Judith D Collins
By: Wendy Wax
Series: Ten Beach Road #4
Publisher: Penguin Berkley
Publication Date: 6/21/2016
My Rating: 5 Stars ++ Top Books of 2016
In this brand-new summer read by the USA Today bestselling author of The House on Mermaid Point, three women join forces to bring a historic seaside hotel back to life... There's nothing that a fresh coat of paint and a few glasses of wine can't fix… After losing their life savings in a Ponzi scheme, Maddie, Avery, and Nikki banded together to make the most of what they've got left through determination, ingenuity, guts, and a large dose of elbow grease. It's Maddie's daughter Kyra who stumbles across a once glorious oceanfront hotel that has fallen into disrepair. The opportunity to renovate this seaside jewel is too good to pass up—especially when they come up with the idea of shooting their own independent television show about the restoration. What could possibly go wrong? Everything. With the cameras rolling, Maddie's second-chance romance with her all-too-famous new boyfriend gets complicated, Avery struggles with grief over the loss of her mother, and Nikki's reluctance to commit to the man who loves her could leave her to face the biggest challenge of her life. Even the hotel seems to be against them, when their renovation uncovers a decades-old unsolved murder which just might bring their lives tumbling down all over again…
A special thank you to NetGalley and Penguin for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Talented Southern storyteller, Wendy Wax returns with my favorite gals and summer series, following the last wild renovation adventure, The House on Mermaid Point, with her fourth installment of the Ten Beach Road series: SUNSHINE BEACH. This time around, the gals, are on to the next exciting boutique hotel renovation project, while stumbling upon a mysterious past. A quaint 1952 Gulf Coast, historic seaside, Old Florida family owned hotel with plenty of dark mysterious secrets, and an unsolved old murder case. From wit, romance, cocktails, summer fun, and redos— plus plenty of their own personal and professional drama, and action! They all need a Do Over to pour themselves into, after being let down at the network. There was no reward without risk, and certainly not without hard work. The gals are ready for the fight! From living together in one house, a business; taking on challenges, of restoring historic Florida seaside properties, aDo Over TV Show—while all the while developing bonds of strong friendship, and reinventing themselves even better the second time around. (some romance involved, as well). The book opens with a brief Prologue, July 1952 at the Sunshine Hotel and Beach Club at Pass-a-Grille, on the Gulf coast of Florida. A young five-year-old girl, wanting to show off for her parents with her superb swimming skills. The place was almost empty, since the summer season and the winter folks had left the small family owned hotel, and cottages. She liked to stay under water and surprise everyone. However, she only found her know-it-all sister watching. Flash forward to the present - catching up with gals from the Florida Keys with their last project from Mermaid Point in Islamorada, Florida. Madeline Singer (51 yrs old, mother of two, and grandmother of one) former divorced suburban housewife, now officially dating live rock star William Hightower (age 62). They are at Lorelei Restaurant and Cabana Bar (one of my favorites when I lived there), and all the women are flocking over the older star, the musician who is making a comeback with his new song, “Free Fall”. The crew formerly, was to turn Hightower’s private island into a high-end bed and breakfast, which ultimately turned into a sober living facility. They were there celebrating his first song he had written in more than a decade without the benefits of drugs or alcohol. He only has eyes for Maddie; however, does not stop women from throwing themselves on him, making her feel some insecurities. Maddie and William are heading up to the famous Bella Flora, (Historic, Pass-A-Grille, the southernmost end of St. Pete Beach), to their first renovation; the house, she Nichole and Avery had nursed back to life which had now become their new home on the West Coast of Florida. They would have to figure out what to do about the show they had created, lost control of, and then quit publicly—a wreckage. Kyra (Maddie’s daughter) and grandson, Dustin (2 ½ yrs. old) live in the Bella Flora house after her ex-boyfriend and her son’s father, Daniel (movie star) bought the house for them (worth millions). They put their heart and soul into the house and are looking forward to coming together once again. Maddie, Nikki, Avery, and Kyra had become close friends, and all the gals still love to hold their nightly happy hour with cheese doodles and cocktails, in between hiding out from the cameras, media and paparazzi. Daniel still comes to visit in an array of disguises from Hollywood. The cameras are always