After the death of her parents and after completing college, Kate Ellis returns to Hawaii where she was born to help her elderly aunt run a bed-and-breakfast on the island of Maui. Kate settles into being an island girl quite easily and knows the rule not to fall in love with a mainlander.
All her senses are turned topsy-turvy when mysterious Mark Smith checks into her inn. Kate feels an immediate and overwhelming attraction to Mark and is pretty sure the feeling is mutual. Yet Mark seems to pull away every time they get close and is very reluctant to share any personal details.
All too soon, Kate learns Mark is more commonly and crudely referred to as “Mark the Shark” and why he has come to the island, and possibly why he has been romancing her. Angry with herself, Kate refuses to speak to Mark and tries to ignore the continued passion between the two, now fueled by her anger. In addition, Kate has suddenly and irrationally become very fearful of heights, a fear she must face head on when she takes a temporary job after most of her inn is destroyed in a fire.
Stranger in Paradise has many good elements, a strong attraction between Kate and Mark, Mark’s intriguing nature and Kate’s new fear, all blended together with ancient island lore. Somehow these parts never seem to come together. Kate is a headstrong, fiercely independent young woman who is very protective of her family and her family’s heritage. Mark, on the other hand, is very ambitious and career driven and has to consciously step back from his work to remember there are human beings involved.
Kate’s seemingly irrational fear is the portend of things to come, but since heights are generally avoidable for Kate, there is little tension until she must go back to her old tour job and the route to which she is assigned is the one with the highest elevation and the most winding roads.
Despite its unevenness, Stranger in Paradise is a very readable book and readers will find themselves reluctant to put it down. A fair amount of heat between Kate and Mark helps carry along the plot and has readers hoping for a happily ever after in paradise.
--Jennifer Monahan Winberry