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Sand Castle Bay by Sherryl Woods – ARC Review

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Back of the Book

In a trade-off she’s lived to regret, Emily Castle left home years ago to become an interior designer. The youngest of three sisters, Emily desperately wanted to prove herself. Success, though, came at the cost of leaving behind the man she loved.

For Boone Dorsett, losing Emily left his heart shattered, but another woman was waiting in the wings. Now a widower with a young son, Boone has a second chance with Emily when a storm brings her home. But with his former in-laws threatening a custody suit, the stakes of loving her are higher than ever.

Will fate once again separate them—or is the time finally right for these two star-crossed lovers?

Sand Castle Bay by Sherryl Woods


The television in Emily Castle’s Aspen, Colorado, hotel room was tuned to the Weather Channel, where there was minute-by-minute coverage of the hurricane aiming directly at North Carolina’s coast, the place that had been like a second home to her. Childhood summers there had been slow and lazy and sweet. The beach town her grandmother called home was where she’d ultimately experienced her first heartache, yet despite those painful memories and despite everything she had on her plate at the moment, it was where she needed to be. Even before her cell phone rang, she was checking flight schedules on her laptop. She clicked on a connecting flight between Atlanta and Raleigh, North Carolina, just as she answered the incoming call. “Already on it,” she told her sister Gabriella. “I should be able to get to Raleigh by sometime late tomorrow.” “Not a chance,” Gabi argued. “Flights are going to be canceled up and down the East Coast for at least a day or two. You’re better off waiting until next week and booking for Monday, maybe even Tuesday. Avoid the craziness.” “What’s Samantha doing?” Emily asked, referring to their older sister. “She’s rented a car and is already on her way down from New York. She’ll be here later tonight, hopefully ahead of the storm. They’re predicting landfall overnight. We’re already getting some of the wind and rain bands clear over here.” Of course Samantha would beat the storm! Emily couldn’t seem to stop herself from frowning. Though she’d never totally understood it, the odd competitiveness she’d always felt with her oldest sister kicked in with a vengeance. She supposed with three sisters, there were bound to be rivalries, but why with Samantha and not Gabi? Gabi was the driven, successful businesswoman, the one most like her in terms of ambition. “I’m getting on a flight out of here tonight,” Emily said determinedly, motivated by Samantha’s plans. “If I have to drive from Atlanta, then that’s what I’ll do.” Rather than admonishing her, Gabi chuckled. “Samantha said you were going to say that. From the time you understood the difference between winning and losing, you hated it when she beat you at anything. Okay, fine. Get here when you can. Just do it safely. This storm isn’t looking pretty. If it wobbles even the slightest bit to the west, Sand Castle Bay will take a direct hit. You can bet the road down to Hatteras will wash out again unless they were a lot smarter when they did the repairs after the last storm.” “How’s Grandmother?” Cora Jane Castle was in her mid-seventies but still going strong and determined to continue operating the beachfront restaurant opened by her late husband even though no one in the family had demonstrated any interest in running it. In Emily’s view, she ought to sell it and enjoy her golden years, but the mere mention of such an idea was considered blasphemy. “Stoic about the storm, but mad as a wet hen that Dad drove over and picked her up to bring her to Raleigh to ride out the hurricane,” Gabi assessed. “She’s in my kitchen cooking and muttering a few very bad words I had no idea she knew. I think that’s why Dad dropped her here, then took off. He didn’t want to be around when she got her hands on my knives.” “Or it could be he had no idea what to say to her. That’s his way, isn’t it?” Emily said with a hint of bitterness. Under the best of conditions, her father, Sam, wasn’t communicative. Under the worst, he simply wasn’t around. Most of the time she’d made her peace with that, but on occasion simmering resentments rose to the surface. “He has work to do,” Gabi said, immediately defensive, as always. “Important work. Do you know the kind of impact these biomedical studies at his company could have on people’s lives?” “I wonder how many times he said exactly that to Mother when he went off and left her to cope with raising us.” For once Gabi didn’t overreact. “It was a constant refrain, wasn’t it? Well, we’re all grown-up. We should be over all those missed school plays and recitals and soccer games by now.” “Says the not-so-well-adjusted woman who’s doing her best to follow in his footsteps,” Emily taunted with good humor. “You know you’re no better than he is, Gabriella. You may not be a scientist, but you are a