Donna Kauffman takes on the theme of second chances in her satisfying new novel, Sandpiper Island, the third entry in her Bachelors of Blueberry Cove series. The result is an emotionally rich story that delivers a beautifully researched natural setting, as well as a romance.
Delia O’Reilly has lived her whole life in the Cove, and her diner is a local hub of gossip, community and Delia’s delicious home-style cooking. More than that, it’s her bedrock. With her parents, brother and grandmother gone, Delia’s alone in the world aside from the friends and locals who have given her a place in their hearts. Now wealthy Brooks Winstock is poised to take the diner away from her, using a forgotten loophole to claim her scenic spot on the harbor for the yacht club he plans to build. Delia’s independence and resilience are legendary, but even she’s unprepared to have her entire life swept out from under her.
Years ago, Ford Maddox, then an Army Ranger, accompanied home the body of Delia’s brother, who was killed in the line of duty. But when the grim realities of military life began to gnaw at his soul, he retired to the Cove, finding comfort in coastal Maine’s majestic natural beauty—and its isolation. Now committed to an off-the-grid life, he studies the migratory patterns of various nesting populations around Sandpiper Island, just off the coast. He can handle feathered and flippered creatures just fine, but people. . . not so much.
Learning to love, as they find out, involves being able to accept care and concern—as well as give it
But in the lovingly imagined, tight-knit community of Blueberry Cove, no one is truly alone. Ford’s sister, Grace, who moved to the Cove to renew her connection with her long-estranged brother, is also Delia’s friend—and Grace is determined help the people she cares about find happiness. With a little prodding and gentle persuasion, Ford leaves his island to find out how he can help the woman he’s never forgotten hold onto her beloved diner.
Grace’s attempt to reconnect with her brother is just one example of the second chances Kauffman offers in the novel, but Delia and Ford provide the theme’s foundation. Though linked by their mourning of Delia’s brother and the one breathtaking night of solace and passion they shared years ago, neither of them has attempted to make anything more of their relationship. Now, both have to wonder why they have never pushed their relationship farther, when the attraction and understanding between them runs so much deeper than the physical.
There’s true emotional meat to this story—both Delia and Ford are past forty, dealing not only with the choices they’ve made along the way, but the repercussions of lives lived mostly independently. Learning to love, as they find out, involves being able to accept care and concern—as well as give it—and the chance to build something together is a revelation for both of them. As usual, Kauffman’s love scenes are joyously steamy, and her dialogue is refreshingly realistic. Sandpiper Island is another keeper from an author who continues to deliver year after year.
Amy Garvey is a freelance editor and the author of several romances and two novels for young adults.