28 January 2014

Review: Five stars plus for Mariah Stewart's At the River's Edge where true love is found through faith, compassion, and forgiveness

I am counting my blessings today. One blessing is what I term my reader OCD, an insatiable need to read series in order. When I received At the River's Edge by Mariah Stewart, book seven in her The Chesapeake Diaries series, I knew that I should read books one to six. What I hadn’t counted on was that there were more books from Stewart’s backlist that would elucidate the stories of The Chesapeake Diaries, specifically book two in her Last series, Last Words, which introduces readers to the town of St. Dennis and the characters of Police Chief Gabriel Beck and FBI agent Mia Shields.

Why am I so happy and feeling blessed that I “had” to read additional books? Because they are just so wonderful! I have been having a Mariah Stewart moment here the past two days, and read not just book two in her Last series, but books one and three as well. I “needed” to know more about the Shields family. Really, I did.

Now, I’m not going to say that you have to read any other books to enjoy At the River's Edge, book seven in Stewart’s The Chesapeake Diaries series. You really don’t have to as this is a self-contained novel. But may I strongly encourage you to do so? This is an author and series that you will want keep on your permanent book shelf for years to come. She’s created a true family, characters, and community that you’ll fall in love with too and I know you’ll want to follow their stories as I do. In fact, I’ll be searching out both her Enright Family series and other books that relate to the characters of St. Dennis.

At the River's Edge is the story of Sophie Enright. sister of lawyer Jesse, and Jason Bower, brother-in-law of Brooke. (Brooke and Jason’s story isis told in book four, Hometown Girl.)

Sophie, who is a prosecuting attorney in the Ohio town where she and Jesse grew up, discovers that her long-time boyfriend is cheating on her. Not only is he cheating on her, but he’s one of her colleagues at work and is doing the deed with the “office skank.” To clear her head, she makes the decision to visit Jesse and her grandfather Enright in St. Dennis and takes a week vacation from her job. While there, she discovers a special location that might be the outlet for a longterm dream of hers - a restaurant.

Jason, who moved to St. Dennis after dissolving the Florida landscaping business he and his deceased brother founded, has just purchased part of his dream location, permanently locating his new landscaping business in St. Dennis. But he has his eye on a neglected property next door and is doing everything he can to purchase it to make his dream of a nursery garden retail location a reality.

When Sophie and Jason encounter one another during this week-long visit, sparks begin to fly, but they’re a bit muted as neither one is serious about starting anything from a distance. What happens next? Will either of their dreams come true? Will those sparks be turned into flames and something lasting? Oh, you’ll just have to read At the River's Edge to find out!

I love the way Stewart intertwines all the characters from the previous three books - as well as bringing in other characters like the Enrights (Jesse and Sophie’s half sisters and brothers) whose stories are contained in Stewart’s The Enright Family Collection: Devlin's Light, Moon Dance, and Wonderful You. In addition, there's a special treat as at the end of the book, Stewart shares some of the heirloom St. Dennis recipes she described with such mouth-watering success in At the River's Edge.

For me it’s a bit like Christmas to find an author who can convey the sense of “knowing” that Stewart does in her stories. With each book I read, I felt more and more as though I could plug coordinates into my GPS and set my car south towards the Eastern Shore of Maryland to arrive at St. Dennis.

Yes, I’m ready to “Discover St. Dennis,” grab a coffee at Cuppachino's, a dress or bag at Bling, stroll with a cone from Scoops, grab my favorite other sweet treat at Cupcake, and have breakfast or lunch at Blossoms, while spending my night at The Inn. Stewart has made me, as a reader, feel invested in her stories and her characters in a way that can only be said to be remarkable. So, I highly recommend that you add her books, if they are not already there, to your must-read list. They are just fabulous stories that are filled with true romance, humor, compassion, and life - real honest to goodness daily life.

I’m awarding five stars to Mariah Stewart’s moving, beautiful romance At the River's Edge, that is a lesson in love, trust, true compassion, and faith.





In addition, five stars are awarded to the entire Chesapeake Diaries series that should be added to your permanent must-read list. 


Each book in this series is a gem! Make sure to mark your calendars (I’ve marked mine) for 1 July 2014, when book eight On Sunset Beach will be released. I’ve been waiting for Grace’s son Ford’s story for a while and am happy to know that art dealer Carly will be returning to St. Dennis too. (Now, to know more about them, please read the series!)

From the Publisher



The Chesapeake Diaries Book 7
At the River's Edge by Mariah Stewart
Ballantine Books (Random House Publishing Group)
ISBN 9780345538420
Price $7.99
Pub Date Jan 28 2014

After taking stock of her life, Sophie Enright has decided it’s time for a break. Between a law career that’s become criminally dull and a two-timing boyfriend she’s done with once and for all, Sophie desperately needs some time to think and some space to breathe. The perfect place to do both is easygoing St. Dennis, Maryland, where Sophie can visit with her brother while she figures out her options. Once in St. Dennis, she discovers a shuttered restaurant and makes a bold move that is also a leap of faith. Sophie buys the fixer-upper in order to finally pursue her dream career.

