Friday Book Whimsy: The Wicked Redhead

Beatriz Williams: Oh, how you mess with your readers’ minds. Or at least my mind, because you had me so confused I didn’t know which way was up.

Back in 2017, Williams released Cocoa Beach, which is referred to as a “standalone novel,” meaning not part of one of her series. I reviewed that book here. I didn’t care for Cocoa Beach much, and was annoyed by the confusion created by references and ties to other of her books which readers may or may not have read. The author does this so often that she literally has a family tree available to readers to keep track of who is whom. But most annoyingly, she ended that book with reference to a redheaded woman and a man arriving at the home of the main characters, clearly in trouble. We are never told who they are or where they came from. Hello Sequel.

Well, if I had been paying attention, I would have recalled a redhead who escaped certain death at the end of another one of her novels, The Wicked City (a book I read but never reviewed).

Here it is, three years later, and we are able to access The Wicked Redhead, and finally tie the stories together. Interestingly, the publishers call The Wicked Redhead the second in “the Wicked City books,” never mentioning the standalone novel Cocoa Beach.

Having said all of that, I must admit that I liked The Wicked Redhead very much. Perhaps it was just because I could finally tie all of the stories together.

It’s 1924, and beautiful Ginger Kelly and her disgraced prohibition agent lover Oliver Anson Marshall arrive at the home of friends, running away from trouble and mayhem which left Gin’s evil stepfather dead. Accompanying them is Gin’s little sister Patsy. Mysteriously, Oliver is asked to return to his prohibition duties, leaving Gin and Patsy behind. It isn’t long before Gin is persuaded to undertake an odd duty by Oliver’s mother.

Meanwhile, it’s 1998, and Ella Dommerich (whom we met in The Wicked City) has discovered her husband is not only being unfaithful, but messing around with prostitutes. She leaves him, and quickly falls for her landlord Hector, whom we also met in that same book. She comes across some vintage postcards featuring a beautiful redheaded woman wearing little clothing. Having resigned her job, she has little to do, so begins researching this woman’s background.

It doesn’t take much imagination to tie the two stories together, but I will admit to being caught up in the process. Even though I find some of Williams’ tricks annoying, I will acknowledge that the woman can write a good yarn.

Some of the story is simply not believable, at least to this reader. Overall, however, I really enjoyed putting the pieces together.

Here is a link to the book.


Friday Book Whimsy: Cocoa Beach

What comes first, the chicken or the egg? That was the question I asked myself as I read Cocoa Beach, the latest novel from Beatriz Williams.

As with many of the author’s novels, the story is connected in some way to characters in another of her books. It took me a bit to realize that the main character of Cocoa Beach was the sister of one of the main characters in A Certain Age, a novel that I read and liked very much, despite a slow start. As I read this latest book, I found myself wondering if the author wrote these two books in the wrong order, as Cocoa Beach is somewhat of a prequel.

The novel tells the back story of Virginia Fortescue, the sister of Sophie Fortescue of A Certain Age fame. Cocoa Beach is a mystery novel from the get-go. In fact, the very first chapter is an incriminating letter from the man who will become Virginia’s husband, setting the stage for what might have been a really interesting story.

Except that it wasn’t. Instead, it was a confusing back-and-forth story about Virginia during World War I where she works as a driver and first meets Simon and then about Virginia a few years later in the Roaring 20s when she is trying to figure out who is trying to kill her, and why. Is it her husband? Is it his brother? Most of the time I just found myself trying to figure out what year it was and who was doing what. I found it to be most confusing.

The location was new and different for the author. While many of her novels take place in New York City, Cocoa Beach took place in, well, Cocoa Beach, Florida, as well as Miami, Florida.

As Virginia tries to figure out what is going on, she keeps hearing about what is happening back home in New York with her sister Sophie and her father, accused of killing her mother (part of the plot of A Certain Age). It added to the muddle and confusion of the novel.

I must say that the author kept us wondering until the very end just who were the good guys and who were the bad guys. But Williams pulled a trick that I simply loathe: at the very end of the novel, something happens that ensures that there will be a sequel. It frankly was so badly written that I sat and stared at the book for some time, wondering if I had missed something.

I simply didn’t care for this book. I found it entirely too confusing and silly. That’s a hard pill for me to swallow from an author whom I like so much.

Thumbs down on this one.

Here is a link to the book.


Reluctant Traveler Guest Post: Life’s a Beach

By Rebecca Borman
For many months, my son’s family and I had been looking forward to our annual (and sometimes semi-annual) trip to The Resort on Cocoa Beach.  As I’ve written before, it’s one of our happy places.  But, just a few days before the start of our week at the beach, I got a shocking phone call.  The voice on the other end told me that our week at The Resort was cancelled.  What?  Well, there was this hurricane on the way, and Cocoa Beach was being evacuated.  The Resort would be closed for a week so they could assess and then repair the damages.

I immediately called my son, Erik.  He, not I, was going to have to break the news to his wife Josey and my grandchildren, Mackenzie and Carter.  There would be tears.  We needed to come up with some suggestions for a Plan B.  Given that we had spent about $3000 on airfare to Orlando, Plan B needed to be within driving distance of that city.

Good fortune prevailed in many ways.  Most importantly, Cocoa Beach weathered the storm very well.  The storm didn’t do as much harm as was feared, and while docks and probably a few buildings were damaged, in general our beloved beach town is fine.  And, we came up with Plan B.  Friends of my son’s family own a condo on Indian Rocks Beach and generously offered us the use of their home for our vacation week.  We appreciated the offer and immediately agreed.  So, we were off to the beach, this time on the Gulf side of Florida.