workaholic. That’s why you get so uptight when I criticize him.” The silence that greeted her comment was deafening. “Gabi, I was only teasing,” Emily apologized, aware that she’d crossed a line. “Seriously. You know how proud we all are of your accomplishments. You’re a top executive at one of the hottest biomed companies in North Carolina, if not the entire country.” “I know. You just struck a nerve, that’s all,” Gabi said, then added briskly, “Let me know when you’re getting in and I’ll pick you up at the airport, okay?” Before Emily could offer another apology for what she had recognized as an insensitive, ill-timed remark, Gabriella had hung up. Not with the sort of clatter that would mirror Emily’s own quick flares of temper, but quietly. Somehow that was much, much worse. Boone Dorsett had been through his share of hurricane warnings and actual hits on the coast. He had the boarding-up routine down pat. But when it came right down to it, Mother Nature was always in control of the outcome. As a kid he’d been awed by the ferocious storms, but he’d had little real understanding of the havoc they could wreak on people’s lives. These days, with a son, a home and a busy restaurant, he had a far better grasp of what could be lost to high winds, devastating storm surges and flood waters. He’d seen roads washed out, houses toppled, lives uprooted. Thankfully, this latest storm had taken a last-minute turn east and delivered only a glancing blow. There was damage, plenty of it in fact, but so far he hadn’t seen the kind of destruction he’d witnessed in the past. In fact, it had been relatively kind to him. There’d been some flooding at his waterfront restaurant, a few shingles ripped off the roof at his home, but his biggest concern after checking out his own property had been for Cora Jane’s family restaurant. Castle’s by the Sea had been a constant in his life, as had Cora Jane. Both had inspired him to go into the restaurant business, not to mimic Castle’s success, but to create his own welcoming ambiance. He owed Cora Jane, too, for helping him to believe in himself when no one in his own dysfunctional family had. The biggest reason for Castle’s success, other than its proximity to the ocean, good food and friendly service, was Cora Jane’s devotion to it. She’d called him half a dozen times since the storm had passed to see if he’d been allowed back into Sand Castle Bay. The minute the evacuation order had been lifted, he’d crossed the bridge from the mainland to check his property and hers. Now, standing in the middle of the damp, debris-littered dining room at Castle’s by the Sea, he called her with the damage assessment she’d been anxiously awaiting. “How bad is it?” she asked, foregoing so much as a hello. “Tell me the truth, Boone. Don’t you dare sugarcoat it.” “Could have been worse,” he told her. “There was some flooding, but no worse than over at my place.” “Shame on me,” Cora Jane interrupted. “I never even asked how you fared in the storm. Just some flooding?” “That was the worst of it,” he confirmed. “My crew’s already cleaning up. They know the drill. As for the house, it’s fine. So is yours. A lot of tree limbs in the yard, a few roof shingles ripped off, but otherwise it’s all good.” “Thank heavens. Now finish telling me about Castle’s.” Boone complied. “A couple of storm shutters stripped away and the windows blew in. You’ll have to replace a few of these waterlogged tables and chairs, treat everything for mold, and paint, but all in all, it’s not as bad as it could have been.” “The deck?” “Still standing. Looks solid enough to me, but I’ll have it checked.” “And the roof?” Boone sucked in a breath. He hated delivering bad news and had deliberately put this off till last. “Now, I won’t lie to you, Cora Jane, but the roof’s looking pretty bad. Once the wind gets a hold on a few shingles, you know how it goes.” “Oh, I know well enough,” she said, sounding stoic. “So, is it bad, as in a goner, or bad as in a few stray shingles came loose?” He smiled. “I’d want to get Tommy Cahill over here to check it, but I’m thinking you’d be better off just getting the whole thing done. Shall I go ahead and call him? He owes me a favor. I think I can get him here before the day’s out. I can call your insurance company and see about getting a cleaning crew in here, too.” “I’d be obliged if you could get Tommy over there, but I’ll call the insurance people and there’s no need for a cleaning crew,” Cora Jane insisted. “I’ll be back first thing tomorrow with the girls. With them pitching in, we can clean the place up in no time.” Boone’s heart seemed to still at her words. The girls could only be her granddaughters, including the one who’d dumped him ten years ago and taken off to start a better life than she thought he’d be able to give her. “Emily, too?” he asked, holding out a faint hope that she wouldn’t be back here, in his face, testing his belief that he’d long ago gotten her out of his system. “Of course,” Cora Jane said, then added a little too gently, “Is that going to be a problem, Boone?” “Of course not. Emily and