A New Yorker in her late 50s makes some major changes in her life in this debut novel.
Fifty-nine-year-old Joanna Matthews seems reasonably happy, except for the fact she hates her job as an associate managing editor at a medical education company and is tired of Manhattan. In possession of a small inheritance, she wants to leave the city and fulfill her lifelong dream of running a bed and breakfast. Her husband, freelance accountant Brian, grudgingly agrees to her plan. Months of property visits in New England fail to yield any good prospects, so she decides to direct her search southward. She is captivated by Cape May, New Jersey, even before she visits, and meeting freelance writer Michael, a bona fide aficionado of the town, on the bus ride down turns out to be an unbelievable stroke of luck. He promises to share his extensive knowledge of the seaside resort, and when Brian is delayed in joining her, Joanna accepts Michael’s offer to accompany her on house tours. Not only does Joanna fall in love with a charmingly named bed and breakfast, Tea and Scones, she also finds herself attracted to her helpful tour guide, Michael. Brian shows up moments after Michael and Joanna have shared their first passionate kiss, and her guilt makes her physically ill. Hoping to escape her feelings for Michael by fleeing Cape May, she realizes when she returns to Manhattan how difficult it is to avoid a spouse in a tiny apartment. Joanna nearly allows her self-loathing to destroy three lives before she finally makes a decision about her future. This is women’s fiction that transcends the clichés. Caster, a professional writer, deftly keeps all the characters in the love triangle sympathetic, avoiding the easy solution of creating a villain. Joanna, the least blameless, shows such remorse for the situation she finds herself in that the reader pities her. Caster’s greatest gift lies in the unflinching honesty of her writing—both the characters and the settings. Rather than lauding Manhattan, the author illustrates all the reasons Joanna yearns to leave—the crowds, the tourists, the small apartments. Caster is somewhat less effective in evoking the full charm of Cape May.
A beautiful setting and intelligent characters grace this tale that proves it’s never too late to fulfill a longtime dream.