Admittedly, there was some trepidation at the thought of a beach vacation on the Gulf instead of the Atlantic, and in an unfamiliar place.  Would there be waves for boogie-boarding?  Would we like the beach?  Would we miss our big balcony overlooking the ocean and the beautiful swimming pool at the resort?  Would we find places to eat that would satisfy our cravings for seafood?  The short answer is that we had a great week!

image1Truth be told, we did miss the big waves that provide so much boogie-boarding fun.  We also weren’t big fans of the need to do the “sting-ray shuffle.”  But, we loved the easy access to the beach from the condo, and the sea shells were absolutely amazing.  We spent lots of time in the water, but also lots of time walking along the shore.  We became experts at finding unbroken shells and had fun identifying them.  We even found several that are consider “rare finds.”  Very fun!

In fact, here is a short list of some things we did that we wouldn’t have been able to do had we stayed in Cocoa Beach:  for a few moments, Mackenzie held a live seahorse she saw in the water; one morning, a manatee swam so close to shore that he/she was only a few feet away from us; another morning a blue heron followed a woman fishing on the shore, hoping for and getting a few fishy treats; Erik and the kids discovered a live sand dollar when they dug their toes into the sand bar; I found a perfect and rare “Scotch bonnet” seashell; we ate lots of fresh-caught grouper.  And one of our best dinners was one we couldn’t have had in Cocoa Beach.  We had pizzas delivered and took them down to the beach.  We enjoyed good pizza, great conversations, and a spectacular sunset over the Gulf of Mexico.  It was a wonderful way to end a long, lazy day of relaxing on the beach and in the water.


So, what threatened to be a disaster turned out to be a great week and a good lesson.  When your biggest problem is having to switch your vacation plans from one fabulous beach to another, you are blessed to be living a very good life.  Oh, and PS…we are already booked for a spring break week at The Resort on Cocoa Beach.

Guest Post, Reluctant Traveler: Life is Good

By Beckie Borman

bec-closeup-twoI love traveling to a new place, somewhere I’ve never been.  But, it’s also fun to go back time and again to a place I love.  One of those places is Cocoa Beach, Florida, where I recently spent a week with my son, daughter-in-law, and grandchildren.  Here’s how our week went:

We ate a lot of seafood, at least, we adults did.  Mackenzie and Carter stuck mostly to hamburgers and chicken tenders.  But, Erik, Josey, and I had shrimp, local fish like grouper, live-from-the-tank blue crabs, and many, many raw oysters.  One of our favorite places to eat is sunset cocoa beach1the Sunset Café Bar and Grill, which, as its name implies, is a wonderful place to watch the sunset over the Banana River.  We had dinner there our first and last nights, fried shrimp and oysters, as usual.  Sunset Café is always fun, but it was a particular treat on Friday night, our last evening in Florida.  A blue heron flew in and out several times, perching on top of a boat docked in the marina.  But, even more entertaining was the dolphin, who, the entire time we were there, swam, leapt, and dove about twenty yards from the shore.  We were all captivated.

Carter and Josey are quality control while Erik picks out the crabs.

Carter and Josey are quality control while Erik picks out the crabs.

We also had fun picking out blue crabs at Ms. Apple’s Crab Shop.  Ms. Apple is a real character, a petite woman who runs the shop with an iron fist.  Customers can pick out their own crabs or let one of the staff do it.  But, really, how can you resist the opportunity to use tongs and pull out one after another snapping crabs, plunk them in a bucket, and turn them over to be steamed for your eating enjoyment?  We chose 18 large crabs and took them back to our hotel, where we enjoyed them on our balcony.

Another “must” when we’re in Cocoa Beach is Ron Jon Surf Shop.  Picture the biggest beach store you’ve ever seen and multiply by four.  Ron Jon is open 24-7, and it’s always busy.  There’s nothing related to surfing or the beach that you cannot purchase there.  It’s definitely sensory overload, but so much fun!  Rest assured, all five of us Bormans found numerous items we couldn’t live without.

The whole Borman clan enjoy the ball game.

The whole Borman clan enjoy the ball game.

This year, we also enjoyed doing something we haven’t done before…we attended two of the Washington Nationals spring training games.  I am a big Nats fan, and although I usually attend a “Cactus League” game or two in Phoenix, where I live, I’ve never seen a Nats game in Florida’s “Grapefruit League.”  So we drove the short distance to Viero and took in some baseball.  While no one else in the family is a fan like I am, they all love sports and enjoyed learning a little about the players and the game.  Mackenzie managed to get a fly ball on Monday, and she took it back with her to the game on Thursday, hoping for an autograph.  Ian Desmond, Nats shortstop, obliged.  She was a very happy girl!

carter mackenzie beach4In case you’re wondering, yes, we spent a lot of time on the beach, in between all these other activities.  The Resort on Cocoa Beach is, well, on the beach, and it’s only a short walk to the water.  With beach chairs and umbrella, boogie boards and sand toys, it’s easy to spend long, relaxing days sitting by the water, walking the beach, building sand castles, boogie boarding, and jumping the waves.  We did all of the above.  When we tired of the sand, we made our way to the beautiful pool area, where the grandkids could swim and play in the pool, while we adults enjoyed adult beverages from the poolside bar.

View from the veranda.

View from the veranda.

Yes, life is good in Cocoa Beach.  We all dream of going back again, maybe even this year.  Because there’s no such thing as too much beach time.