A Thousand Steps

A Thousand Steps
A Thousand Steps by T. Jefferson Parker

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Beach House for Rent by Mary Alice Monroe- Feature and Review


New York Times bestselling author Mary Alice Monroe returns to her beloved Isle of Palms to tell the poignant, charming story of two women, one summer, and one very special beach house.

When Cara Rutledge rents out her quaint beach house on Isle of Palms to Heather Wyatt for the entire summer, it’s a win-win by any standard: Cara’s generating income necessary to keep husband Brett’s ecotourism boat business afloat, and anxiety-prone Heather, an young artist who’s been given a commission to paint birds on postage stamps, has a quiet space in which to work and tend to her pet canaries uninterrupted.

It isn’t long, however, before both women’s idyllic summers are altered irrevocably: the alluring shorebirds—and the man who rescues them—begin to draw Heather out of the shell she’s cultivated toward a world of adventure, and maybe even love; at the same time, Cara’s life reels with sudden tragedy, and she wishes only to return to the beach house that had once been her port amidst life’s storms. When Heather refuses to budge from her newfound sanctuary, so begins the unlikeliest of rooming situations. While they start out as strangers, as everything around the women falls apart they learn that the only thing they can really rely on is each other.

And, like the migrating shorebirds that come to the island for the summer, these two women of different generations must rediscover their unique strengths so by summer’s end they, too, can take flight in ways they never imagined possible.



Beach House for Rent (The Beach House, #4)Beach House for Rent by Mary Alice Monroe
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Beach House by Mary Alice Monroe is a 2017 Gallery Books publication.

I’ve been dying to sink my teeth into this latest installment in the ‘Beach House’ series by Mary Alice Monroe!

I’ve never been disappointed by one of MAM’s novels, but this one is especially poignant and is simply storytelling at its finest.

Once again, we return to the magical beach house filled with special memories of Lovie, Cara’s mother, who stubbornly refused to sell it, eventually handing it down to her daughter. Over the years, Cara’s often overbearing and obnoxious brother, Palmer, has pushed her to sell the prime location, but Cara has firmly refused him.

However, dark and ominous financial clouds are gathering over Cara and her husband, Brett, which makes selling the house very tempting, indeed.

Yet, Cara stands firm against Palmer’s aggressive, hard sell, and declares the house is for rent. She just never thought she would find a renter so fast…

Heather has been commissioned to do bird sketches to be used as models for United States postage stamps!! While she is very excited about this honor, her extreme social anxiety, and panic disorder keep her from living life to its fullest. To top it off, her father recently remarried- to a much younger woman, who does not want Heather living at home any longer.

So, her father gently nudges Heather out of the nest by renting her Cara’s beach house for the summer. This will give Heather time to work with her birds, get her job done, and maybe learn to live on her own- at least for the summer.

But, when a horrific and cruel twist of fate occurs, Cara finds she really needs to recover in the peace and comfort she can only find at the beach house. However, with Heather living in the house for the summer, Cara must make a compromise that will suit them both, which soon becomes the foundation for a very special bond between these two unlikely friends.

I always find myself totally wrapped up in the drama, love, laughter, and friendship exhibited in this series.

The characters are so real, they feel like people you would meet anywhere, or that you might know personally, which makes their stories feel so real, raw, and emotional.

I really took to Heather right away, understanding what it is like to live with a disorder few people understand, and are so quick to make judgements about. The more I learned about her, the more I liked her. She made so much progress, and Bo was a big part of her journey. But, what really sold me on her character was the way she took Cara in her arms and became a rock for her, even though Cara wasn’t having any of it in the beginning.

( I found her jealousy of Heather both amusing and curious- but it eventually it all becomes very clear what is bothering Cara)

But, Cara’s story is the one that was the hardest to go through emotionally. Her fiftieth birthday has her taking stock of her life and her future, as she realizes that something is missing, something that has her feeling restless, and keeps her from feeling completely content. She’s been struggling to help Brett keep his business afloat, living out his dreams and passions while hers have all but disappeared.

I think many people wake up at some point and realize that life’s twists and turns took them onto paths they weren’t expecting. While they may have found more happiness because of those surprising developments, it may also mean one's dreams were placed on hold or never realized.

For Cara her hopes for motherhood were dashed,and she had also left her high- powered career behind to make a life with Brett, so she ended up working at a ‘job’ helping to make ends meet, but did not find it all that fulfilling.

So, in part, Cara’s story is about her journey toward the discovery of her one true passion, even at this stage in her life. We all need something we are passionate about to keep us focused and centered no matter what other ups and downs, triumphs and failures, life throws onto our path. Of course, the story is also one of friendship and loyalty, about helping people through difficult periods, and coming together in times of need.

This is a wonderful, heartwarming story, and it had the same effect on me as comfort food might, or chicken soup for the soul or something. I absolutely need these types of stories to lose myself in, to take me away from the world’s hardness for a while. No matter what, I always feel better after reading one of MAM’s novels.

One more thought, before I finish- I can’t write a review about this series, without mentioning the ecology and animals the author weaves into her stories, which educates, but also serves as a reminder, that we are responsible for the well being of birds, and all beach life and aquatic creatures, no matter how superior you may feel, or how entitled you may feel about using the beach for your own enjoyment.

As always, I came away from this story feeling humbled and deeply satisfied. Another outstanding job by this author! I do hope, like Cara promised, she will be back soon!





Mary Alice Monroe is known for her intimate portrayals of women's lives and keen eye to setting. Monroe brings to life the many colorful people and the compelling story layers of her home--Charleston and the the beaches of the lowcountry. 

Mary Alice Monroe's books have achieved several best seller lists including the New York Times, SIBA, and USA Today. Mary Alice has received numerous awards, including the 2014 SC Book Festival Award for Excellence in Writing, the 2015 SW Florida Book Festival Distinguished Author Award, 2008 South Carolina Center for the Book Award for Writing, The RT Lifetime Achievement Award, and the International Book Award for Green Fiction. She serves on the board of the South Carolina Aquarium, the Leatherback Trust, and the Charleston Volunteers for Literacy. Her children's books received several awards, including the ASPCA Henry Bergh award. 

Her recent novel is the final book in a trilogy set in the lowcountry: THE SUMMER GIRLS, THE SUMMER WIND, and THE SUMMER'S END. Her next novel, A LOWCOUNTRY WEDDING, continuing the popular series, will be released in May 2016. Monroe's novel, THE BEACH HOUSE, will be made into a Hallmark film starring Andie MacDowell.

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