But Sophie’s labor of love becomes a bone of contention for her new neighbor Jason Bowers. The local landscaper has big plans for growing his business—until Sophie scoops up the property he’s got his eye on. And no amount of buyout offers or badgering from him will get her to budge. It’s hardly the start of a beautiful friendship. But when they’re paired up to work on a community project, they agree to put their differences aside, and sparks begin to fly. Then Sophie’s cheating ex suddenly shows up, looking for a second chance—and threatening to make Jason a third wheel just when his hotheaded feelings about Sophie were turning decidedly warmhearted. All Sophie wants is a new life and a true love. But what are the odds of having both?


The Chesapeake Diaries Book 6
The Long Way Home by Mariah Stewart
Ballantine Books (Random House Publishing Group)
ISBN 9780345538413
Price $5.99
Publication Date: January 29, 2013

As the only child of a wealthy investment manager, Ellie Chapman has never known anything besides a life of perfect privilege. But her years of good fortune come to an abrupt end when her father is exposed for swindling billions of dollars from innocent investors in a massive Ponzi scheme. And just like that, Ellie loses everything: money, job, home—even her fiancĂ©, who’s jailed as her father’s partner in crime. With no job prospects on the horizon, no cash, and her family name in tatters, Ellie has only one place to go.

Sleepy St. Dennis, Maryland, is hardly where Ellie intends to stay, however. Keeping her identity a secret, she plans to sell the house her late mother left her in the small town and use the proceeds to move on with her life. Unfortunately, her ticket to a new beginning is in dire need of a laundry list of pricey improvements, many of which she’ll have to do herself. And until the house on Bay View Road is fit to be sold, the sole place Ellie will be traveling is the hardware store. But as the many charms of St. Dennis—not to mention Cameron O’Connor, the handsome local contractor who has secrets of his own—begin to work their magic, what begins as a lesson in do-it-yourself renovations might just end up as Ellie’s very own rejuvenation.


The Chesapeake Diaries Book 5
Home for the Summer by Mariah Stewart
Ballantine Books (Random House Publishing Group)
ISBN 9780345531223
Price $5.99
Publication Date: May 29, 2012

Some of Lucy Sinclair’s best days were those spent growing up in small town St. Dennis—working at the family inn and enjoying summers filled with swimming, sailing, tennis, and the company of Clay Madison, her best friend. But Lucy’s darkest day, the one that shattered her innocence with violence and fear, also happened in St. Dennis. And the town she once loved became the place she gladly left behind—along with the terrible secret she’s kept for twenty years.

While Lucy headed off for college and a career, Clay remained—more than satisfied with the life St. Dennis had to offer. But now, even after inheriting his family’s thriving farm and starting up an organic brewery, he can’t help feeling that something’s missing. And when Lucy comes back to town to plan a celebrity wedding at the Sinclair family inn, she and Clay reconnect, and find themselves reevaluating their long-sleeping friendship that could blossom into something deeper. Like a bookend to those distant childhood days, this summer will be Lucy’s chance to finally confront her hidden pain, make peace with the past, and plan her own whole new future.


The Chesapeake Diaries Book 4
Hometown Girl by Mariah Stewart
Ballantine Books (Random House Publishing Group)
ISBN 9780345531216
Price: $7.99
Publication Date: September 27, 2011

Life was always just about perfect for Brooke Madison Bowers. She was the prettiest, most popular girl in small-town St. Dennis, Maryland, a prom queen, local pageant star, and the pride and joy of her loving parents. She even married the man of her dreams. But the promise of happily ever after fell to pieces when her husband was killed while serving in Iraq. Brokenhearted and longing for the solace of better days, she returns to the idyllic world of St. Dennis, and the familiar comfort of the family farm. Surrounded by her loving family and friends, she’s determined to build a new life, complete with her own cupcake bakery. She’s equally determined never to fall in love again.

For Jesse Enright, life has been a challenge. A fourth-generation attorney, he’s spent his life fighting to escape the shadow of his irresponsible father. Now he’s moved to St. Dennis to run the family law practice, and he’s ready to find the right girl, get married, and settle down. But his carefully laid plans go out the window when he meets Brooke and finds himself caught between the unbreakable law of attraction and Brooke’s resolve to go her way alone—despite the undeniable feelings Jesse stirs in her. But just like catching lightning in a bottle, is it possible to fall head-over-heels, heart-and-soul in love all over again?


