I was in the mood for some California sun and surf with my romance so I eagerly grabbed up this ultimate summer beach read. It doesn’t matter if you’re into surfing or not with this one since the characters, plot and setting are the main event and at its heart it’s really ‘the prodigal come home small town romance’ theme with the small town just happening to be a beach town hosting a surfing tournament. While I enjoyed many things about this book, I can’t say that I ever really got into it.
The story opens with professional surfer, Tanner Wright, returning home after ten years away due to self-inflicted exile. At the beginning of his surfing career, he learned something devastating about his dad that cut him to the core and would hurt his mother and sister if they ever found out. He stayed away because being anywhere near his dad knowing what he did just enraged him and he was afraid that he’d blurt out the terrible secret. Now his dad was dead and he was back as an aging surfer to maybe go out a winner with the pro surfing championship. He hoped that he would keep it together around his family knowing they still cherished good memories of husband and father.
Avalon Knox was just fourteen when she started crushing on her best friend’s brother, but then he left and she never saw him again. Something happened between Tanner and his dad, but neither man would say what it was. Avalon loved the Wrights as her own family the way they took her in and practically raised her when her own mom was off doing her thing. She is angry about the jerky way Tanner stayed away after his dad’s death when his mom and sister needed him, but this doesn’t stop her from instant attraction and want when she sees him back. He seems pretty interested in her too. They might even get a chance to scratch that itch because she has just accepted a contract with his big sponsor to do a full photo shoot for a top surfing magazine that will follow Tanner for the month leading up to the big tournament.
Tanner can’t keep his eyes and hands off this grown up sassy version of Avalon. He’s not too keen about being followed around by her and her camera, but having her close is definitely a side benefit. Unfortunately, the past rears up its ugly head when the living evidence of his dad’s infidelity shows up and starts up all sorts of trouble threatening to spill all of the dead Hank Wright’s dirty laundry just to hurt the family. Things get pretty crazy for Tanner with the growing thing he has with Avalon, the situation with Mako and getting prepped for the surfing championship, but then it all comes to a forefront when he discovers that Avalon went behind his back about something important to him.
The plot was more drama than action which is not a problem per se. However, I didn’t buy into the drama which was the root of my dissatisfaction. The dad who is dead cheated on his wife with an underage girl and it wasn’t a one time only thing, but he won’t come clean about it so the son runs away for ten years after discovering all this in an attempt to protect his mom and sister from finding out because he apparently couldn’t be around home without giving it away. I get it if you’re fifteen to think this way or even needing some time to process, but ten years? Nah! I constantly felt like I was reading a mature YA or an NA level book the way these characters were thinking, acting and talking.
The romance side was a struggle for me too. The story was ‘telling’ me these two were in love, but the actions didn’t go there for me. The story glossed over any down time when they would have done any real relationship building outside the bedroom and gave pages and pages of their sexy times so I wasn’t really given anything to make me believe when they both started thinking serious ‘I love you’. They spent a lot of time in flux where Avalon was angry or disappointed in Tanner or when her lie kept them from getting closer before it blew up and broke them up. Attracted to each other? Definitely. I can buy that. In love? I needed more convincing.
The characters were drawn simply with Avalon getting more attention as to her character development than Tanner. They weren’t given enough development to make me really care about their story. I didn’t hate them or their story. I liked them well enough and liked some of the playfulness. I had a few factual details about their lives and a bit about their feelings about family, but I wasn’t given enough to know them. Truthfully, the two characters that grabbed my attention was a fellow surfer, Jack, and Tanner’s sister. They had a lot of depth and intriguing sides to them even as secondary characters. I would love stories about them- not together necessarily.
The setting of the small beach town and the surf background added a nice layer of depth to the story. I enjoyed all the scenes at the beach, the descriptions of the town and their memories of growing up there. I think this will continue to develop nicely as the series progresses. There wasn’t much surfing action, but there was enough to show it as a vital part of the story if not a big part.
To sum up, I think there is some good potential here for a series, the characters were likeable if under developed, the plot and romance were on the less mature side for an adult story, but it was worth it for a nice lazy summer read with some sizzle to it.
My thanks to Penguin Group for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.