by Beatriz Williams
The New York Times bestselling author of A Certain Age transports readers to sunny Florida in this lush and enthralling historical novel—an enchanting blend of love, suspense, betrayal, and redemption set among the rumrunners and scoundrels of Prohibition-era Cocoa Beach.
Burdened by a dark family secret, Virginia Fortescue flees her oppressive home in New York City for the battlefields of World War I France. While an ambulance driver for the Red Cross, she meets a charismatic British army surgeon whose persistent charm opens her heart to the possibility of love. As the war rages, Virginia falls into a passionate affair with the dashing Captain Simon Fitzwilliam, only to discover that his past has its own dark secrets—secrets that will damage their eventual marriage and propel her back across the Atlantic to the sister and father she left behind.
Five years later, in the early days of Prohibition, the newly widowed Virginia Fitzwilliam arrives in the tropical boomtown of Cocoa Beach, Florida, to settle her husband’s estate. Despite the evidence, Virginia does not believe Simon perished in the fire that destroyed the seaside home he built for her and their young daughter. Separated from her husband since the early days of their marriage, the headstrong Virginia plans to uncover the truth, for the sake of the daughter Simon never met.
Simon’s brother and sister welcome her with open arms and introduce her to a dazzling new world of citrus groves, white beaches, bootleggers, and Prohibition agents. But Virginia senses a predatory presence lurking beneath the irresistible, hedonistic surface of this coastal oasis. The more she learns about Simon and his mysterious business interests, the more she fears that the dangers that surrounded Simon now threaten her and their daughter’s life as well.
I’d never received a compliment like that. Certainly not from a grown man, a man of mating age. I didn’t even know that kind of man, other than that he existed, a separate and untamed species, kept in another cage from mine on the opposite end of the zoo. And that was well enough with me. I had no interest in mating. Having survived such a childhood, I thought myself practical and resourceful – and I was, by God!
Because while houses burned down regularly, and people died all the time, I had never imagined that Simon could meet his end like that. You could not extinguish my husband in mere flame. I simply wasn’t possible.
Cocoa Beach was a mesmerizing read. Beatriz Williams has more than mastered her craft. Her words imbued her characters with a luxurious texture and her lush and effusively detailed scenes pulled me right inside the narrator’s head. I could see the cigarette smoke curling, smell the orange blossoms, hear the car engines, and feel the reverberations of bomb explosions.
But the characters – oh the characters! I was spellbound and confounded by them. I frequently waffled and felt conflicted, as I did not want Simon to be as wicked, greedy, unscrupulous, or as untrustworthy as Virginia was being led to believe. But someone was lying and I could not decide on whom as his entire family proved to be as slippery as eels with their words. Saying a lot while saying nothing precisely, which required considerable skill and talent from the author to maintain.
As with her other books, Cocoa Beach provided a substantial and meaty read with a complicated plot full of twists and turns as well as complex and alluring characters, and a maddeningly paced storyline to keep me on the hook as my wheels kept spinning while only digging me deeper and deeper into the Florida sand. Ms. William’s tantalizing words kept me engrossed, luring me into an intricate web of deceit and intrigue with several separate yet related mysteries going at once. The writing was densely populated with richly embellished sentences, heaving with opulent and evocative details. She could conjure entire communities in a paragraph or detail the act of obtaining and taking an aspirin for an entire page. This was not a fast or light read but an intense and enthralling tale to savor.
About the Author
A graduate of Stanford University with an MBA from Columbia, Beatriz spent several years in New York and London hiding her early attempts at fiction, first on company laptops as a corporate and communications strategy consultant, and then as an at-home producer of small persons. She now lives with her husband and four children near the Connecticut shore, where she divides her time between writing and laundry.
Visit her online at www.beatrizwilliams.com,
on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/beatrizwilliamsauthor,
and on Twitter at @bcwilliamsbooks.