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Cocoa Beach

Review

Cocoa Beach

New York Times bestselling author Beatriz Williams is known for such previous titles as THE WICKED CITY and A CERTAIN AGE. She returns with a summer classic, COCOA BEACH, just in time for beach season. Similar to her other historical fiction novels, her latest book jumps from the past in 1917 to 1922 as her protagonist, Virginia Fortescue, sets out to uncover the secrets behind the sudden death of her estranged husband, Simon Fitzwilliam. On a trip to Florida, she must deal with both the mystery of Simon and the tragedy of her father’s recent murder conviction.

Virginia and Simon met in 1917 when the chaos and brutality of World War I was spreading throughout the world. Simon was working as a British surgeon on the frontlines in France. Virginia was working as an American Red Cross ambulance driver when she stumbled into his provisional hospital. Simon could not forget the formidable woman who drove up to the hospital looking for patients. No one else had been able to push through the treacherous roads leading up to the hospital before Virginia. She transported patients back to her American Red Cross station, sparking the beginning of their affair. Their unlikely paths crossed on the battlefields of WWI and resulted in a relationship filled with love letters, lies and secrets.

"Beatriz Williams creates a strong and determined narrator in Virginia, who is not to be trifled with, especially when it comes to her family. She also does a great job of developing her other characters, enriching their storylines with a multitude of details."

In 1922, Virginia has finally made the trip from New York to Florida where Simon had been living and building his business. He was killed in a house fire a few months earlier, but her trip was delayed by her father’s trial. With their daughter, Evelyn, Virginia receives a tour of Simon’s properties and spends time with her suspicious brother-in-law, Samuel, and sister-in-law, Clara. She is urged on several occasions to let others handle Simon’s estate, which involves a lucrative bootlegging business, and leave Florida before things get too dangerous. But she is not easily frightened and persists on getting to the bottom of things.

From the flashbacks, Williams divulges the intimacies of Virginia and Simon’s affair. Simon was a notorious charmer who won Virginia over through his persistence and magnetism. However, they faced several obstacles, such as his marriage to Lydia, his alleged son, his resentful younger brother, and the lies he weaved to cover them all up. Through it all, the two managed to get married at the end of the war. But their happiness was short-lived when a trip to meet Simon’s family led Virginia to return home to New York alone.

For three years, Virginia had no correspondence with Simon. It is only after his death that she ventures to Florida to uncover the life he had built for them in the hopes that she would one day return to him. Virginia finds herself caught in the crossfire of greedy bootleggers, drugged with opium and scared to question if her husband is really dead. It is on this trip that generations of lies and secrets are revealed. At every new discovery, Virginia doesn’t know whom she can trust or what to do next. Still, she never stops driving forward as she had on those treacherous French roads in 1917.

Beatriz Williams creates a strong and determined narrator in Virginia, who is not to be trifled with, especially when it comes to her family. She also does a great job of developing her other characters, enriching their storylines with a multitude of details. I was just as torn as Virginia in deciding whom to trust. For most of the novel, you are not sure who is actually telling the truth because of the author’s ability to intricately weave her stories. Williams fabricates a captivating mystery that made me turn every page, needing to know what will happen next. She decisively peels apart each complicated layer until her readers are marveled by the truth.

Reviewed by Catherine Rubino on July 7, 2017

Cocoa Beach
by Beatriz Williams

  • Publication Date: June 27, 2017
  • Genres: Fiction, Historical Fiction
  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow
  • ISBN-10: 0062404989
  • ISBN-13: 9780062404985