me, that’s in the past. The distant past,” he added emphatically. “Are you so sure about that?” she pressed. “I moved on, married someone else, didn’t I?” he said defensively. “And lost Jenny way too soon,” Cora Jane said, as if he needed reminding of his wife’s death just over a year ago. “But not our son,” Boone said. “I still have B.J. to think about. He’s my life these days.” “I know you’re devoted to that boy, but you need more,” she lectured. “You deserve to have a full and happy life.” “Someday maybe I’ll find the kind of happiness you’re talking about,” Boone said, “but I’m not looking for it, and it sure as heck isn’t going to be with a woman who didn’t think I’d amount to much.” Cora Jane drew in a shocked breath. “Boone, that is not what happened. Emily never judged you and found you lacking. She just had all these pie-in-the-sky dreams for herself. She needed to leave here and test herself, see what she could accomplish.” “That’s your spin. I saw it a little differently,” Boone said. “Maybe we’d better not talk about Emily. We’ve stayed friends, you and me, by keeping her off-limits. She’s family and you love her. Of course you’d defend her.” “You’re family, too,” Cora Jane insisted fiercely. “Or as good as.” Boone smiled. “You’ve always made me feel that way. Now let me make those calls and see what I can do to get this place back in working order before you get here. I know you’re going to want to plug in the coffeepot and open the doors as soon as the power’s back on. I should warn you that could be another couple of days. You maybe ought to consider staying with Gabi until it’s fixed.” “I need to be there,” Cora Jane replied determinedly. “Sitting around here and worrying isn’t getting anything accomplished. I imagine we can get by on that generator you had installed after the last storm.” “I’ll make sure it’s working and check the refrigerators and freezer to make sure things stayed cold. Anything else you need me to do before you come home?” “If Tommy gives you a fair estimate on the roof, tell him to get started, okay?” “You have my word, he’ll be fair,” Boone assured her. “And you’ll be first on his list. Like I said, he owes me.” “Then I’ll see you tomorrow,” Cora Jane said. “Thanks for checking on things for me.” “It’s what family does,” he replied, knowing it was a lesson he’d learned from Cora Jane, not from either of his own parents. Being supportive simply wasn’t part of their makeup. As he hung up, he couldn’t help wondering if there would ever come a day when he’d not regret that his ties to Cora Jane and her family weren’t of a far more permanent variety. It took Emily two frustrating days to make all the right connections from Colorado to North Carolina. More annoying than the time wasted in airports was imagining Gabi’s I-told-you-so when she finally landed in Raleigh on a clear day that bore no lingering evidence of the nasty weather that had blown through the state two days before. But when she emerged from the airport with her carry-on luggage, it was Samantha who awaited her. Her big sister enveloped her in a fierce hug. Though huge, fashionable sunglasses hid most of her face, and her artfully streaked hair was swept up in a careless ponytail, there was no disguising that she was somebody famous. It had always amazed Emily how Samantha could wear faded jeans and a T-shirt and wind up looking like a cover model. She just had that celebrity look about her, even if her acting career had never taken off quite the way she’d envisioned. “Where’s Gabi?” Emily asked, glancing around. “Three guesses.” “Gram insisted on going home,” Emily said readily. “Got it in one,” Samantha confirmed. “The minute they allowed residents back out there, Gram packed her bag. Gabi stalled her for a day, then told her if she was going to be stubborn as an old mule, at least she wasn’t going alone. They left this morning at dawn, so I stuck around to be your designated driver.” “Do you actually remember how to drive?” Emily inquired skeptically. “You’ve been living in New York a long time.” Samantha merely lifted a brow, which told Emily what her sister thought about her sense of humor. That was the thing about having an actress in the family. Samantha could convey more with a look than most people could with an entire diatribe. Emily had been on the receiving end of a lot of those looks over the years. “Do not start with me,” Samantha warned. “I made it here, didn’t I?” Emily nodded toward the waiting car. “Is that the same car you drove from New York? Or did you have to trade in a wreck?” “You are not amusing,” Samantha retorted. She glanced at the compact carry-on Emily had brought. “That’s it? That’s all your luggage?” Emily shrugged. “I’m used to traveling light. I was in Aspen on a job when I heard about the storm. I didn’t have time to go back to Los Angeles to pick up more things.” “Anything in there suitable for mopping and scrubbing?” Samantha asked doubtfully. “I just don’t see you mucking out the family restaurant in your designer heels. Those are Louboutins, right? You always did have expensive taste.”

