Summer Reading Challenge – The Good Neighbor by A.J. Banner

The Good Neighbor

The Good Neighbor by A.J. Banner

A Book You Can Finish in a Day

3 book marks

When children’s author Sarah Phoenix wakes to see her neighbor’s house engulfed in flames, she dials 911 and makes a quick call to her husband, Johnny McDonald, a prominent dermatologist, who is away on a business trip.  Then she rushes out to help.  Four-year-old Mia Kimball screams from an upstairs bedroom and Sarah scrambles up a ladder to save her.  Flames jump from the burning house to her own and Sarah’s efforts are cut short when she is struck in the head by a piece of burning timber.

In the tragedy’s aftermath, Sarah, her neighbors and the fire marshal in the sleepy town of Shadow Cove, Washington question how the fire could have started.  What had Sarah heard in her sleep, just before the fire broke out?  She remembers seeing Jessie, her teenage neighbor across the street that evening and wonders about Jessie’s suspicious-looking new boyfriend.  Who was in the road just before the fire broke out?  What had her neighbors seen?  And why hadn’t her husband answered her frantic call that night?

Something funny is going on as Sarah and Johnny salvage what they can from their home and move to a nearby cottage, owned by the town’s well-known realtor, Eris Coghlan.  Sarah becomes increasingly suspicious of her husband as she wonders about his past, his connections on their old street and to their new neighbors.

Many twists and turns muddle the mystery, but the truth comes out on the banks of a rushing river when love and obsession collide.

The Good Neighbor is a light romantic suspense story, a quick and enjoyable read.  Its strength is the story’s brisk pace.  Limited character development and some loose and implausible plot connections may frustrate some readers, but I was entertained and pleased with my “a book you can finish in a day” selection.

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Catalina Kiss by Tracy Ewens

catalina kissCatalina Kiss
Tracy Ewens

3 book marks

Spring is a demanding time of year for me and I’m always looking for a good way to relax. I don’t read a lot of romance novels, but I recently picked up Catalina Kiss and discovered the value of reading something light during such a busy time.

Set on the island of Catalina during Prohibition, Catalina Kiss is an easy romance and tells the story of Gwen Ross, an upper-class ingénue bent on being taken seriously. Just out of college, she’s book smart and analytical, but has a thing or two to learn about life. Her father has lined her up with a new job as a summer intern, working at an aviary, and she arrives on the island with grand ideas about making her mark in a man’s world.

As expected, Gwen meets up with a dashing young man. Michael is an artistic tile-maker and ladies man and the sparks fly. The attraction is not without problems, however, and the romance takes time to develop. And just when they seem to be good, things fall apart.

The story reads a little like a journal in its first-person narrative form. Gwen’s feelings are all over the place and she indulges them all, much like in a diary. Her thoughts show a self-centered and emotionally naïve young woman who is trying to discover just what she wants.

I enjoyed reading Catalina Kiss precisely because it isn’t heavy. I didn’t know much about Catalina and reading this prompted me to research the island. The story includes historical references to people and places, including the Wrigley family, who owned much of the island during that time. I also discovered that the pottery and tiles from Catalina are well-known and valuable. These are nice touches that enhance the story.

I think the strongest part of the book is in the second half, where Gwen struggles to discover who she is. Also good are Gwen’s relationships with her father and with her brother, Simon, both likeable characters. Michael’s letter to Gwen is my favorite part and it serves as the long-awaited release of romantic tension.

All in all, a nice quick read with a happy ending. If romance novels are what you like and you’re looking to kick back for an afternoon, pick up Catalina Kiss and enjoy.

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