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Monday, May 30, 2011

Newest Karen White Novel Not Quite Up to Snuff

(Image from Indiebound)

When her friend Monica Guidry dies unexpectedly, Julie Holt's surprised to find herself guardian of the two things Monica valued most - her 5-year-old son, Beau, and a beach house in Biloxi, Mississippi. Unsure what to do with either, Julie sets out for the Gulf Coast with the vague plan of settling into her new property while drumming up the courage to confront Monica's estranged family. She knows Monica had a compelling reason for leaving her family behind, but considering the circumstances, Julie figures the Guidrys deserve to know of her death. And of Beau. The little boy needs a home and family now more than ever.

Julie receives another shock when she nears Monica's beloved River Song. Ravaged by Hurricane Katrina five years before, all that remains of the beach house is bare boards and the porch columns that used to welcome the Guidrys to the shore every summer. Unmoored by the destruction of the place Monica loved so dearly, Julie flees to New Orleans, intent on getting advice - and answers - from the Guidrys. Not an easy task, especially when Monica's grandmother insists on revealing the family's story at her own, leisurely pace. With no home or job to return to in New York, Julie moves into the Guidry's house, allowing the family to get to know Beau while she works to restore River Song the way Monica would have wanted it done.The more time Julie spends with Monica's family - especially her attractive older brother - the closer she grows to them. It's the kind of closeness Julie craves since her own family started to disintegrate after the disappearance of Julie's younger sister 17 years ago. She's even beginning to feel at home in the Gulf Coast, despite all of Katrina's warnings against settling in such a dangerous clime. Most intriguing of all are the secrets Julie's uncovering, secrets that have her wondering if getting close to the Guidrys is really such a good idea after all.

If you've read other books by Karen White, you'll recognize her damaged-woman-finds-healing/redemption-in-revealing-long-buried-family-secrets formula. I'm usually more than down with that, but the familiar plot got a little tedious for me in White's newest, The Beach Trees. The novel kept my attention, even though it ran long, it was just the little things that bugged me - the characters never really came alive for me, some of the plot twists seemed illogical, and the book's Julie-can-survive-her-trials-because-Katrina-victims-didn't-give-up-in-the-face-of-theirs seemed a bit heavy-handed. I also puzzled over things like Julie's decision to up and move to Mississippi without even seeing the house she inherits and the way the Guidrys welcome a complete stranger into their home, not blinking an eye when she questions them about sensitive issues from their pasts. Then, there's Julie's complete devotion to Monica, a character who might as well be a paper doll for all we know about her. So, yeah, I had some issues. All in all, though, I enjoyed the read, just not as much as I wanted to.

(Readalikes: The Lost Hours by Karen White; The Memory of Water by Karen White; Tomorrow River by Lesley Kagen)

Grade: C

If this were a movie, it would be rated: PG-13 for mild language (no F-bombs) and a small amount of sexual content

To the FTC, with love: I received a finished copy of The Beach Trees from the lovely ladies over at TLC Book Tours, for whom this review was written.


  1. Sorry this one was not a winner for you. Regardless, I'm looking forward to giving it a try.

  2. Too bad this wasn't as good as you'd hoped, but I'm glad it didn't put you off the author's work for good.

    Thanks for being a part of the tour.

  3. I know what you mean about reading similar plot lines over and over, it is a bit boring. This book does sound good though, I think I may give it a try.

    In the Closet With a Bibliophile


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