Harlie’s Thoughts:

Okay, everyone and their mother knows that I’m a Harlequin junkie/whatever so when I was approached to do a full promo/blitz/review of Sherryl Woods new trilogy, I might have thought about it for a split second and then hit the reply button.  I know, Harlequin books and authors are my addiction and I’m proud of it. 

What really got me thinking was that I had lost base with authors like Sherryl Woods.  Sure, I knew they were there but with blog booming, I really didn’t MAKE the time to read an honest to goodness novel.  Like over 300 page novel in a long time.  I thought to myself, I will not have time to read it and I will have an epic fail on my hands.  Guess what?  I curled up in bed one night, picked Sand Castle Bay and just starting reading.  Yes, I read it in paperback.  🙂  I couldn’t stop reading.  My husband forced me to put the book down so we could go to sleep.  Needless to say that I finished it the next day and that was over 2 weeks ago. 

Of course now, I put Gabi’s book in the hopper to read because I just HAVE to know what happens to her.  Then I realized that I had to the beginning of May to finish it.  *sigh*  I have started it but with the holiday coming up and real life, unfortunately I’ve had to put it down but I do sneak in a few pages every day.  (Yall are going to love it)

What I’m trying to say is that with all the novellas, short stories, Kindle/Nook/Tablets and our now attention spans shorten, we really need to take the time to go back and read the authors that write the longer novels.  I really got to know the characters in Sand Castle Bay.  I felt truly connected with them in their wants, needs, desires and thoughts.  It was somewhat humbling to finish Emily and Boone’s story and I’m still thinking about those two now.  It was gratifying to me that not only did I finish the book, not 5 minutes later, I’m picking up Gabi’s story to read.  To me, that’s the mark of a great author.  Ms. Woods kept me engaged, flipping the pages like a mad woman to find out what was going to happen next and hungry for the next book in the trilogy. 


Emily and Boone were childhood sweethearts that wanted different things in life and eventually went their separate ways.  After a hurricane damages Emily’s grandmother’s restaurant, she and her two sisters come home to help.  What Emily didn’t expect was for her feelings for Boone to resurface.

Boone, poor Boone.  He was goner from the first moment that he even HEARD that Emily was there.  But he is a widower with a young son and former in-laws threatening at every turn to take away his son.  He doesn’t need Emily back in his life.  Unfortunately, his heart is not cooperating with his head.  He also didn’t think that his son would take such a shine to Emily and not realizing that his son was truly missing his mother. 

I’ve briefly talked about why I read Sand Castle Bay above.  I truly adored Emily and Boone.  From the opening paragraph to the last paragraph, I was engaged to know those two more than just on the surface.  Emily and Boone had a depth to them.  Ms. Woods let me get to know them as individuals and then as a couple.  Yes, were there sacrifices, misunderstandings and miscommunication between them?  Sure, it’s what made them human.  In fact, I got to know all of the characters in the book.  Emily’s family was not window dressing or there just to prop her up when the plot dictated it.  These are real people with real thoughts, wants and needs.

The townspeople are good people who can be a bit gossipy but what small town can’t be a bit gossipy.  I will say that Boone’s in-laws really grated on my last nerves and I look forward to the continuation of that thread in Gabi’s book.  I don’t think that its “over” between them. 

I highly recommend Sand Castle Bay to you, my dear readers.  Yes, is sweet/sensual in nature?  Yes, but sex would have just gotten in the way of the beautifully storytelling that Ms. Woods weaves in the book.  I was captivated by the setting, characters and most of all, Emily and Boone.  Sometimes second chances truly are better than the first time around and Emily/Boone proved that. 

One thought on “Sand Castle Bay by Sherryl Woods – ARC Review

  1. Good review – and I totally identify with you on book length – lately I’ve felt so overcome with how many books I’ve personally bought that I haven’t picked up a full book in while but I’m forcing myself to read one now. I haven’t started this series yet but I do have this book to read

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