More earnest and less quirky than Moyes’ later successes, Me Before You (2012) and One Plus One (2014), this romantic novel originally published in Britain in 2007 centers on the moral and emotional crises faced by a buttoned-down Englishman who disrupts the tranquility of an isolated coastal community in New South Wales when he scopes it out for a high-end resort.
For the last six years, Liza and her 10-year-old daughter, Hannah, have lived in Silver Bay with Liza’s feisty 76-year-old aunt Kathleen, who owns a hotel that's seen better days. Liza, who skippers one of several whale-watching boats in the bay, seems overprotective of Hannah; it gradually becomes clear that Liza escaped England under a cloud six years ago and is hiding from the outside world. Enter Mike, a methodical junior partner in London’s Beaker Holdings. While his fiancee, Vanessa—who happens to be the boss’s daughter—finalizes wedding plans, Mike heads to Silver Bay, where Beaker Holdings hopes to build a large luxury resort. Staying at Kathleen’s hotel and becoming increasingly friendly with the locals, Mike doesn’t let on why he’s really there. He and Liza share an obvious attraction, which only increases when he saves Hannah’s life after the boat she’s snuck into the bay gets entangled in illegal netting. Then Vanessa shows up. Once Mike’s connection to the developers becomes known, his popularity plummets. Learning from Kathleen that his plans might put Hannah at risk, Mike wakes up and tries to right the situation, first with Vanessa’s help and then on his own, whatever the sacrifice to career or love. Meanwhile, standard-issue Victim-with-a-capitol-V heroine Liza faces the demons of her past in attempting to stop the development. Of course, virtue, innocence and love win out over greed and shallow sophistication.
The wit and nuanced shadings of Moyes’ best are unfortunately missing in this predictable tear-jerker, a pale echo of the 1983 film Local Hero.