Since I’ve spent the last couple of years (has it been that long?) living in a tiny beach town that time seems to have forgotten, how could I resist Beach Town, a novel about that kind of sleepy beach town by bestselling author Mary Kay Andrews? Doh. Of course I couldn’t. I’m betting you won’t be able to resist it either because it will make an excellent vacation read.
What happens when you take a woman living a fast-paced Los Angeles life and plop her down in the middle of a tiny, laid-back beach town? My poor Facebook friends could give you a blow-by-blow description and tell you right now that it’s not always pretty (gross understatement). Ms. Andrews does an excellent job with this fish-out-of-water story with a Hollywood twist. I’m delighted the publisher has given us a copy for our giveaway that one of you will win!
Greer Hennessy is a Los Angeles film industry location scout. Being a location scout might sound glamorous but it’s grueling work, and finding the perfect location for a director who will “know it when he sees it” is just the beginning. Greer is a master at fixing the unfixable and turning volatile situations around so everything works seamlessly. At least she used to be. Now she’s got a problem. In Hollywood, you’re only as good as your last job and Greer’s last job was an unmitigated disaster. Why? The film crew destroyed part of a productive and lucrative avocado orchard. Who got blamed? Greer did, of course, since she set everything up. That could easily be a career ending mistake.
Luckily, Greer’s best friend, Ceejay, is living with a producer/director who’s agreed to give her a chance on his new project. There are a few minor details that she’d be concerned about if she weren’t so desperate for a job, like that there’s no script or even a treatment that could give her storyline clues and that he isn’t sure what he wants but he’ll know it when he sees it. Nothing like flying completely blind. Still a job is a job and, if she can prove herself on this project, all will be forgiven and she’ll be back on top of the game.
So off Greer goes to the Florida Panhandle in search of the perfect, sleepy little beach town – a town that time forgot. Surely the Panhandle is full of those. Nope. Instead, over and over again what she finds all along that coast are new beach houses, lots of sleek, modern buildings, strip malls, and none of the rustic charm this project needs. WTH happened? She needs ramshackle, old-style beach houses, lots of old fishing and shrimp boats, piers that have seen better days, and a cozy, laid-back atmosphere.
After talking to tons of locals and following up leads that are a bust, she tries one last lead. The road looks like it goes nowhere and she’s about to turn around and head back to civilization when she sees it. The epitome of a sleepy little Florida Gulf Coast town – only one ramshackle motel, a small marina, old beach houses, a pristine beach untouched by tourists, and an old fishing pier with a boarded up casino. All of it’s perfect! Even the director thinks so and he’s absolutely thrilled with the decrepit casino, which can be exploded in the final scene. Yay!
Now she only has to convince the town to let a film crew come in and shoot there. You’d think the town would be jumping up and down at the money such a project will bring into its coffers and its citizens’ pockets. She locks down using the motel for crew quarters easily enough and even finds a couple of luxury homes sitting empty and unsold in a nearby development for the director and stars. Everything is going really well…until she meets the mayor, Eben Thibadeaux.
To be fair, she doesn’t know Eben is the mayor when she finds him carrying clean towels to a motel room. She thinks he’s the housekeeping staff and she, ahem, doesn’t exactly treat him very well to put it mildly. And when she has a hysterical meltdown over a giant flying cockroach in her room, Eben doesn’t exactly get the impression that she’s the brightest bulb in the pack. Let’s just say their initial impressions of each other don’t pave the way for project negotiations to go well.
Then Eben learns the film crew plans to blow up the town’s casino. It doesn’t matter that a strong wind would blow the casino over, that casino has been the heartbeat of the town with lots of history behind it. And he is intent on saving it. It also doesn’t matter that anyone objective about the whole thing would know the casino can’t be saved with a few grants even if Eben can get them. He’s determined to save the casino no matter the cost or trouble it causes.
But the casino is just the tip of the iceberg. Eben has seen the town taken advantage of by outsiders before and he’s not about to let it happen again. The town and its fishing fleet are just beginning to turn a corner after the last debacle with a paper company that wreaked environmental havoc. How does he know this film crew won’t come in and set the town back even worse than the last fast talkers did?
There’s only one glitch in Eben’s refusal to even talk about the film project. Despite himself, he finds Greer much too attractive for his own good. He’s determined to not let her get under his skin. And the feeling is mutual. Greer’s last boyfriend was an entertainment industry attorney who left some real scars on her soul. The last thing she wants is to get involved with anyone at this point, and she definitely doesn’t want to get involved with a mule-headed mayor of a backwater town. She just wants to get this film made and go back to her life in Los Angeles with her professional reputation back on track. Too bad fate may have other plans…
I’m not sure who is the more stubborn/determined of the two, Greer or Eben. I could relate to Greer in many ways, and not just the fish out of water part. Eben you need to discover for yourself because it’s a fun discovery. Let’s just say it’s a good lesson in not judging a book by its cover. There are a lot of fun and interesting characters in this novel. Having worked in the entertainment industry, I can say many elements of the film production part of this story are dead on. Some productions actually go pretty smoothly, although all film shoots require backbreaking work, the ability to think way outside the box, and being nimble on your feet. That any film actually ends up “in the can” is probably a major miracle and a testament to the human spirit.
I loved Beach Town – period. It’s the perfect vacation read and it took this reader through a rollercoaster of emotions, with heartwarming and heart-wrenching subplots I’ve left out to avoid spoilers. While I read it, I kept thinking about John Lennon’s famous quote, “Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” I hesitate to say it’s the best novel Mary Kay Andrews has written because I think I’ve missed one or two of her other ones; however, it’s the best one I’ve read – and that’s saying a lot. I’m recommending it as a fun beach read!
Can’t wait to read it?
Beach Town was published on May 19, 2015, so it’s available in all formats from your favorite online bookseller below (or in the right column for iBooks). If you download as an e-book, you can have it to read right now!
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One lucky reader will win a finished hardcover copy of ido by Mary Kay Andrews!
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