Sea Glass Winter, by JoAnn Ross (review)

March 15, 2013 romance, Sea Glass Winter, Shelter Bay, small-town fiction 2

Category: Women’s fiction; romance
Series: Shelter Bay #5

Publisher: Signet (Penguin Group), 2012
Book Source: Public library
As an Explosive Ordnance Disposal Specialist, Dillon Slater had one of the most dangerous jobs in the military. Now, he’s enjoying the pace of life in Shelter Bay, where he teaches high school physics. He still gets to blow things up, but as the school basketball coach he also gets to impart leadership skills. His latest minefield: fifteen-year-old Matt Templeton—and Matt’s irresistible mother…

Claire Templeton moved her troubled teenage son to the small town of Shelter Bay to escape the bad influences at his school in L.A. But when his attitude earns her a visit from the handsome basketball coach, she wonders if this role model might be too much of a temptation—for her. Because though she isn’t looking for a relationship, she can’t seem to resist Dillon’s playful charm. But what she doesn’t realize is that Dillon isn’t playing games—he’s playing for keeps…

There’s a subgenre of women’s fiction that isn’t quite “romance” in its usual form.  I’m not sure if it has an official name, but I usually think of it as “small town romance”: series set in the same small town, each novel focusing on a different couple but with ongoing attention to the other characters in town, some of whom have starred in their own book (or will.)  It’s this inclusion of other characters and their ongoing lives, romantic and otherwise, that sets these books a little apart from traditional romance, which tends to focus more, or even exclusively, on the two main characters.  Robyn Carr’s Virgin River series falls in this category, as do Sherryl Woods’ Sweet Magnolias books and JoAnn Ross’s Shelter Bay novels. 
Sea Glass Winter is only the third Shelter Bay novel I’ve read (the first was On Lavender Lane, which I read out of order), and I’m now on the lookout for the other books.  Ross writes with practiced ease, and her characters are generally sympathetic.  The attraction between Claire and Dillon is evident from the beginning. Thankfully, Ross doesn’t resort to unbelievable complications or ridiculous misunderstandings to keep the couple apart and the romantic tension building.  Instead, Claire is, for entirely understandable reasons, reluctant to get involved.  Dillon, on the other hand, is singlemindedly determined.  In fact, he’s a little too determined in the face of Claire’s repeated stated reluctance.  Although I never believed he would force himself on her – that would be completely out of character, and he is a principled and honorable man – I did find his refusal to take “no” for an answer vaguely troubling, an unsettling reminder of the myth that women secretly want what they say they don’t.  However, Ross paints Dillon’s persistence in a positive light, and he never treats Claire with anything less than respect and admiration. 
That one qualm aside, the novel is both entertaining and satisfying.  A parallel storyline focuses on Claire’s son Matt, his adjustment to their new small-town life, and the high school basketball team which Dillon coaches. I enjoyed Matt and look forward to seeing what comes of his friendship with his science lab partner.  Another subplot follows the developing relationship of a widowed farmer and a young woman who fled an abusive husband.  There are scenes involving other characters as well, particularly Sax and a very pregnant Kara, and Shelter Bay’s veterinarian and her foster children.  It’s lovely to revisit these familiar characters, but don’t worry.  If you’re new to the series, you will be able to jump in at this point without difficulty – though you may find yourself, like me, eager to read the books you’ve missed!  If you’re a fan of Robyn Carr, Sherryl Woods, or Susan Wiggs, I urge you to give JoAnn Ross’s Shelter Bay novels a try.
Rating: 3 ½ stars
Recommended if you like:  Robyn Carr, Sherryl Woods, Susan Wiggs

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