rolling. Now they have another star, William to link to, plus the media always wants to get glimpse of Dustin- and get the scoop on what the gals have planned, next. (and catch them at their worst). Not a lot of privacy. . The gals had lost everything due to Malcolm Dyer’s Ponzi scheme and now two years later than had managed to stay afloat with their renovation projects—from filming, seeking sponsors, and a lot of down and dirty hard work for their show Do Over. They have also lost one of their team, beloved Deirdre (Avery’s mom) a top designer on Do Over, and now things will be sad, when they all return to Bella Flora. She had been full of life one minute, and dead the next. She and daughter had only just found their way back to one another. Who could replace her? Malcom, Nichole’s (Nikki) brother put her in a bad place, from earlier books. She is still dating the Joe—the hunky FBI, she met during the investigation, out of Miami. He wants to take their relationship to the next level. However, she is not so sure, since their careers are up in the air, plus she feels like she failed with her brother Malcolm. The gals have to decide where to go from here, since they worked too hard to lose it all now. They need money coming in. They want to find a project, get sponsors and start filming. Hopefully they could pitch to other networks since they have a track record and possibly HGTV would be a good fit. Their old network which handled their renovation show turned it into a mean-spirited reality TV show. They want to produce something of their own, if they can make it work. Their relationship with the current network is under review. They need to find a new renovation project close by in order to stay in Bella Flora house, rent free. While they are looking at all their options, they stumble upon an older small family owned hotel, Sunshine Hotel, not too far from Don CeSar Hotel (I love). The property was rundown and closed, but no For Sale sign. It would have plenty of history and they are intrigued. After research, they find a man had died there under mysterious circumstances in the early fifties. The main suspect disappeared the same day, and was never found. They meet with Franklin Realty and John’s wife, Renee (who had helped them with the gardens and restoration at Bella Flora). They laid out their plan, after doing research—and let them know their interest in renovating the Sunshine Hotel. It originally opened in 1942 and was owned by a man named Ezra Handleman. He died there in the early fifties. His wife disappeared the same night. The police named her as the main suspect. The gals are shocked to learn the hotel belongs to two sisters. They are not interested in a renovation project. One sister says tear it down and bulldoze the hotel, and the other wants to keep it alive- hoping they will reopen the case of the unsolved mystery. A sore subject since everyone thought their mother killed their dad. They had not heard of her since, being raised by their grandparents, having inherited the old hotel. It was sitting there, untouched in all these years, sitting on prime real estate. They were only young girls, ages five and eight years old at the time. The gals want this project desperately for their show. Obstacles and tension are mounting, while they use every trick in the book to change the minds of the owners. This would be the perfect project to get them back on track! They can see a retro look with a nice beach casual vibe (less showy than South Beach or Ft. Lauderdale). They have to be careful so as not to exploit the women, the way they were done. It has more than sixty years ago, and the tragedy was still a reminder of their parent’s death. They get the police and FBI involved to reopen the case. They want to bring back the property to its heyday. Quaint and laid back. (You have to love those old 1920-1950’s Old Florida style motel/hotels– family owned). With cottages, pool, and a perfect prime location to relive a scene from Happy Days. A prime example of mid- twentieth century architecture which is hot, or a remake of Psycho after they fumigated. They are up for the task. This is not their first rodeo! The family lived here after the war while Renee’s father was helping to run the hotel. The girls were young, and lived on property with their parents. They never have gotten over the tragedy. They had no closure. The sister does not think her mother did it. She thinks an intruder killed their father and abducted their mother, even though there was no evidence. Renee wants it torn down. While the team continues working on a compromise, trying to attain the Sunshine Hotel for their Do Over project, they have the job of replacing Deidre. (This part was hilarious, with the interviews and look a likes). Love Ray! (hope we see more of him). Between all the mystery around the project and its past, the renovation, Maddie’s ex-husband Steve shows up, since he lost his money in the same scheme, and does not like his ex-wife dating a rock