Tag Archives: divorce

At the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen

We all know there are self centered, egotistical, SOB’s out there in the world, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we want to spend time with them, even if it is only amongst the pages of a book.

Seems that’s one of the problems of At the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen. Ellis Hyde and his pal Hank are privileged, silver-spoons-in-their-mouths, sons of wealthy gentlemen who spend their time in frivolous pursuits, going to parties, drinking too much, and cavalcading throughout high society, annoying the patrons and getting into trouble. The two best friends have a cohort, Madeline, a woman who enjoys their company and madcap adventures. Despite her wealthy father, Maddie has a black mark against her due to the antics of her now deceased mother, so that when she marries Ellis her welcome is anything but friendly. Then on New Years Eve in 1944, the trio are especially obnoxious, and Ellis’ parents are, shall we say, not amused with the resulting gossip, so when Ellis insults his father they are ejected from the family estate and left to fend for themselves.

Ellis, whose father (the Colonel) can’t forgive him for being rejected from the military due to a case of color blindness, decides to go to Scotland and find the Loch Ness Monster, an adventure that tainted his father’s reputation several years earlier. If Ellis could just prove the monster exists, then his now proud papa would welcome him back with open arms and reinstate his allowance.

Unfortunately there is a war going on, so they must travel overseas bunked down like commoners in a military convoy and to make matters worse, once they arrive in Scotland their welcome is less than cordial. The search for the monster is a lot more difficult than expected, and the two friend’s behavior gets more and more outrageous fueled by alcohol and the little pills prescribed to Maddie for her “nervous condition”. Maddie soon distances herself from her husband and Hank, finding more in common with the humble folks who live and work at the inn. The true personalities of each of the characters are revealed as they deal with their struggles and Maddie comes to terms with her choices in life making a decision which totally alters the fate of everyone involved leading to a twisted resolution.

While the story takes place towards the end of WWII, the war is more of a backdrop than an integral part of the story although there are black out curtains, ration books, gas masks, and several air raids. Scotland, complete with castle, is the main focus of the narrative as the inhabitants try to eke out a living in difficult times.

This was a hard book to get into, not grabbing ones’ interest until almost half way through, probably because of the despicable characters. I did borrow the audiobook, dramatically read by Justine Eyre, to get me over the hump, then finished with the written word.

I’m not sure if I buy this tale, it’s a little far fetched and I question the shift in Ellis from a spoiled brat into an evil man. Although I usually look for the good in people (in life as well as in literature), by the end of the book he had no redeeming qualities left to discuss. There was also a romance which seemed to come out of nowhere, even though there were some subtle hints of this possibility along the way.

Three stars and a thank you to Netgalley for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

This review also appears on Goodreads.

26 Kisses by Anna Michels

Cute, cute, cute!

Mark breaks up with Veda Bentley on his graduation day. They’ve been together for almost two years and she is devastated, although he’s off to college and she’s got another year left of high school. She quits her job at the movie theatre where she and Mark worked together and mopes around in her room for long enough to cause concern to her two best friends, Melinda and Seth. On the busy Fourth of July, Vee helps out Mel at her father’s boat rental shop on Lake Michigan. Their hometown, the Michigan Dunes, is a resort destination which becomes a busy tourist trap during the summer months. Suddenly Vee finds herself with a new job at Flaherty’s Float and Boat working alongside an agreeable coworker, Killian, who shares a common interest in the debate team, although he attends a nearby rival high school. Yet Vee isn’t ready for a new relationship, so she maintains her distance, especially since Mel has talked her into a Kissing Challenge, as a distraction from the Mark fiasco, which involves “collecting” kisses from individuals whose names start with each letter of the alphabet including a fellow student named Adam, a dog called Elmo, and Zane, an underclassman from the debate team. Vee suddenly finds herself appreciating the “singles” lifestyle even though Killian would plainly like to take their friendship to the next level. Of course, the road is not a smooth one, with friend and family issues as well as uncomfortable rumors which might affect Vee’s reputation, but all’s well that ends well with a lighthearted culmination to finish out the summer (as well as complete the alphabet) which is sure to satisfy the reader.

26 Kisses by Anna Michels is a fun and diverting story perfect for any age, from the preteen up to their grandmother, with no overt sex beyond a few kissing scenes, but just enough romance to cause an “ahhhhh” and satisfy the heart. My main complaint (as a parent) was that there was quite a bit of underage drinking. While this is definitely not “The Great American Novel”, it is a perfect YA summer read. Four stars and a thank you to Netgalley and Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.