A Charleston, South Carolina, wife transplanted to New York finds her new husband is not the man she thought she married in Ocean’s scanty, forgettable debut.
From the get-go of this fairly transparent novel, narrator Carly Stone’s husband, Robert, is set up as the villain: Robert disappears to exchange money at the bank on their honeymoon in Belize (actually opening an offshore account) and within a year is discovered sleeping with the divorced neighbor. Carly is a professional mediator in NYC, living in a big house in Duchess County, but runs back home to Mamma and Daddy when Robert—again!—is revealed naked with the aforementioned neighbor in her hot tub. Back in Charleston, where everyone knows Carly and her twin sister, Jenny, who usually lives in Atlanta with her family but has dropped back home to bemoan her own marital woes, Carly learns of a big construction company’s plans to take over the lot across the street from Daddy’s hardware store and set up a rival, mega Handyman’s Depot, certain to put his business under. The land, apparently, belonged to Robert’s stepparents, who had initially agreed to sell to Carly’s father—and yet the land was scooped up by Protter Construction and Development instead. Carly puts her legal wits to good use, and attempts to throw up some hurdles to the land’s development, in the form of remnants of a historical wall surrounding the city, Indian graves, and preservation of delicate nests of red-cockaded woodpeckers. Naturally, the scion of Protter Construction turns out to a hunk, Trent, who has to be won over to Carly’s environmental cause, all the while Robert falls farther from villain to demon. Ocean is Carolina native, and peoples her novel with some eye-rolling characterizations, e.g., Carly’s mother “epitomizes the true Southern woman [who] stood tall, embraced custom, and would never be seen in public wearing something as disdainful as blue jeans or sweatpants.” (12) Stock characters, uninspiring plot.
Regional ra-ra fiction.