Sweet Waters – A Review


Julie Carobini, who refers to herself as a beach-lit writer, is a talented novelist. Her latest book, Sweet Waters, first in the Otter Bay series put out by B&H Publishing Group, is another delightful example.

My favorite thing about Julie’s writings, from the first time I read her work in a mentoring seminar at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference is her unique voice. My one desire is to see more of that in her novels, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

First, a mea culpa: I read Sweet Waters a month ago—right after I got it. But I had just completed back to back tours for Robin Parish and Andrew Peterson, and was sort of “reviewed out.” However, once I set the book aside to review “later,” it disappeared on the “waiting for later” stack. 😦 The delay between finishing the book and doing the review is in no way a reflection upon my opinion of the story! With that being said, on to the review.

The Story. Tara Sweet, oldest of three sisters, decides after the death of her father, her mother’s remarriage, and the breakup with her boyfriend, to leave her midwest home and head for California where she remembers happy years as a small girl.

When she arrives in the town she has romanticized, however, she begins to unravel realities regarding her family that destabilize her world.

Add in a growing friendship with firefighter Josh Adams who has his own problems to work through and the friction between her and her sisters, and Tara’s dream of recapturing the joy of her early years seems lost forever.

Strengths. I’ve already alluded to “voice.” In this particular novel, the characters’ voices come through. From dinner-owner Peg to successful sister Mel and empathetic employer Nigel, each has a distinct voice. Here’s a taste:

“You made it here a day early,” I say.

Mel glances around, her eyes stopping randomly, staring at the kitschy beach decor that came with our cottage. Her attention turns to me. “It works. And close to the beach too. You didn’t have to fight it out with someone else, did you? There’s no little old lady crying in her soup over losing this one, I hope.”

I shake my head. “Being on your own hasn’t changed you one bit.”

“In other words, I’m still as nasty as always.”

The distinct character voices help create realistic, believable characters, another strength of the novel.

As is place. I feel as if I’ve been to Otter Bay because Julie makes the setting come alive, a hard thing to do, in my opinion. Characters come alive by what they do and say. A setting comes alive by how the characters interact with it. Julie does this well.

The story is interesting and tension abounds. Why is Peg so set against the Sweets? Are the snatches of history Tara begins to uncover true or are they lies?

There is also strong, believable, well-integrated Christianity. Many of the characters profess faith and some live it out while others don’t. Some characters show no interest in God or “religion,” and some act in overtly sinful ways. The variation makes the world seem more real and the faith of the faithful true.

Weaknesses. I’ve mentioned voice several times. I do think Julie has a natural fresh voice and her characters pop off the page because of their distinct voices. I think I want more of that. Mel has a somewhat snarky voice but isn’t particularly likable. Tara, however, is the sensible one and has the least distinct voice of all. I’d like to see her stand out from the crowd more. But then, she wouldn’t be Tara. So it’s a curious point.

Another one is that this book is labeled Christian fiction/romance, and certainly B&H is known for its romance. However, this book is not your typical romance. I’d say it has romance in it, but it isn’t a romance. Someone picking the book up expecting to find a typical boy-meet-girl, yada-yada-yada story, may be disappointed.

I wasn’t. Rather, I was pleased with the depth and insight and character growth, with a little romance along the way as a nice bit of spice.

Recommendation. This book came out in August with a “Pure summer, pure enjoyment” marketing tag. Don’t be fooled into thinking that Sweet Waters is nothing but light, summer entertainment. This is a quality book and an enjoyable story, in the fall and winter and spring as much as in the summer. I highly recommend this book to women looking for a good story.

Published in: on September 14, 2009 at 12:15 pm  Comments (1)  
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