Recommended Read, Review

Review: Sandcastle Beach by Jenny Holiday (2021)

Matchmaker Bay, Book #3

Review of Matchmaker Bay, Book #2

Heat Factor: Mid-level steam

Character Chemistry: Their main hobbies are annoying each other / Serious Benedict and Beatrice energy / Everyone else can see it but them

Plot: Maya and Law have been at odds for years. And now they’re competing for a small-business grant. But also they are forming a secret friendship. 

Overall: This is straight-up a fun comedy, without the serious discussions of pain and grief and loss that characterize other books I’ve read by Jenny Holiday.

When I read Paradise Cove, it was *obvious* that Law and Maya were going to be the couple for the third installment of the Matchmaker Bay trilogy, and not only because they’re always sniping at each other. In fact, there’s a scene where Jake (hero of Book 2) catches Maya sleeping over at Law’s house. Shenanigans are afoot!

But the shenanigans are not what you think, but rather something more insidious: not sex, but rather soccer. A truce, which gives Maya and Law space to set aside their (performative) bickering and have quiet moments together. And these quiet moments serve as beats in the story as Maya and Law slowly bend towards one another. 
I do want to be clear, however: this is not really an enemies-to-lovers book. Maya and Law never hate each other, even if they maybe kind of think they do. Rather, they are solidly sparring partners – even once they realize that they actually like each other (and are attracted to each other), they still really enjoy fighting. The call-backs with Much Ado About Nothing are explicit here, and as the book progresses the parallels between Maya/Law and Beatrice/Benedict become more and more overt – complete with meddling friends.

So, if you’re a Shakespeare nerd, or you just love the energy between these two, this book definitely delivers. 

There is other plot beyond the burgeoning relationship between our two argumentative protagonists: Maya is desperately trying to keep the local theater alive. Law wants to expand the bar and open a restaurant. They start competing for a local small-business grant – orchestrated by the group of meddling town elders solely as a way to push these two towards working together. They struggle with self-doubts. And – lest we not notice the parallels – Maya is staging a summer production of Much Ado About Nothing. But really, the anchor for this book is Maya and Law’s push and pull. 

I will say that this book got a little twee for me. I didn’t love the meddling elders (and find it really weird the way they run the town with an iron fist in terms of mermaid parades, but not in terms of confronting the meth crisis ravaging small towns), and found them especially annoying in this installment of the series – perhaps because their meddling was so obvious and so obviously unwanted. 

Overall, I had fun reading this book. It was a satisfying romance, and sometimes that’s exactly what I need.

I voluntarily read and reviewed a complimentary copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. We disclose this in accordance with 16 CFR §255.

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