Ocean’s latest young-single-woman saga (after Fool Me Once, 2005) takes an Atlanta PR professional down to the South Carolina boondocks.
“It’s the simple things . . . that pull heartstrings,” croons the book’s corny epigraph, and what’s at stake here is the future of small-town America, struggling to remain viable in the face of an all-devouring corporate economy. Jaxie Parker, a hot young executive at Shine Advertising and Public Relations, is ecstatic to be living on her own in the “big city” (Atlanta) and too focused on her career to mess with long-term relationships. But when agency owner Aaron Ackworth chooses her for the pro-bono task of spending a month on a revitalization mission in his deteriorating hometown, Rumton, S.C., Jaxie reluctantly switches from Versace pantsuits to shorts and bare feet. Although two miles from the ocean, Rumton (originally, Rum Towne) is landlocked and deserted save for a few tenacious barnacles who hang out at the Chat ’N Chew. Among them is “Pompous” Pop, a kindly old widower who keeps a raccoon named Bandit, lets Jaxie stay for free and even cooks for her. Pop’s gay nephew, Avery, an environmental consultant, reveals the nearby presence of a shipwreck, the Aldora. Avery’s gorgeous brother, Justin, who just happens to be the head of research at Jaxie’s agency, appears in Rumton to offer his services, romantic and otherwise. Meanwhile, Jaxie and the town residents learn that developer Lester Smoak has been buying up land to build a casino, with the approval of Mayor Riley. When the mayor turns up dead, suspicions mount over ex-con Lester, whose ties to Jaxie’s employer are shockingly revealed. Then Hurricane Hailey speeds up the coast, threatening to open a long-closed waterway as well as wash up the Aldora’s buried treasure, which will salvage the town.
Makes a valid point in its cheerful, insipid way.