Friday, September 15, 2017

Review: Cocoa Beach


Cocoa Beach
Beatriz Williams
Published June 27, 2017
Burdened by a dark family secret, Virginia Fortescue flees her oppressive home in New York City for the battlefields of World War I France. Driving an ambulance for the Red Cross, she meets a charismatic British army surgeon whose persistent charm opens her heart to the possibility of love. As the war rages, Virginia falls into a passionate affair with the dashing Captain Simon Fitzwilliam, only to discover that his past has its own dark secrets—secrets that will damage their eventual marriage and propel her back across the Atlantic to the sister and father she’d left behind.

Five years later, in the early days of Prohibition, the newly widowed Virginia Fitzwilliam arrives in the tropical boomtown of Cocoa Beach, Florida, to settle her husband’s estate. Despite the evidence, Virginia does not believe Simon perished in the fire that destroyed the seaside home he built for her and their young daughter. Separated from her husband since the early days of their marriage, the headstrong Virginia plans to uncover the truth, for the sake of the daughter Simon has never met.

Simon’s brother and sister welcome her with open arms and introduce her to a dazzling new world of citrus groves, white beaches, bootleggers, and Prohibition agents. But Virginia senses a predatory presence lurking beneath the irresistible, hedonistic surface of this coastal oasis. The more she learns about Simon and his mysterious business interests, the more she fears that the dangers surrounding Simon now threaten her and their daughter’s life as well. - from Goodreads
Beatriz Williams is one of my go-to authors, so I eagerly snatched up her latest book, Cocoa Beach.  Taking a briefly-mentioned character from a previous novel, Williams has crafted a story of love, lies, and betrayal.

To escape her life in New York, Virginia Fortescue heads to France to become an ambulance driver in WWI, where she meets Simon Fitzwilliam, a charming British doctor.  Soon after they marry, though, Virginia discovers that Simon has lied to her about many things, and she flees back to the United States.  A couple years later, she is notified that Simon has died in a house fire in Florida and has left his entire estate to her.  When she goes to Florida to settle his affairs, she is confronted with a danger she never saw coming.

The story is told in a dual narrative, both from Virginia's point of view, with the first showing her meeting and marrying Simon and the second showing her time in Florida.  Sometimes it was hard to believe that it was the same character in both narratives; the younger Virginia is naïve, falling head over heels for the duplicitous Simon.  The older Virginia is a take-charge, no-nonsense mother.

I disliked Simon's character from the beginning.  Although he may come across as charming, I found him to be smarmy in the flashback chapters.  He's the type of man that acts first and apologizes later; he didn't seem sincere, and he lied to Virginia about so many things.  I didn't blame her when she bolted just days after their wedding.  He tried to make things right by moving to Florida and starting a business to provide for his family, but really, he ended up putting Virginia and her daughter in danger because of the highly illegal rum-running he got involved in.  Although he was maybe a bit redeemed by the actions of other characters, particularly his brother Samuel, I never had a good feeling about him.

The story moved at a slow pace and some of the writing was overly poetic.  Things ramped up a bit at the end, when Virginia discovers that Simon's siblings haven't been truthful with her, and there is sort of an underlying tension throughout the novel, like when you feel like someone is watching you.  I've been waiting for Beatriz Williams to dazzle me again like she did with her earlier novels; however, this didn't do it for me, and I was especially disappointed with where Virginia wound up in the end.

3 stars

12 comments:

  1. Sorry to hear this wasn't the read you hoped it would be. I've not read anything by Beatriz Williams yet, but it sounds like maybe I should try one of her other books when I do. Great review though!

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    1. Her earlier novels are SO good. The more recent ones have felt maybe a bit rushed? I think she's released 3 books in the last 2 years.

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  2. Aww, that's always the worst when you don't like a book by one of your go-to authors. :( From your description of Simon, though, I don't think I'd like him that much either. He seems super slimy. Thanks for the honest review! :)

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    1. Yeah, I just wanted to shake Virginia - it was so infuriating that she couldn't see through his lies!

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  3. I am not sure that I have ever read a book with a WWI setting. It sounds like it has such a great concept. I hope that you enjoy your next book a little bit more. ;)

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  4. I love that Virginia begins the book as an ambulance driver -- For a female character in that era, I thought that was an inspired choice. Which is why it's disappointing the book doesn't seem to right be her in the end ☹️

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    1. I know! She grows so much during the book, and I was just cringing at the epilogue.

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  5. I like the sound of this book so much. Just too bad you didn't enjoy it a little more.

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  6. That cover is so pretty though! I hate that this one wasn't what you hoped it would be!

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I'm so glad you stopped by, and I would love to hear your thoughts! Comments are always greatly appreciated!