Cocoa Beach: A Novel
By Beatriz Williams
While volunteering as an ambulance driver for the Red Cross, Virginia Fortescue meets Simon Fitzwilliam, a Captain in the British Army Medical Corps, in France. Despite her own better judgment, Virginia finds herself falling for the charming Simon, and the love the two share for each other soon leads to a whirlwind marriage. But the secrets Simon keeps from his new wife about his past soon drive a wedge between them, prompting Virginia to return home to her family in New York.
Five years later upon receiving word that Simon has died in a mysterious house fire at Maitland, the ancestral estate he had been diligently restoring, Virginia, along with her daughter Evelyn, travels to Cocoa, Florida. While Simon’s sister and his twin brother Samuel could not be more welcoming, Virginia senses a dark shadow lingering among the dazzlingly bright sunshine and sweet smell of orange blossoms that surround Maitland. Could it be that there is more to Simon’s mysterious death than Virginia has been led to believe?
Williams has gained a solid reputation with readers for her gracefully written historical fiction, and Cocoa Beach is an excellent example of her ability to flawlessly marry a finely honed plot rich in unexpected twists and turns with a full cadre of richly nuanced characters, who will keep readers engaged from the book’s first page to its stunning conclusion. Readers who enjoy novels with a strong sense of place and time will especially savor William’s latest masterwork as she whisks them from World War I France to misty Cornwall and then onto sun-drenched Florida. As an added bonus, fans of classic gothic romances by authors such as Daphne Du Maurier and Mary Stewart will especially appreciate the clever manner in which Williams remixes and re-masters many of the ingredients – including the ancestral estate, the heroine torn between the love of two men, and a romantic plot generously seasoned with intrigue and secrets - of these novels by transporting the story to Prohibition-era Florida.
John Charles, ReaderToReader.com