Sweet Salt Air by Barbara Delinsky

AIR
Sweet Salt Air by Barbara Delinsky
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (402 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: Best Book
Reviewed by Camellia

On Quinnipeague, hearts open under the summer stars and secrets float in the Sweet Salt Air…

Charlotte and Nicole were once the best of friends, spending summers together in Nicole’s coastal island house off of Maine. But many years, and many secrets, have kept the women apart. A successful travel writer, single Charlotte lives on the road, while Nicole, a food blogger, keeps house in Philadelphia with her surgeon-husband, Julian. When Nicole is commissioned to write a book about island food, she invites her old friend Charlotte back to Quinnipeague, for a final summer, to help. Outgoing and passionate, Charlotte has a gift for talking to people and making friends, and Nicole could use her expertise for interviews with locals. Missing a genuine connection, Charlotte agrees.

But what both women don’t know is that they are each holding something back that may change their lives forever. For Nicole, what comes to light could destroy her marriage, but it could also save her husband. For Charlotte, the truth could cost her Nicole’s friendship, but could also free her to love again. And her chance may lie with a reclusive local man, with a heart to soothe and troubles of his own.

To me, Sweet Salt Air is to be savored without haste. I realized immediately that I didn’t want to race along just reading for story. I wanted to soak up the ambiance of Quinnipeague Island, just off the coast of Maine. I wanted to vicariously experience the distinctive smells, the feel of the wind, the sand and rocks along the beach, all the things that excite the senses. I especially wanted to be a part of Charlotte Evans “going home again” and reconnecting with her dearest friend.

The uniqueness of the islanders enchanted me while the primary characters made me want to comfort them—assuring them that they were loved. Their emotional needs are almost palpable. Barbary Delinsky helps the reader see into the deepest recesses of these characters’ hearts.

Charlotte Evans, a successful freelance, world traveling writer, finds Quinnipeague still the island of her memory, a place she’d exiled herself from more than ten years ago as well as absenting herself from her dearest friend Nicole Carlysle. Now back on the island and with Nicole to help her complete her cookbook of Quinnie recipes and people who use them, Charlotte is beset by the old guilt, heartache, and misery that she has tried so hard to outrun these many years. Even though she is independent, self-sufficient, with an edgy attitude, she wants the closeness back that she and Nicole had for so many years. She wants redemption. Her strengths and weaknesses and the way the author reveals them is riveting.

Charlotte’s unexplainable yet undeniable attraction to Leo Cole, the island’s former bad boy and now recluse, has something of a magical aura about it. The nights, the environment pregnant with scents of herbs,, their working together with few words, and the vast difference in their life styles give the reader a feeling they are in a world all their own when they are together—disconnected from the real world. The melding of these two strong personalities is not without pain, but it also has humor, joy, and life-changing needs and emotions that are spellbinding. Leo Cole’s story is startling and compelling.

Nicole, sweet, giving and with a childlike voice, needs to reconnect with her strong dearly loved Charlotte. She not only needs her help to get the cookbook ready for publication, she also needs her for emotional strength to get through the ordeal she and her husband Julian are dealing with—a four-year-old secret that is eating her alive. Her emotional wounds are so deep; if they’d been physical, she would have bled to death. Nicole seems like such a fragile little soul, but the strength Charlotte brings out in her is magnificent as it comes into its own.

Julian, Nicole’s famous doctor husband, creates a firestorm that influences the plot time and again. The lives of those who love him most get battered unmercifully in the storm. How he and Nicole cope with the devastation in their lives squeezes the heart to the gasping point.

Nicole’s mother is a secondary character that flounders but finds her footing as she and Nicole suffer grief, harsh words, and fear. The subtle ins and outs of their relationship show the reader the unbreakable ties of mother and daughter love.

The most intriguing part of the story, to me, is the evolving of Charlotte and Leo’s relationships. One can almost believe that his mother Cecily, the mysterious herb lady who is dead, is still orchestrating events. The unique scents of Jasmine, Valerian and the power of the elusive red clover makes one wonder ‘what if’.

Barbara Delinsky takes her flawed characters, so human, and plops them down on an enduring island with its unique people who have a culture all their own. She transports the reader into that world so apart from the bustling world most people are used to. Her exquisite writing style with amazing descriptions, attention to detail, hint of magic, and love that lifts up and sets the heart singing makes Sweet Salt Air an absorbing novel—a story to enjoy to the very last word.

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