CHOCOLATE BEACH by Julie Carobini
May 23, 2007
Rating *** ½ (3.5 Stars)
CHOCOLATE BEACH is Julie Carobini's first novel, and it centers on a Christian woman, Bri Stone, who lives in Ventura County, California working as a bus tour guide. She's married to a wonderful man, Douglas, who lately seems to be so busy with work he is hardly ever home. Together, they are raising a teenage son who loves the beach, as does Bri. Bri's life seems idyllic, living along the coast of Southern California, but she's becoming frustrated with her home life, wondering when she'll ever have any quality time with her husband.
In the meantime, her boss and good friend Rita decides to retire and hands over the reins of the company to her son, Ty, a man that Bri can't quite figure out. He SEEMS to be a good guy, nice-looking with a solid head on his shoulders. Bri decides to set him up with her best friend Gaby. While Bri hopes that Gaby and Ty hit it off, she tries her best to accept him as her new boss. They seem to be getting along OK, but there is something about him that sometimes bothers Bri. And although Rita says she's retiring, she still manages to come to the office often enough that it doesn't seem like she's really left. It's almost like she's checking up on things.
Bri's becomes suspicious about her husband when she sees Douglas in his convertible with a fellow lawyer, Kendall, and Bri's not exactly happy because she thought Douglas was supposed to be hard at work in the office. Instead, he's riding around town with a beautiful woman. One thing leads to another, and soon she is wondering whether Douglas is being unfaithful to her.
Besides wondering what her husband is up to during the day, Bri is also dealing with Doug's mother. Bri finds a fax from her mother-in-law hidden in Douglas' junk drawer, making Bri believe that Douglas is about to make a major house purchase without Bri's knowledge. Bri doesn't know what to think anymore; it seems as if her marriage is falling apart, and she doesn't know how to fix it.
For those who enjoy Christian Chick Lit or books that have a similar feel to it, CHOCOLATE BEACH is for you. The main characters are all Christians who live their every waking moment trying to emulate the words of Christ. Characters quote the bible every now and then, and even the teenage son Nathan tries to help out his friends by quoting scripture. Unfortunately, this reviewer doesn't feel that anyone that is not a born-again Christian will enjoy this book. One may feel that it is a bit much to have someone quoting the bible in an every day situation outside of Sunday school, and many will not feel very comfortable with it. On the other hand, the target audience is definitely the Christian woman reader, and Julie Carobini's debut novel will charm these readers to wanting more.
The strength of the book is the characters, although one will notice that while Bri and Gaby are the main characters, they do feel somewhat one-dimensional. But the characters serve their purpose, to help tell the story of a Christian woman who feels her husband is not being himself, and she wants to find out why. This reviewer did get caught up in the story, wanting to know what Douglas was really up to, and if he indeed was having an affair with his fellow lawyer. (The reader does not find out until the very end). The subplot of Bri's mother-in-law's attempts to the remodel Bri and Douglas' house was amusing, adding to the humor to the story. Gaby, Bri's best friend, was a minor character that was a little irritating at times, although she too added to the comedy relief. Ty, Bri's new boss, in some way is more important a character than Gaby, because he's the catalyst that helps Bri realize what she really has in Douglas.
This reviewer recommends CHOCOLATE BEACH only to those who truly enjoy reading Christian Fiction and are comfortable with this genre. Non-Christians may enjoy the antics of Bri and her coworkers at the Bus Tour company, but it definitely is not for anyone outside this group of readers, unfortunately. -- Courtesy of Love Romances and More - M. Lofton