The latest installment in Sue Civil-Brown's "Paradise Beach" stories has arrived and I wish it had not. I'm tired of the Machiavellian twists senior citizen Mary Todd winds around her friends and neighbors. Instead of funny, most of the comedy is silly and, in a couple of cases, distasteful. So much time is spent on the twists that the development of the romance is choppy.
Richard Wesley III (Rich) is Mary Todd's lawyer and friend. He is trying to defend her in court against her money-grubbing nephew, Linus Todd, who is trying to have Mary declared incompetent. Rich's biggest challenge is that Mary refuses to testify on her own behalf and has made sure that most of her friends do not know about the hearing. Because of the stunt Mary engineered in the previous book involving a bombing raid on Paradise Beach, the judge declares her incompetent and gives her greedy nephew control of her extensive assets.
Erin Kelly is one of the few friends Mary allows to attend the hearing. She is furious that Mary loses and blames it all on Rich. She decides that she has to do something as sneaky as her mentor, Mary, would do because Erin does not really think Rich can handle it. Since Linus wants to sell Mary's prime beachfront land to a developer, Erin convinces an actor friend to visit the town and portray a mob-type character interested in developing the land. Her hope is that news of possible mob interest in the island will interfere with Linus' plans, giving her time to get Mary out of her depression. Naturally, the plan snowballs into trouble very quickly.
Erin comes across as a real shrew from the start. She tears into Rich after the hearing and again the next time she sees him. She is attracted to him, but blows hot and cold about a relationship. Her yes-no, yes-no responses to him are based on past disappointments that are vaguely described and put her in the "wronged before, don't trust men" model.
Rich is the only character I actually liked. He cares for Mary and is a lawyer who believes in what he does. He thinks that Erin is beautiful and magnificent when she is in a temper and lets her attacks go right over his head. His sense of humor and fun add to his attractiveness.
Their big love scene is pretty hot, but odd. It starts out with altered Dr. Seuss rhymes and proceeds through a number of pirate references. Most of the language is overblown and silly.
Several characters from the previous books appear including the loudly dressed mayor, Mary's long-time suitor, Ted, and Colonel Albermarle's House Guards. New oddballs appear including Erin's vampish younger sister (who has her own romance) and Pete, a man from Mary's far past. We do learn more about Mary's past through a conversation between Mary and Pete.
Several scenes could have easily been excluded. One in particular involves a group of local men discussing the possible mob infiltration of the town. It contains far too much information about how chilidogs and beer affect the men's digestive systems. I believe that it was meant to be funny but instead it was nauseating.
I've read all of the previous Paradise Beach stories. The earlier ones were enjoyable, funny stories about a quirky town with people who seem to care about each other. It is now time to stop visiting because the current portrayal of the town describes it as a place where gossip is so rampant and swift that everyone lives under a microscope. The island is just not fun any more.
--B. Kathy Leitle