Shoreline Drive (Sanctuary Island #2)
by Lily Everett
Dr. Ben Faulkner is a veterinarian on warm, welcoming Sanctuary Island, a tiny refuge for wild horses tucked off the Atlantic coast. Though he’s dedicated his life to healing animals and rescuing the ones no one wants, Ben is nursing deep wounds of his own. After tragedy tore his family apart, he gave up his dreams of finding happiness long ago…until Merry Preston arrives on the island. Vivacious, friendly, and instantly loveable, Merry is everything Ben is not. She’s also nine months pregnant and attempting to carve out a new life for herself and her unborn child.
Though Ben tries to keep his distance, when a raging storm cuts them off from the mainland, he’s forced to help bring her new baby into the world. It’s a harrowing experience that leaves him with one great certainty: I want these two to be my family. Seeing his opportunity, he makes a dramatic proposal to the young mother: a marriage of convenience. If Merry marries him, he’ll draw up a contract naming her son as his heir and promising to provide for them both. But as they’ll learn, love is more than a business proposition…and it’ll take all the magic hidden in Sanctuary Island to turn Ben’s proposal into something real and lasting.
Rating: 3.25 stars
Lily Everett returns to the small island town of Sanctuary Island in her second novel, Shoreline Drive. The story of an emotionally repressed man meeting the first woman to ever touch his heart, a new mom who has given light to his dark world and reminds him that he isn't as cold-hearted as he tries to be. This series has taken a different direction than most series, with two short novella trilogies preceding each full length novel, though they aren't actually connected, just occurring on the same island. This second full length novel in the series is the story of the sister of the female lead in book one and actually overlaps a bit in time, with the birth of Merry’s son in both stories. Everett’s novels are full of emotion, family, and character growth, delves more into the sentimental side of romances and less into the passionate, which is in opposition of her writing as Louisa Edwards. If you haven’t read the first book in this series, Sanctuary Island, you will be missing out on a lot of the deeper emotional issues with Merry and her family, but Everett provides enough details you won’t be lost in the overall plot.
The story of Ben and Merry’s whirlwind romance begins with the birth of her son, Alex, who was helped into the world by Ben, the former big city doctor turned small time country veterinarian. This moment is the turning point for Ben, showing him the one thing he needs in his life, a family, and he wants that family to be Merry and Alex. Fast forward several months and Ben is still trying to figure out how to get what he wants, his own nature getting in his way and making it harder to get close to Merry. Being the sensible and practical guy he is he comes up with the perfect solution: a marriage of convenience, giving Alex a father and Merry the support she needs. His ulterior motive of course is having a chance to make her fall in love with him. And his plan seems to be working as he and Merry grow closer and closer, forming a family with little Alex and providing Ben the settled and loving life he’s always wanted. But when his cold and calculating parents try to drive a wedge between them, Ben’s fears and insecurities flare and he finds that losing his dream will be even more painful than never having had it at all. Will Merry be able to convince him that he is worth her love and make them a family or will their HEA be forever lost?
Merry is a woman on the verge, to be clichéd for a minute. She has made a lot of changes in her life as motherhood approached and her life is altered drastically when Alex is added to the already complicated familial issues she is dealing with as she meets her mother again for the first time as an adult and attempts to have a relationship with her. She is struggling to maintain her usual happy façade as she deals with her mom and the new feelings she developed about that relationship after she became a mom herself. When Ben, whom she has lusted after for ages, but she believed hated her, offers her an odd but welcome opportunity to change her circumstances, she is determined to embrace this opportunity for what it is—a simple business arrangement. But her feelings for Ben are confusing to say the least and soon she can no longer deny that Ben is just the man to give her heart and her son to. She is a woman who understands emotion and the labyrinth of feelings involved in all the relationships she is juggling. I found myself liking her more and more as she finds her footing with Ben, Alex, and even her mom. Watching her fight to keep her new family intact, reminded me of a momma wolf protecting her mate and cub, nothing more beautiful than that.
Ben on the other hand is an enigma. He has had a life of emotional neglect, devastation, and sadness that has led him to make the decision to lock his heart away behind an impenetrable wall. But his walls are no match for Merry and especially Alex. From the moment he assists with bringing Alex into the world, his heart tells him that his life is meant to include them both. His plan to achieve his goals are interesting to be sure, but I can see the appeal in that plan, giving Merry the chance to see past his cantankerousness and his resistance to emotional connections to the broken and bleeding man beneath. When he finally opens up to Merry and shows his vulnerabilities to her, I fell a little bit in love with him myself. I wish we had gotten to explore more the connection formed between him and Merry, but seeing him interact with Alex showed me the young boy that was neglected by his own parents and the man’s abilities to overcome his loveless upbringing to become an open hearted and extremely loving man who is determined to give Alex and Merry the love they need to thrive. And in giving that love and making that family, the hole in his heart will begin to heal over and make the pain he’s be mired in lessen enough to give him the chance to grow.
As a side note, there is a continuing story of Taylor, Merry and Ella’s sort-of younger step-sister, and the changes she is going through in her teenage years. There are issues with her jealousy over Merry and Ella’s return to their mother’s life, Taylor’s problems with troublemaking, and even boy issues. Seeing Taylor deal with her teenage angst, as well as watching her grow a bit here and there, shows me that someday she will be a wonderful young woman, and I’m hoping we will get to see her find romance in the future.
Shoreline Drive was a good read, a story with lots of heart, family, and the love that can form in the most unexpected of places. Merry is a woman that is pulled in many directions, but providing a safe and secure home for her son, one that will allow him to thrive is the most important thing to her now. Ben is a bit of an ass to those around him, but the angry front he shows the world is just to keep him from forming attachments and getting hurt. His decision to escape his old life and close himself off from those who would befriend him, has left him without the skills to woo the woman he is coming to love. The plan he hatches is hilarious and simple in its design, but when dealing with life and love, nothing is ever as clear-cut as we’d like. As Merry and Ben, especially, worked through their issues and find their love together, I found myself drawn to the story more and more, and in the end when their family is assured and their lives bound together irrecoverably, I knew that they would find their way together to an HEA. I will say that I was surprised by how short this novel was in terms of their relationship and I would have loved a more in depth look at their lives individually, not just as Alex’s parents. Maybe a few nights of them being together without having the baby around and being the focus, would have bumped the story up another level, but I liked it all the same. I’m looking forward to whatever’s next in the series and getting a chance to see more of the residents of Sanctuary Island.
*eARC provided by publisher (via netgalley) for the purpose of an honest and unbiased review. No compensation was provided.