star. He is being a freeloader and not pulling his weight. Maddie and William are trying to see each when they can. Daniel is trying to wear down Kyra (filmmaker), Nichole is having issues with Joe, since he wants a family and marriage. Avery is still dating Chase, who shares her love of historically interesting structures, he and his father and sons are dropping in and she is missing her mom, especially when they see the last show. Plus, there is still money missing and unaccounted for-- and her brother is in prison and wants to see her. Does he have money hidden somewhere and probably expects her to find it? How can she see him after what he did to Avery’s father, Maddie and her family, and Nikki herself? From challenges, and obstacles---full of life, wit, design, history, renovations, romance, chick-lit, summer beach fun, ex’s, concerts, with a cast of characters I have adored since Book #1! This time, they get a new added twist from forensics, crime scene, mystery, suspense, and an old murder when they find more than they expected when they begin their renovation. They may become a part of solving a mystery, and helping this family move on—and hopefully a hotel brought back to life. And possibly a new show for next series? Can't wait. I loved catching up with Bitsy Baynard from my neck of the woods (Palm Beach), Enrico, the roofer, and love Maddie and William's romance, Nikki and Joe, Avery and Chase, Dustin and Kyra, and as always lots of charm. Plus in this edition, someone has some news at the end, which hopefully we will learn more with the next installment. One of my favorite summer covers! So nice to catch up with the gals, their lives, and the new exciting Florida renovation project. Sunshine Beach has non-stop action and adventure. It makes you want to join them for their nightly cocktails overlooking the sunset. Wax's passion is reflected throughout the pages with her vivid Florida settings, as characters come alive. (great job with construction, renovation, and design). I love the west Gulf Coast area as much as the east coast (actually beaches are prettier). My Gulf Coast favorite hidden spot. Please do not let this series end! Where Memories are made! Each can be read as a standalone, (but why limit yourself)? Highly recommend reading ALL the books. My favorite summer beach series. Fun, fun, fun!
Ten Beach Road My Favorite Summer Beach Series (all 5 Stars)
Ten Beach Road #1 Ocean Beach #2 Christmas at the Beach #2.5 The House on Mermaid Point #3
On a Personal Note: Sunshine Beach (Hotel) reminds me so much of the project (client) I have worked with for the last ten years Circa 1925 Casa Grandview (Old Florida), From the beginning, it has been so much fun seeing something old, come alive. (no mysteries or murders) From renovations, design, photography, marketing, planning, and website design. Plus this project PRC in the Keys, spending a few years there; from construction to sell out. Wendy, I share your love of Florida on the East Coast!
About the Author
I'm the Wendy Wax who writes women's fiction exploring friendship,self-discovery and the challenges life brings us, leavened with a touch of humor. I'm proud of all my books and perhaps best known for my "Ten Beach Road" titles including the USA Today bestsellers, Ten Beach Road and The House on Mermaid Point, and for While We Were Watching Downtown Abbey.
I was born in St.Petersburg, Florida and grew up on St. Pete Beach within spitting distance of the Gulf of Mexico. I went, appropriately enough, to Sunshine Elementary School where recess and art class sometimes took place on the beach, and the highlight of every school year was the annual fish broil.
It’s hard to be a type-A personality when you grow up in such a laid back environment, but I managed. Convinced that you were expected to know how to read BEFORE you showed up for school, I forced a neighbor friend to teach me to read at the age of five. I’ve been reading ever since.
Books, in all forms, are one of my greatest pleasures and best forms of escape. And they’ve had a major impact on my life.
I went to the University of Georgia after reading Gone with the Wind one too many times. For a while I re-read Margaret Mitchell’s classic yearly, saw the movie whenever it played within twenty miles, and could quote large passages from memory. Today I have a growing GWTW collection, and the time I spoke at he Margaret Mitchell House was an incredible thrill.last
After college I worked in radio, television, and film. Like Olivia in 7 DAYS AND SEVEN NIGHTS, I’ve done live talk radio. I hosted a show in the eighties called Desperate & Dateless, and while I was never locked in an apartment for a week with a webcam rolling as she was, I did fall in love. Happily, the man who swept me off my feet consults with financial types and understands the bottom line. Unlike Olivia’s nemesis, Matt Ransom, my husband has never, to my knowledge, advised anyone to ‘love the one they’re with.’ We live in Atlanta with our two sons. Read More