Jan 27 2014 9:30am

First Look: Mariah Stewart’s At the River’s Edge (January 28, 2014)

At the River's Edge by Mariah StewartMariah Stewart
At the River's Edge
Ballantine / January 28, 2014 / $7.99 print, $5.99 digital

After taking stock of her life, Sophie Enright has decided it’s time for a break. Between a law career that’s become criminally dull and a two-timing boyfriend she’s done with once and for all, Sophie desperately needs some time to think and some space to breathe. The perfect place to do both is easygoing St. Dennis, Maryland, where Sophie can visit with her brother while she figures out her options. Once in St. Dennis, she discovers a shuttered restaurant and makes a bold move that is also a leap of faith. Sophie buys the fixer-upper in order to finally pursue her dream career.

But Sophie’s labor of love becomes a bone of contention for her new neighbor Jason Bowers. The local landscaper has big plans for growing his business—until Sophie scoops up the property he’s got his eye on. And no amount of buyout offers or badgering from him will get her to budge. It’s hardly the start of a beautiful friendship. But when they’re paired up to work on a community project, they agree to put their differences aside, and sparks begin to fly. Then Sophie’s cheating ex suddenly shows up, looking for a second chance—and threatening to make Jason a third wheel just when his hotheaded feelings about Sophie were turning decidedly warmhearted. All Sophie wants is a new life and a true love. But what are the odds of having both?

Although the setting sounds idyllic, it is the characters from the Chesapeake Diaries series who are really the appeal for me. From that you might expect that they are larger than life, or perfect, but you would be wrong. It is their ordinariness that is intriguing. Even though their issues or concerns are solved within the pages of their book, the characters seem like they could be a neighbor or friend or even co-worker, and it is because of that and Mariah Stewart’s writing that I keep returning again and again to this series. What I especially enjoyed about At the River’s Edge is Sophie's dilemma.

Sophie Enright’s father is the black sheep of the family. Because of that, she didn’t really know her grandfather growing up. Her brother, Jesse, moved back to St. Dennis, Maryland and after proving that he wasn’t cut from the same cloth as their father, their grandfather asked him to join the family law firm, Enright & Enright, Attorneys at Law. Both her grandfather, and her uncle retired last year, so her brother is running the firm solo and is struggling a bit. Jesse is due to be married, further complicating the situation. Her grandfather and brother would love for Sophie to join the firm.

Sophie is torn. She feels like she only became a lawyer because of family precedence—her father, her mother, and her brother, plus grandfather and uncle are all lawyers.

“The law is like the family business, Jess. I never thought I’d have a choice.”

“Okay, I get that part.” Jessie nodded. ”Sure. But what’s the alternative? What would you do? You’ve never done anything else.”

“Not true.” Sophie smiled. “You’re forgetting about all those summers when I worked at Shelby’s. Every year, college right through law school.”

“The diner?” Jesse choked on his coffee. “You were a short-order cook.”

“I love it,” she confessed. “That was the best job I ever had.”

“Oh, come on . . .”

“Nope. I loved it. Loved it.”

“Well hey, there’s a little dive over on River Road that might be for sale. You could always give up law and live out your short-order fantasies right here in St. Dennis."

Jesse finds it difficult to understand her aspirations, but the dream of doing something she loves takes hold of Sophie. And she finds it difficult to put the thought aside, even if her brother doesn’t think she knows what she is doing:

“But do I think it would be stupid for you to quit your job and open a restaurant when you have no clue how to run one and no game plan? Let’s just say it probably wouldn’t be your finest moment, kiddo.”

After spending some time with her brother, she realizes how overextended he is. Then after talking with her former boyfriend—the man she found boffing a co-worker in the back of his car—she realizes that she doesn’t want to return to the D.A.'s office. At a crossroad, Sophie makes the decision to join the family firm. Then the property becomes available.

Sophie is faced with disappointing her family or taking a risk, and doing something that fulfills a need within her. Although everyone questions why she would want to give up law to open a restaurant. Even Sophie’s former boss, the owner of Shelby’s Diner, wonders:

“Now what brings you back to Shelby’s? You said you wanted to pick my brain about something?”

“I do,” Sophie took a sip of water, then put the glass on the chipped tabletop. “I need your advice.”

“About . . .?”

“About running a restaurant.”

Shelby raised an eyebrow. “Who wants to run a restaurant?”

“I do,”

“You went to law school to be a lawyer, right?”

Sophie nodded. “I did. And I like being a lawyer. But the best job I ever had was right here.”

“You were a short-order cook.” Shelby was frowning. “You didn’t need to go to law school to do that.”

“I went to law school because everyone expected me to. I became a lawyer because that’s what people in my family do.”

It is not easy to start over in any situation, even if doing so is a fulfillment of a dream. Even if you can’t understand why someone would want to be a short-order cook verses an attorney, you can’t help but root for choosing a gratifying career—no matter what it is. You will find it rewarding to make the journey with Sophie as she transverses the obstacles to her happiness.

Learn more or order a copy of At the River's Edge by Mariah Stewart, available January 28, 2014:

Buy at AmazonBuy at Barnes & NobleBuy at Indiebound



Leigh Davis, Blogger

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