My absolutely favorite well-refilling, heart-rejuvenating, mental-uplifting spot is, hands down, the beach.
The ocean and its shore have long been secondary characters in the story of my life.
They were my childhood friends during the summers my sister and I spent in Puerto Rico with our abuela and familia on our mami’s side. Oh, those lazy days we stayed out on the water for hours, bobbing along with the waves in an inflatable tube, the sunshine warming our skin.
In my elementary years, as a military brat living in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, I clocked countless hours with my familia at Windmill and Glass Beach. Picture glorious sunsets, cookouts, snorkeling, goofing around with other kids, and running from the HUGE iguanas brave enough to venture into the picnic areas.
Later, when the Navy moved us to Key West, the open ocean became the backdrop for our daily lives. Smathers and Higgs Beach are the hangout places featured in many of my adolescent memories. And of course, there were the afternoons my sister and I slathered on the Bain de Soleil or (I’m appalled by the thought of this now) baby oil (GAH!) and sunbathed along our backyard canal at our house in Big Coppitt Key, the wide ocean only a few doors down.
Now, as an adult living in north central Florida, the ultimate relaxing afternoon has me heading east to St. Augustine or Crescent Beach; reclining in a low lounger under an umbrella with my feet buried in the warm sand and my face shaded by a floppy beach hat; the sound of the ocean’s waves tumbling onto the shore lulling me into a sleepy doze while a humidity-laden, briny, slightly sulfur-y scented breeze teases my hair.
Add a romance novel that makes me laugh, sigh, tear up, and swoon…. Ahhhh, now that’s a perfect day. Sometimes I’m in the mood for a sweet romance that sweeps me off my feet, like Tif Marcelo’s books tend to do. Other times I’m in the mood for a deeply emotional, moving story like Liz Talley’s novels. And then there are the moments when I’m ready for a rompy, fun-loving rom-com à la Tracy Brogan.
All of these books below are on my Kindle app or Keeper Shelf at home. If you’re in the mood for a beach-y read before Island Affair comes out in May, check out one of these.
West Coast Love
First up, Tif Marcelo’s West Coast Love. It’s book #3 in her Journey to the Heart series, and, just like the first two, this one is a swoon-y romance, though on a fun road trip that has readers smiling! Eight days in an RV with the one-night-stand you thought you’d never see again, and she got the job he’s certain he deserved? Sparks fly! Family drama ensues. BBQ is devoured. (Side piece of advice: you might wanna have your local BBQ joint on speed dial to soothe your cravings.)
Victoria and Joel, our two wanna-be-but-shouldn’t-be lovers with a deep commitment to their families, make a perfect pairing, even if they don’t think so at first. They’re two likable people who deserve an HEA, and you can’t help but root for them along their RV journey. Plus, if I could visit a fictional spot, True North Café overlooking Ocean Beach sounds like a great stop at the end of a relaxing beach day.
Come Home to Me
Next up we have Come Home to Me by Liz Talley, a book that might require a few tissues but has you ultimately thankful you spent time in her story world. Set in South Carolina’s Lowcountry, Come Home to Me pulls readers into a beautifully moving, emotional love story about forgiveness, facing past mistakes, and the self-growth that allows us to find (and deserve) true happiness.
Our three main characters are flawed, and quite frankly, the men have BIG character arcs to go through. Our hero, Rhett, and heroine, Summer, work hard to find their way to each other. The third character, Hunt, has an extremely painful history with Summer, but he does see that in the end, which I was relieved about because he can be hard to like. I think this beach romance showcases Talley’s superb writing talent. (Trigger warning: This book deals with date rape.)
My Kind of Forever
Finally, what’s a beach reads recommendation list without mentioning Tracy Brogan? Her first book, Crazy Little Thing, has hilarious Aunt Dody, hunky hero Desmond, and Sadie, a single mom trying to forget about her cheating spouse by summering at Dody’s lake house and swearing off all men (until Dody starts matchmaking with Des)…after that book I quickly became a Tracy Brogan fan!
Her most recent release, My Kind of Forever, book #2 in her Trillium Bay series, is another keeper. Brogan’s known for penning heartwarming, laugh-out-loud romances with a cast full of characters you wish were your neighbors and friends, and she delivers that here with the quirky inhabitants of Wenniway Island.
In My Kind of Forever, you have a heroine, Brooke, who’s in over her head as the island’s newly elected mayor; a handsome mystery man named Leo temporarily in town but definitely interested in more than just fixing Brooke a drink at the local bar; and…hold your hats…a potential jewel thief on the loose! The mix of humor with the slow burn between these two unlikely lovers keeps readers turning the pages and sighing with satisfaction when they reach the end.
Whether, like me, you’re hanging out in your backyard hammock this weekend or bundled up against the cold inside, treat yourself to a romantic beach escape like Tif, Liz, or Tracy’s. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. And come May, I hope you decide to head home to Key West with me, to meet Luis and Sara in Island Affair!
Pre-order Island Affair by Priscilla Oliveras!
Featured photo: henri meilhac / Unsplash