Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Review: Monarch Beach

Summary: Anita Hughes' Monarch Beach is an absorbing debut novel about one woman’s journey back to happiness after an affair splinters her perfect marriage and life—what it means to be loved, betrayed and to love again.

When Amanda Blick, a young mother and kindhearted San Francisco heiress, finds her gorgeous French chef husband wrapped around his sous-chef, she knows she must flee her life in order to rebuild it. The opportunity falls into her lap when her (very lovable) mother suggests Amanda and her young son, Max, spend the summer with her at the St. Regis Resort in Laguna Beach. With the waves right outside her windows and nothing more to worry about than finding the next relaxing thing to do, Amanda should be having the time of her life—and escaping the drama. But instead, she finds herself faced with a kind, older divorcee who showers her with attention… and she discovers that the road to healing is never simple. This is the sometimes funny, sometimes bitter, but always moving story about the mistakes and discoveries a woman makes when her perfect world is turned upside down. -- St. Martin's Griffin
It's definitely that time of year when so many new releases take place at or near a beach. I guess there's a reason why we call them "beach books." I admit that I'm a sucker for these types of books especially when I am looking for something light to read by the pool (or the waves), and MONARCH BEACH by Anita Hughes seemed ideal. I mean, seriously, check out how gorgeous this cover is!

MONARCH BEACH tells the story of Amanda a woman who flees to Laguna Beach for some healing time after discovering that her husband is involved with another woman. Not only does Amanda catch him in the act, but she also learns from her best friend that he's been unfaithful to her for years. Needless to say, Amanda's world is shattered. It's a good thing that her family is wealthy (and by that, I mean super San Francisco money!), and her mother takes Amanda and her son to the St. Regis Resort for the summer.

While there, Amanda pretty much has the life we all want (all except for the unfaithful husband part!) She has room service, unlimited sand and waves, and yoga on the beach; and she should be working towards some acceptance of her situation. However, Amanda finds that she's seriously attracted to Edward, an older man who makes her feel good about herself. Or does he? Amanda learns the hard way that this man might not be what she needs to properly heal. By the end of the summer, with some help from her mother, Amanda learns that a man isn't the answer to her happiness. Rather, she has to look to herself before she can find some happiness.

I enjoyed MONARCH BEACH and it definitely was an entertaining novel to read by the pool. This book was Ms. Hughes debut novel, and for the most part, I thought she did a pretty good job with it. I was impressed with how she developed Amanda, and I think she gave a realistic portrayal of how a betrayed woman feels -- i.e. the anger, the resentment, and even the insecurities. In addition, I appreciated the ultimate lessons that Amanda eventually learned about herself. And finally, I loved how the author brought the beach setting to life -- the butterflies were a very special touch!

Having said that, I definitely enjoyed the first half of the novel more than the second. I appreciated how Ms. Hughes wrote about Amanda's feeling of betrayal, and I even liked that she had some humor woven into these parts of the story. At this point in the story, I really liked Amanda and I wanted to see her land on her feet again.

However, I have to admit that I became very frustrated with Amanda once she and her family head to the beach. Maybe I am just jealous, but Amanda had it pretty good. Because her mother was extremely wealthy, Amanda and her son got to live a life of luxury. That's not to say that the money and lifestyle made Amanda's pain any less real, but it definitely made life easier for her than many women who find themselves in a similar situation. In addition, because her mother had so many contacts and so much pull, Amanda was able to make a new start of things. Needless to say, most newly divorced woman don't have this kind of support system! I didn't hold it against Amanda that she had wealthy parents. I'm just not entirely sure that she realized how fortunate she was.

And then I got really upset with Amanda after she met Edward. Edward seemed like a nice enough guy and Amanda certainly deserved to be treated better, but she kind of acted like a teenage girl around him. Despite not having fully resolved the issues with her husband, she started seeing Edward seriously -- and even began sneaking around to meet him. I was upset with her for being less than honest with her mother (who was only trying to help!)

Despite having some pretty strong feelings about Amanda, I did enjoy MONARCH BEACH. I have a feeling that Amanda's actions weren't all that different from many woman who have caught their husbands cheating on them, and I suspect that her behavior was all part of her healing process. Fortunately, I have never been in a situation like this so I really can't speak to what I'd do; but I can say that I've seen some similar behavior from newly divorced women. (Amanda wasn't divorced yet, but...)

One thing I definitely appreciated about MONARCH BEACH was the ending. I was very worried that the author was going to wrap everything up very neatly, and I knew I'd be disappointed with the book. While Amanda and her mother did realize some important things about themselves over the course of their time at the St. Regis, they still had a lot of work ahead of them. In fact, I wouldn't be all together surprised to learn that there is another story to be told about the next phase of Amanda's life.

I actually think that MONARCH BEACH would make for a very interesting book club pick. I'm sure that Amanda and her actions will be perceived differently depending on the reader, and when that happens, there's almost always a good discussion. There is a reading guide available with ten good discussion questions. Some of the themes you might want to explore include adultery, betrayal, friendships, mother/daughter relationships, self-discovery, trust, and forgiveness.

MONARCH BEACH is a very interesting story about a woman's path to self-discovery. Recommended for fans of women's lit as well as fans of books with beach settings.

Thanks to the author and publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.


The Many Thoughts of a Reader said...

Sounds like a good summer book!

bermudaonion said...

I think we all take that we've always known for granted so I could see Amanda taking her wealth in stride. This book sounds interesting!

Serena said...

I also have this to read...and I think that the points you mention here will irk me...but I'm glad to be warned before I read this one.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

Great review! I have a feeling I would have reacted to Amanda in exactly the same way you did!

Howard Sherman said...

I share your reaction to Monarch Beach insofar as 99.999% of women in a similar situation don't have 1% of the vast resources Amanda has access too.


Could it be the author's attempt to inculcate the idea that all true happiness comes from within and external trappings can't do much to help that?

Sandy Nawrot said...

There is nothing wrong with a beach read. I do find that while they are easy to read and pretty light, I get annoyed at the formulaic and superficial nature of some of it. I would definitely think it would be easier to start over if you were rolling in cash!

Laura Kay said...

I had a lot of the same feelings you did about Monarch Beach. I'm thinking we will see Amanda again in another book down the road, would be interesting to read about her in New York and hopefully she a more mature side to her with men.

Mystica said...

Light and beachy!