The authors create two very complex characters in Morgan and Ryan. Morgan is dealing with grief over the loss of her father and the aftermath of dealing with the financial situation he left behind. Ryan has reached a crossroads in his career and doesn't know what he's looking for, or even why he's look in Seashell Bay, but he finds himself on the ferry headed home anyway.
The authors do a wonderful job of creating an image of Seashell Bay, and the relationship between Morgan and Ryan from the very first page, painting a picture of Ryan's perception of Seashell Bay through his descriptions of the ferry and the island and his feelings of life closing in on him. But, ever the protector and the rescuer, his initial reunion with Morgan sets the stage for their relationship during his time on the island
"Hold up!" a voice cried from down the pier. "Please, guys, I really need to make this boat."
Ryan recognized that feminine voice even before he saw Morgan Merrifield running full tilt boogie down the concrete platform of the ferry terminal. Her pretty face flushed and her blond hair flopping forward into her eyes, she lugged an overstuffed L.L. Bean bag in her right hand and pulled a wheeled cart with her left. Instinct made him jump up and rush down to the boat's lower deck to help her.
Quote courtesy of VK Sykes and Forever Romance/Grand Central Publishing
Those two paragraphs really epitomize how Morgan and Ryan relate to each other in this story. Morgan is a hot mess through a good part of the story, never able to truly get ahead of the demons and struggles that are nipping at her heels, yet Ryan is always there to lend her a hand, brainstorm an idea, and be a friend. I don't think that HE realized it was more for much of the book. Ryan knew the attraction was there - it had always been there - but I truly believe he didn't realize his feelings went deeper until he was faced with not being able to experience them anymore. A previous long-distance relationship has soured him for long-term commitment and certainly long-distance commitment, a fact that factors in to the continued dynamic of his and Morgan's relationship being temporary - she is as committed to the island as he is to leaving it.
The authors character development is delightful. We get to check in with Aidan and Lily from Meet Me at the Beach and other residents of Seashell Bay, and get to know Morgan's sister Sabrina. My biggest challenge with the dynamic of the relationship between Morgan and Sabrina is that early on we were told that Sabrina was "challenged", having been diagnosed with a learning disability. But outside of what is clearly some anxiety issues, it appears more that Sabrina is immature because her family has put her in that box and she has stayed there. Many times Sabrina demonstrates her ability to make mature decisions and act accordingly. Her feelings were often "tiptoed around" when I felt that Morgan should have rather treated her like the adult that she was, giving her the respect of telling her the reality of what was going on, and what Morgan was feeling, instead of sheltering her from whatever bad news there might be. I wish there had been a bit different way in which the relationship between Morgan and Sabrina was developed but overall, the character development is wonderful and complex and the book weaves a delightful story of two people fighting their feelings that neither believes can result in a long-term relationship. The reader doesn't know until the very end whether these two will be able to find their way forward together and it made me turn the pages faster and faster to see whether Morgan and Ryan get the happily ever after they deserved.
Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.