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Beach House No. 9
by Christie Ridgway
(Harlequin, $7.99, PG-13) ISBN 978-0-373-77740-2
Beach House No. 9 is the first book in a new series set in Crescent Cove, California, a place where a simple kind of magic heals just about everyone who comes to stay.

Jane Pearson is a writer’s assistant; she’s a very hardworking, straight-laced kind of girl who grew up with genius brothers, a strict father and very high expectations of herself. She’s never really fulfilled them, knowing she’s too emotional to really become the driven success story that her father expects her to be.

Just look at the recent disaster of her last work assignment, she spent years with the bestselling author Ian Stone, coaching his writing as they fell in love. When Jane found out that Ian was cheating, her heart was broken and her work reputation was in shambles.

Now, Griffin Lowell’s agent has hired her to coach the reticent author to finish his memoir of his time as a war journalist, and she makes her way to Beach House No. 9 in Crescent Cove. Jane’s immediately charmed by the cove and its residents, except for the surly Griffin who kicks her out as quickly as possible. Jane tries numerous ways to get back into Griffin’s cottage, undeterred by his gruff, over the top behavior.

When Jane secures the cottage next door, she digs her heels in as she sets about finding as much about Griffin as she can. As she discovers layers of sadness, grief, and anger, she’s even more determined to help Griffin write the memoir he’s determined to ignore, for his own good, as well as her own redemption.

Beach House No. 9 is a little bit of magic. Crescent Cove is easy to fall in love with and even easier to imagine as you get swept into the beach life with Griffin and Jane.

Jane is beautifully written, down to the awesome footwear she picks out each day. She’s a perfect modern heroine, completely real, sympathetic, honestly flawed, deeply emotional and impossible not to love. She is also boundlessly generous to those around her, and we get to know Griffin’s sister Tess and neighbor Skye. The three women have lots of funny and poignant interaction.

Tess and her husband David have their own story in the background of Griffin and Jane’s. After years of marriage and four kids, David’s recently turned 40 and since then he’s been acting withdrawn, and uncaring. Tess doesn’t know what to do anymore and can’t sit home worrying about her declining marriage, so she takes the kids for a little holiday to Crescent Cove to visit their Uncle Griff, hoping that the Cove she loved as a kid will work its magic now. Romance novels usually end before the long marriage and lots of kids and humdrum of life cuts into the romance, and Ridgway brings us a taste of reality mixed with wonder with Tess and David. I loved it.

Griffin is our emotionally tortured hero, and he’s as gritty and unpolished as you would expect. Ridgway takes pains to keep Griffin rough and real, and his unvarnished, hard shelled soul is impossible to resist. It’s easy to see why Jane is so desperate to unlock him, and he is worth the wait.

My only complaint about this stellar summer tale is that the beginning was very s-l-o-w for me. The build up to the emotional story started about a third of the way through and didn’t stop until the end. The beginning didn’t match the pace or the depth of the rest of the tale.

--Amy Wroblewsky

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