Whiskey Beach by Nora Roberts
published by Putnam in April 2013
For more than three hundred years, Bluff House has sat above Whiskey Beach, guarding its shore - and its secrets.Genre: Contemporary romance, Romantic Suspense
To summer tourists, it's the crown jewel of the town's stunning scenery. To the residents of Whiskey Beach, it's landmark and legend. To Eli Landon, it's home...
A Boston lawyer, Eli has weathered an intense year of public scrutiny and police investigation after being accused of murdering his soon-to-be ex-wife. And though there was never enough evidence to have him arrested, his reputation is in tatters as well as his soul. He need sanctuary. He needs Bluff House.
While Eli's beloved grandmother is in Boston, recuperating from a nasty fall, Abra Walsh has card for Bluff House, among her other jobs as yoga instructor, jewelry maker, and massage therapist. She is a woman with an open heart and a wide embrace, and no one is safe from her special, some would say over-bearing, brand of nurturing - including Eli.
He begins to count on Abra for far more than her cooking, cleaning, and massage skills, and starts to feel less like a victim - and more like the kind of man who can finally solve the murder of his wife and clear his name. But Bluff House's many mysteries are a siren song to someone intent on destroying Eli and reaping the rewards. He and Abra will become entangled in a centuries-old net of rumors and half-truths that could pull them under the thunderous waters of Whiskey Beach...
Passion and obsession, humor and heart flow together in a novel about two people opening themselves up to the truth - and to each other.
The Story: The blurb of Whiskey Beach is pretty accurate, but let see if I can add my two cents :)
Eli Landon has just had a very rough year. His wife was murdered while they were in the middle of getting a divorce. Because of a vicious, public fight that very afternoon about her adultery and the fact that he discovered the body at their house while he was retrieving some of his family heirlooms, Eli was the prime suspect. He was acquitted on lack of evidence, but not everyone believes him innocent. Obviously, this has turned his life upside down. Knowing that his career as a criminal attorney is over and no longer having to fight to stay out of jail, Eli is at loose ends. When his grandmother moves to his parents' house in Boston to recover from a very bad fall, Eli promises that he will look over Bluff House for her... and therefore heads to Whiskey Beach where he hopes to find his new self through his writing.
There, he never expected to meet a woman like Abra Walsh. Abra has her own tragic story and understands what Eli is going through. She too left behind a successful career, came to Whiskey Beach to heal and re-invented herself. She has a multitude of odd jobs such as being a yoga instructor, jewelry maker, and massage therapist as well as Bluff House's housekeeper. She can't help herself wanting to help Eli, nurture him back to health - mentally, emotionally and physically. And while it is happening, Abra and Eli are both succumbing to attraction.
However, there is still a killer lurking... And when Abra is attacked in Bluff House and a trench is found in the basement, it seems that all the events, including Eli's grandmother's fall which may not be an accident anymore, are linked up and related to Bluff House's legend of a pirate treasure...
My Opinion: I love Ms Roberts' writing. It's just that simple LOL. There's something about her voice, her style that just works for me :) It's true that her stories can be very formulaic, especially her trilogies and quartets, but in the end, there is always something that I like and enjoy. Last year's stand-alone, The Witness, was really good and therefore, a tough act to follow. While I don't think Whiskey Beach measured up to it, it wasn't the let-down so many readers felt for me because there were quite a few things about it that I really liked :)
In a sense, Whiskey Beach was a very typical NR stand-alone where one of the main character has some personal issues and needs to heal, then meets the other main character and gradually fall in love with of course, an underlying mystery that ties everything up together. The reason why I enjoyed Whiskey Beach so much though was the role/gender reversal. Not gender reversal in the sense that Eli was more sensitive and Abra, gruffier LOL. What I mean is that in most stand-alones, it's usually the heroine who has stuff to overcome and the hero who stands by and offers tough love... In Whiskey Beach, well it was the opposite. It was Eli who had his life upside down, who was going through depression and who needed to find himself. And Abra was there, trying to help him out as she could. I thought it was refreshing :) And it was also interesting to see how gender did play a role. For example, Abra was noisier and more nurturing instead of trying to stay out of things and offer tough love :P As a man, Eli coped differently as well. So in a way, Whiskey Beach managed to be both typical and different :)
I also enjoyed Eli and Abra's characters very much. I liked seeing Eli adapt and adjust to his new life, to a slower rhythm. After everything Eli had gone through, he was battered... but I liked that he still had a lot going on for him and he knew it. He still had the support of his family and while he no longer had a career as a criminal attorney, he could pursue his other passion: writing. As for Abra, I know many found her annoying and it's true that she was a tad too perfect, but I liked her :) I liked her energy and her joie de vivre. I liked that after what happened to her, she was able to build a new life for herself and was happy with it and the choices she made :) I enjoyed seeing Eli and Abra interact with others as well, especially Eli's family. It was good for him to still have their support, but at the same time, understandable that he needed some distance from them... and it was also good to see that after a bad year, things do go back to normal and people can move on. As for the romance, it was nice. Eli and Abra definitively made a good couple together and they were good for each other :) And I enjoyed the way they came together - not too fast, but not too slow :P
My issue with Whiskey Beach was the mystery/intrigue. I thought the mystery was on the weak side and also, long-drawn, draggy. Perhaps if it had only focused on Eli's wife's murder, it would have been better instead of tying the whole thing up to the Bluff House's legend. Mainly because I thought the legend wasn't very interesting and also, it took time to set up. It was also obvious there was going to be a twist about the murderer's identity and so when it was uncovered, it didn't really feel like a twist anymore. Just a bit too obvious. Finally, I felt there were a bit too many coincidences, that things fell into place a bit too easily to make the intrigue in Whiskey Beach satisfying. It's fine to have lucky breaks, but when it all centers around one person... it's just too much :(
My Grade: B-. Whiskey Beach was not Ms Roberts' best book, but it's still one that I enjoyed quite a lot :)