The Chesapeake Diaries Book 3
Almost Home by Mariah Stewart
Ballantine Books (Random House Publishing Group)
ISBN 9780345520371
Price $5.99
Publication Date: March 22, 2011

When she was young, Steffie Wyler always knew exactly what she wanted to do with her life: 1. Make ice cream. 2. Marry the coolest boy in town. 3. Live happily ever after. These days, Steffie is the proud owner of One Scoop or Two, a wildly popular ice cream parlor. But the cool guy left town right after high school, before they could scratch the surface of their mutual attraction to see what, if anything, lay beneath. Steffie’s made a great life for herself in St. Dennis, but true love has never come knocking.

Wade MacGregor left for college in Texas and remained there to start a successful business with his best friend, Robin Kennedy, but he’s always felt something was missing. Then life throws him a curveball: A third partner has robbed the company blind, and Robin has died—but not before entrusting Wade with a precious secret. Now back in St. Dennis, Wade’s determined to do whatever it takes to protect his friend’s legacy—and to figure out, once and for all, if the sparks that fly whenever he’s with Steffie are just temporary fireworks or the lights in the window leading him home.


The Chesapeake Diaries Book 2
Home Again by Mariah Stewart
Ballantine Books (Random House Publishing Group)
ISBN 9780345520357
Price $5.99
Publication Date: July 15, 2010

Dallas MacGregor is living the Hollywood dream. At thirtysomething, she’s an award-winning actress beloved by the public and bound for even bigger success. But when her soon-to-be-ex-husband, producer Emilio Baird, is caught in a sex scandal, Dallas’s charmed life turns tabloid nightmare. Determined to shield her young son, Cody, from the ugly uproar, Dallas seeks refuge in sleepy St. Dennis, Maryland—the Chesapeake Bay town where her happiest childhood days were spent.

Reunited with her boisterous great-aunt, Dallas wants nothing more than to leave her Hollywood days behind. And when she crosses paths with local veterinarian Grant Wyler, her high school summer love, she finds he’s everything she remembers, and more—and that the spark is still there. But Dallas’s promising new life takes a troubling turn when the unimaginable happens and she finds herself living a mother’s worst nightmare—and Emilio storms into St. Dennis to save the day, along with his damaged career. Trapped in the unwanted glare of the limelight once again, Dallas discovers that it’s coolheaded Grant who is willing to risk everything to protect her and her son, and to secure the future they were always meant to share.


The Chesapeake Diaries Book 1
Coming Home by Mariah Stewart
Ballantine Books (Random House Publishing Group)
ISBN 9780345520333
Price $5.99
Publication Date: March 18, 2010

In the wake of his wife’s murder, agent Grady Shields turned his back on the FBI—and everything else—to retreat into the vast solitude of Montana, grieve for his lost love, and forget the world. But after years in seclusion, his sister’s wedding draws him to St. Dennis, a peaceful town on the Chesapeake Bay. Though he swears he isn’t interested in finding love again, Grady can’t ignore the mutual sparks that fly when he meets Vanessa Keaton.

Although her past was marked by bad choices, Vanessa has found that coming to St. Dennis is the best decision she’s ever made. Bling, her trendy boutique, is a success with tourists as well as with the townspeople. She’s made friends, has a home she loves, and has established a life for herself far from the nightmare she left behind. The last thing she’s looking for is romance, but the hot new man in town is hard to resist. And when Vanessa’s past catches up with her, Grady finds that he’s unwilling to let her become a victim again. As together they fight her demons, Grady and Vanessa discover that life still holds some surprises and that love doesn’t always have to hurt.

THE CHESAPEAKE DIARIES, BOOKS 1-5, ALSO AVAILABLE IN A BUNDLE

The Chesapeake Diaries Series 5-Book Bundle: Coming Home, Home Again, Almost Home, Hometown Girl, Home for the Summer
Ballantine Books (Random House Publishing Group)
ASIN: B00CCPIIBE
Price $29.99
Publication Date: May 13, 2013

In the tradition of Robyn Carr, Susan Mallery, and Barbara Freethy, the stories in the Chesapeake Diaries series combine captivating contemporary romance with the heartwarming power of healing and redemption. Once you settle into the charming small-town rhythms of St. Dennis, Maryland, you’ll never want to leave. And now, you won’t have to, with the first five novels in this beloved series from New York Times bestselling author Mariah Stewart collected in one eBook bundle: COMING HOME, HOME AGAIN, ALMOST HOME, HOMETOWN GIRL, HOME FOR THE SUMMER.

Along the way, you’ll meet Steffie Wyler, the proud owner of the One Scoop or Two ice cream parlor who is still searching for her happily ever after, Brooke Madison Bowers, the local pageant star who falls to pieces when her husband is killed while serving in Iraq, and Dallas MacGregor, the award-winning actress who seeks refuge in St. Dennis after her Hollywood dream turns into a tabloid nightmare. The Chesapeake Diaries series brings together these unforgettable characters, and many more, in Mariah Stewart’s enchanting tales of love, compassion, and second chances.