Fiction Vixen is pleased to welcome Virginia Kantra, author of Carolina Home which releases tomorrow.
Summer at the beach. Who can resist the crash of the waves, the caress of the sun, the tang of salt…and the promise of a summer romance.
Growing up, we always took family vacations to the shore: to the sticky board walks of New Jersey, redolent with popcorn and coconut oil. To the cold, seaweedy beaches of New England, where the views and the water temperature steal your breath away.
While my family was vacationing on Cape Cod, my husband was growing up near Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, while his dad was jungle training in Panama. His beach memories are very different from mine: the old style wooden snack bar of the beach on base; night fishing off the pier at Surf City; watching snakes swim under the swing set after a hurricane.
For years after we were married, I insisted the only “proper” vacation was the beautiful, rocky coast of my childhood. But finally, after our own children came along, my husband persuaded me to try a beach in North Carolina. Just one week, he coaxed. Just this year.
And I fell in love.
Maybe that’s why both my series for Berkley have been set by the sea: the Children of the Sea, off the cold and rocky of Maine, and now Dare Island, in North Carolina’s shifting Outer Banks.
Even if you don’t have the opportunity to neck under the boardwalk this summer, you can still escape into a book. As it happens, I’m planning my getaway stash right now. Which made me think, What are the elements of a great beach read?
Here’s my list:
It has to be a paperback.
I love my e-reader, and it’s definitely going along on any trips I take this summer. But to sit in the surf and read, I want something that can dry off if I get caught by a wave and that won’t get stolen if I go for a walk.
It takes you away.
To Shelter Bay or Lucky Harbor, to Regency London or misty Scotland, I want to experience that sense of someplace else, to be immersed in the sights and smells of another world. Someplace I want to be. With rare exceptions, that rules out stories set in the slums of India or the dystopian future. (Although if the book ends happily – see #6, below – I will go wherever some authors take me.)
It has to have passion.
I almost wrote, “it has to have sex,” because I’m on vacation, and I like books with sex. But what I really want is emotional involvement. I want to be swept up by big emotions.
I need to be able to put the book down. Or not.
I read in spurts at the beach, between swimming, walking, eating, talking, playing Frisbee or bocce or watching children in the surf. So my perfect beach read either has breaks for the real-life action (like an anthology) OR the story is so compelling that when I come back to it, I’m swept right back into the adventure.
These are characters I want to spend time with.
I love a flawed hero or a heroine who needs to grow. But I don’t want to spend my vacation time with whiny, unpleasant, or self-absorbed people (unless they are members of my own family under the age of four and all they need to be their smiley selves again is a nap).
Give me a hero I can fall in love with, give me a heroine I can root for, and I am theirs.
The story must end happily.
We know that times are tough, that love is hard or elusive, that bad things can happy to good people. But we go on vacation to recharge. To relax. To reconnect. My favorite beach reads leave me smiling, make me believe in the strength of family, the support of a community, and the power of love.
It’s part of a series.
Okay, this isn’t a requirement for a great beach read. But once I’m swept into a story world, once I’m invested in these characters or this place, I want to return. So I love reading connected stories at the beach.
I didn’t have all these elements consciously in mind when I pitched Carolina Home to my editor. But I must have been thinking “beach book” when I wrote it.
What are your requirements for a great beach read? Where do you want to go, in real life or in fiction? What’s in your beach bag this summer?
Use the promosimple box to enter to win a copy of Carolina Home by Virginia Kantra and a Murano glass key-chain. Comments are welcome and appreciated but contest entries are only being collected via the Promosimple widget below.
Open to: US and Canada. You have until end of day July 7 to enter, winner will be announced soon after.
Giveaway sponsored by: Virginia Kantra
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