PUBLICATION DATE: July 17, 2012
idewater Inn, the latest novel from Colleen Coble, begins with an intriguing premise. What if you were watching a friend on a beach web cam and something awful happened to her? You are thousands of miles away, helplessly watching the horror unfold in front of your computer.
This is what happens to Libby, the main character of Tidewater Inn. She has a webcam ‘date’ with her best friend, Nicole, who’s away at Hope Beach. Libby is shocked when Nicole is abducted before her eyes, and horrified when her attempts to access the video end up in erasing it. Libby quickly travels to Hope Beach to investigate what happened to her friend.
Before she was abducted, Nicole told Libby some surprising news. Libby has always thought that her father passed away when she was five years old. However, Nicole has learned that Libby’s father has been living on Hope Beach and has only recently passed away. Libby has two half-siblings, Brent and Vanessa. Brent and Vanessa aren’t happy to learn that their father has left Tidewater Inn, an old historic inn on valuable real estate, to Libby, whom they’ve never heard of until his death.
Libby is an expert in the restoration of historic buildings and, in her heart, she wants to save the inn, even though her mind is telling her that she may need to sell. Developers want to get their hands on the property. How far are they willing to go?
Meanwhile, is Libby imagining things, or is she beginning to develop feelings for Alec, the local guy who is helping to investigate Nicole’s disappearance? And does Alec’s nephew, Zach, know more than he’s letting on?
The story has a promising start, but ultimately it fell flat for me. I think it’s because I didn’t get to know Libby or Nicole all that well. Rather than building their backstories first before getting to the big action scene, the book practically begins with Nicole’s abduction. In other words, we don’t have much of a chance to get to know Libby or Nicole first. It’s not that I didn’t care what happened; I definitely cared about what happened to both characters. However, the story would have been much more compelling had we gotten to know them better.
Some of the other characters are similarly hard to truly know. For example, the scenes between Lawrence, Kenneth, and Katelyn are somewhat strange, especially how Lawrence wants Kenneth to marry his daughter. Although Brent and Vanessa are interesting foils to Libby, Vanessa is oddly immature.
Nonetheless, the love story between Libby and Alec is both sweet and convincing, and overall, the plot moves at a good pace with various suspenseful moments along the way, including some twists and turns. The ending of the book is satisfying.
Coble handles the religious aspects of the story in a nice way. It’s realistic how Libby, a somewhat new Christian, strives to grow in her faith and questions what Jesus would do in various situations. I liked how her late father’s faith inspired her to dig deeper, and it was heartwarming how she and Alec would pray together and discuss their faith.
Libby Holladay was completely surprised to find out that she had inherited a historic old inn on Hope Island in the Outer Banks. As a restorer of historic buildings and homes, this is a dream come true. The discovery of a family she never knew existed only adds to her delight.
But all of that changes when Libby’s best friend, Nicole, is kidnapped right before her eyes. Arriving on Hope Island, Libby finds herself the prime suspect in Nicole’s kidnapping, and her newly-discovered family just wants her to leave. With developers hounding her at every turn, Libby wonders if her dream has become a nightmare. A local Coast Guard Officer, Alec Bourne, seems to be the only one who believes Libby’s innocence. But will they be able to figure out who really took Nicole before it is too late?
Suspense, family relationships, and romance all collide in the first novel in the Hope Beach series.
I have said in the past that I like how Colleen Coble’s novels start off with a bang. This one definitely delivered on that, since Libby’s friend, Nicole, is kidnapped in the opening chapter. However, there was a lot of discussion in that first chapter between Libby and Nicole about the island and Tidewater Inn and Libby’s new family that left my head spinning. While I liked getting the suspense part of the story started right away, I felt as if leading up to that it was almost information overload.
I loved the setting of this novel. I have never been to the Outer Banks, but it sounds as if the combination of historic places and quaint towns would be right up my alley. I also liked how the characters in this novel loved their town and wanted to do what was best for it. The connection Libby felt to the island almost immediately after arriving there was so enjoyable.
The situation that Libby was in was unique, which made the suspense portion of the book really good. I was able to figure out whodunit, but not until close to the end, which is exactly what I like in the suspense genre.
Libby’s circumstances in this novel also set up some wonderful examples of ways to extend grace to those who treat us poorly. There are many instances of forgiveness that occur in this novel that model the grace that Christ shows to us. However, I thought that Libby’s constant reference to WWJD (“What Would Jesus Do”), while a great reminder of how Christians should be thinking, came across as … how can I say this? Too 1996. The message of truth was great, but the delivery was a little distracting.
The romance side of the story was pretty good, but I did feel as if the characters moved a little too quickly toward their amorous feeling for each other. They acknowledge this fact, but I still think it comes off as far too idealistic, and it felt forced.
I almost feel as if I like this book more now that I have finished it than I did when I was reading it. After having some time to think on it and to reflect on the book as a whole, the overall story was very interesting. While I was reading the book, I sometimes felt distracted or like I was missing something. I felt as if I did not get to know the characters as well because so much from their past was being explained to me rather than being experienced by me. Also, the main male character, Alec, sometimes seemed too good to be true; he was almost too perfect.
The ending of this novel, however, is exciting. This is something else I really like in suspense novels, and something I have come to expect from Colleen Coble. It will be interesting to see where she takes us in the next novels in this series.