I recently received an Advanced Copy of Barbara Delinsky’s latest novel Sweet Salt Air. This isn’t the first ARC I’ve ever gotten, but usually I have to decline reviewing them simply because I’m too busy to read/write/think straight.
Why did this one make it past my usual hurdles? Three reasons, I think.
First, a sweet soul at Wunderkind PR actually followed up to make sure I’d gotten my copy. I’m a sucker for a personal touch. Also, I can well remember my early days in marketing and of being the anxious newbie on the other end of that exchange.
Second, it arrived just before we left for a week at the beach… meaning I would actually have time to read an entire book instead of my regular routine of ‘Read three sentences. Stop to wipe someone’s bottom. Read same three sentences. Stop to make drinks and snacks. Lose place completely. Skim previous chapter to find those familiar three sentences — just as the cry of the latest casualty sounds in the playroom.’ You know…the usual.
Third, the novel had a really intriguing blurb. “Charlotte and Nicole were once the best of friends, spending summers together in Nicole’s coastal island house off of Maine. But many years, and many secrets have kept the women apart. For Nicole, what comes to light could destroy her marriage, but it could also save her husband. For Charlotte, the truth could cost her Nicole’s friendship, but could also free her to love again. And her chance may lie with a reclusive local man, with a heart to soothe and troubles of his own.”
Best friends separated by a terrible secret? Love it. A picturesque island off the coast of Maine? Yes, please. Throw in the troubled bad boy and this novel has “BEACH READ” written all over it. The sort of book that was made to have sand imbedded in its spine. I was three days into my week of sea and sand before Sweet Salt Air made it out of my suitcase, but it became my boon companion for the remainder of the week. Between Hermit Crab Races, Sand Castle Building Contests, and The Search For The Perfect Shell, I escaped to the small island of Quinnipeague and all its secrets. Secrets with a capital “S.”
I think what I liked most about Delinsky’s writing is her complete commitment to the characters. You really get to know the two leads, Nicole and Charlotte, including past events which factor into their current decision making. Delinsky impressed me in that she manages to convey those important details deftly, never leaving me feeling as if I’d just been buried under a giant “info dump” paragraph. There were plenty of times when one character or another reacted in a way I might not have, yet it was perfectly in keeping with that character’s personality and history.
Another thing that makes this book stand out is the attention to setting. Sensory immersion might be a better descriptor. I’ve never been to Maine in real life, but I now have a very strong mental picture of the fictional island of Quinnipeague — from the sight of its rocky beaches, to the taste of the local chowder, and especially the scent of valerian in Cecily Cole’s fabled gardens.
Technically, I think this book falls into the category of ‘Literary Fiction,’ but it reads more like contemporary romance to me. There’s mention of sex here and there, but none of the sort that is so lurid and detailed you worry a full-color diagram is lurking on the next page.
All in all, I’d peg this as an ideal summer read. It’s well-written with interesting characters and a well-delivered plot. Events that might seem far-fetched are fully believable in context — which is my litmus test for a good writer. Barbara Delinsky delivers what she promises on the back cover, a novel of “deeply buried secrets, heartfelt drama and a stunningly emotional love story.” I do love truth in advertising.
Leave a comment below and you’ll be entered for a chance to win my sand-encrusted copy of Sweet Salt Air. Tweet this review (be sure to include @TheDrunch so I’ll see it) and you’ll receive a second chance to win. Share this review on your blog or FB page (send me a screenshot of your FB feed or a link to your blog post) and you’ll receive an ADDITIONAL chance to win. Entries will be accepted through midnight on June 23rd (that’s a whole week, y’all).
If you can’t stand waiting another second, Sweet Salt Air hits the open market on Tuesday. Click the link below to preorder your copy in hard-cover or Kindle edition.
As I mentioned before, I received my ARC of Sweet Salt Air free of charge and with no strings attached from Wunderkind PR. If I’d hated it, you’d be the first to know.