On Sunset Beach from NetGalley.
Here's the summary:
From New York Times bestselling author Mariah Stewart comes a captivating and heartwarming new novel in her beloved Chesapeake Diaries contemporary romance series—perfect for fans of Barbara Freethy, Robyn Carr, and Susan Mallery.
Carly Summit’s name couldn’t be more fitting, since in life she always lands on top. She grew up wealthy and privileged in a tony Connecticut town, opened her own gallery in New York City, and is about to make art world history displaying previously unknown works by a prominent twentieth-century painter. No wonder she possesses a can-do attitude that can’t be soured. Ford Sinclair is another story. A military career in war-torn Africa, where he witnessed unspeakable violence and suffering, has left him haunted and deeply cynical. Now he’s looking for a way to forget and a place to belong. He hopes to find both back home in St. Dennis.
When Carly is forced to move the premiere of her new exhibition from Manhattan to St. Dennis, and Ford agrees to take charge of the town’s only newspaper, the two cross paths. But it’s hardly the start of a beautiful friendship. While Ford can’t ignore her charms, Carly’s unflappable good cheer only confounds him. Yet beneath Ford’s stormy brooding, Carly sees a man worth caring about—even if her warmest ways can’t thaw his frozen heart.
First of all, I think perhaps "frozen heart" is stretching things a bit far. Ford is a bit shellshocked from his past, and finds it hard to think about his future in general. He's not sure that he really fits in in St. Dennis any longer but he also can't think ahead to what he does want to do. When his mother conspires to throw him into her role at the newspaper, he agrees temporarily, only to discover that it's not the terrible hardship he'd imagined. The reader doesn't really see his role in the paper beyond how it applies to Carly, but we do see his dissatisfaction and uneasiness with life lessen as the book progresses. Ford is likeable, even when his war memories intrude.
Carly is a bit harder for me to like. She's very successful, but not afraid to admit that it was her family's money that enabled her to become a success. Sure, mom and dad paid for the first art gallery, but now she's successful both professionally and financially in her own right. However, in the first half of the book there are quite a few examples of her wealth that just felt like showing off to me. This doesn't continue through the book, and I came to admire her ability to go with the flow of the art exhibit in St Dennis, even when it disrupts her plans. At times she's a bit too good to be true, and every thing falls into place a bit too neatly for her. She works hard, but she's able to overcome any short deadline or change of plans with grace.
The romance itself is steady. It's not overnight and neither do either of them deny the attraction. I admit I found Ford a bit smarmy in their inital meeting, but that element dropped off quickly. It isn't perhaps the most swoonworthy of romance novels out there, but it does make me interested in the remainder of the series and I'll certainly be picking up another to see if it fills the hole left by Fool's Gold.