rental, but that’s mostly due to a third party miscommunication. Nick quickly apologizes and gets to work on rectifying that situation. They have some relationship issues, much of it due to Nick being cautious about letting people get too close – but again, they acknowledge those issues and work past them. While I appreciated the maturity of how they approached their relationship, I didn’t feel much tension over whether things would work out for them, or felt like their problems seemed insurmountable.

I think the other quibble I have with this book is that there is more telling than showing.  As I mentioned, Seaside Cove is filled with quirky residents, although we don’t get to spend much time with those quirky residents.  While Jamie gets pulled into the small town life, and in spite of her wishes, ends up organizing the town’s major festival, much of this happens “off stage”.  For example, Nick returns from a few days out of town, and asks her what she did during that time, what followed was a page of dialog exposition of her telling him just that.  It concludes with, “The most fun I had was helping out at Oy Vey Mama Mia for three days…. It was an absolute blast.  Ira is absolutely hysterical – I don’t know when I’ve laughed so hard.”

I felt cheated by not being able to see that scene of her filling in at this restaurant, especially after having been told three times how much fun it was. As much as it’s important for characters to talk with each other and get to know each other, I felt like ratio of dialog to action was out of proportion.

There’s a great deal to like about this book.  The quirky setting, the emotionally mature characters, the banter, their anthropomorphic pets; are all great ingredients. Situations that are set up early pay off in unexpected ways, and the slowly growing emotional affection between the two leads – all work to the book’s advantage.  I like the “B – plot” where Jamie repairs her familial relations.  I could see where the author meant to go, in terms of a deeper, more heartfelt story than the initial set up, although it didn’t quite get there.

It’s a good read, but not a great one.

This book is available from Goodreads | Amazon | BN | Sony | Kobo .

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    HappyPiranha says:

    Like you, I thought the book was okay,  but not fantastic.  I was supremely annoyed at how much of a pushover Jamie was when her relatives kept showing up.  ‘Hi, sweetie, I know you’re going through a really tough time and need some alone time, but obviously you need to help me sort out my much more important problems.”  Really?  GTFO, leechy, selfish relative!

  2. 2

    Thank you for the great review. I was really curious about this book, as I love quirky small town contemporaries, but maybe I’ll prioritize it down the list a little, like behind the June book chat selection, BRING HIM HOME. I love angst, and SUMMER doesn’t sound all that angsty.

  3. 3
    snarkhunter says:

    I got this for my Kindle after reading this review. I liked it quite a bit, but the “quirky small town” angle did seem a bit forced. Here’s what I want to know, though: what has happened to the sequel, Paradise Found? It’s excerpted in the back, and it sounded promising, but the scheduled publication didn’t happen, and right now Amazon has a pub date of “2025” listed.

  4. 4

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