Sweet Salt Air
St. Martin’s Press / June 18, 2013 / $25.99 print, $11.04 digital
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.
Barbara Delinsky's Sweet Salt Air is an emotional story with strong, likeable central characters—Charlotte, Nicole and Leo—all of whom are guarding secrets. It would be too simple to say that Sweet Salt Air is solely about secrets, as it goes much deeper than that. Delinsky’s story is about atonement and redemption. It is also about and a sense of belonging and of finding oneself, especially for Charlotte. Delinsky has chosen a wonderfully rich and vibrant coastal island as backdrop, the close-knit community of Quinnipeague, Maine, and its eclectic inhabitants.
Nicole’s secret has been kept from everyone, including her own mother, as it involves the life and livelihood of her husband, Julian. If anyone were to discover what they were hiding, his career would be ruined and the safe, stable life that Nicole has created will come crashing down on her. She has become so good at concealing the truth from the outside looking in, it appears that she has the perfect life—she's the wife of a renowned surgeon and in her own right, a successful food blogger. Her success has led to a deal to write a cookbook of recipes from her beloved Quinnipeague. It is here that her world will be shattered, and then slowly rebuilt, as secrets that have been carefully guarded begin to unravel.
Charlotte fled the island ten years ago, running from her mistakes. Although she has travelled the world for her job, something is missing from her life, a sense of home and belonging. She doesn't realize what she's been missing until she is back on the island, the one place she truly loves. More than anything, Charlotte longs to have roots. Although she came to Quinnipeague to atone for her sins and seek forgiveness, fate has much more waiting for her.
Breathing hard, he propelled them toward shore. They were barely in the shallows, their legs still washed by the surf, when he set her on the sand and levered her up only enough to tug at her panties. She helped, but one leg was all they managed. Holding that leg, he looked at her, giving her one last chance.
Are you in or out?
“In,” she whispered, and he was. Head back, eyes closed, he held himself there for what seemed like an eternity, before looking at her again. He seemed surprised. So was she. She hadn’t been conscious of wanting him, hadn’t drooled over his body while they worked or dreamt about it afterward. The way he fit into her now, though, satisfied something deep inside.
Wanting another kiss, she brought his face down, and the hunger was fierce on both sides. In time, she needed air, gasping at the power of what she felt. His thrusts went beyond the rhythm of the surf, creating sensations so strong she cried out.
The last thing Charlotte expected was to make an emotional connection with the local bad boy. It is Leo who gives her the strength to come to terms with her mistakes and take ownership of the consequences. What she feels for Leo is beyond physical attraction; she feels complete with him. Leo has his own secret, however, one that may prevent the two from forging a future together. Ultimately her fate belongs in Leo’s hands and his willingness to expose his secret.
As each secret is revealed, the friendship that Nicole and Charlotte have forged will be tested and they emerge stronger. Nicole finds forgiveness and an inner strength she didn’t know she possessed. Charlotte finds love and a sense of belonging. She finds home.
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Stephanie is a high school social studies teacher who enjoys escaping from reality with a good book. She is the mom of two energetic sons and when she isn't chasing herself in circles, she can be found lurking on Twitter @KindlesConsort.