REVIEW: Home to Turtle Bay by Marion Lennox

In brief: Dr Jennifer Kelly inherits a farm, a dog and a surfing school from the grandfather she never knew. Time to sell it quickly and get back to life in New York – or will she be enchanted by the island and a past she never knew about it?

The good: Combines all the emotions you need between the pages – love, happiness, sadness and humour.

The not-so-good: It took me some time to realise why Jennifer wanted Richard in her life.

Why I chose it: Have enjoyed Marion’s category romances – thank you to Harlequin for the copy.

Year: 2018

Pages: 406

Publisher: Mira (Harlequin)

Setting: New York City and a remote Australian island

Rating: 8.5 out of 10

I’ve read several of Marion Lennox’s category romances and have always enjoyed their combination of fun, exotic locations, unfortunate events and romance. So, you can imagine that I was delighted to hear that she had a longer fiction novel being released. Home to Turtle Bay takes all those trademark Marion touches and puts them into a novel that’s never boring. It’s a combination of laugh out loud moments, tearjerker scenes and a finale that is both humorous and sweet. All the elements you need for an enjoyable story.

The novel opens in an obstetrician’s office in New York City. Dr Jennifer Kelly is almost to the top of her game and in her office is society darling Isabella. Jennifer is ticking off all the things she needs to be Someone – neurosurgeon with old money fiancé, go to for famous mums-to-be and a shoe wardrobe that makes everyone envious. It’s a regimented life, but that’s what is required.

But then her grandmother enters the office. With a dog. If that wasn’t bad enough, her grandmother chooses to inform Jennifer that she’s inherited said dog and a farm on a remote island off the Australian east coast from a grandfather she’s never heard of. Oh, and don’t forget the surfing school. Jennifer and grandmother Muriel leave New York for Nautilus Island for a short trip to sell the property. But nothing turns out like either of them had planned. The cows are sad about being turned into salami and the other islanders don’t like the idea of the property turning into a resort. Then there’s a medical emergency and Jenny can see the strain that the local doctor Jack is under. Stranded on the island, Jenny reluctantly offers to help – but only for as long as she must. But then she meets Bridget, attempts to learn to surf and begins to think that weeding in the moonlight with Jack isn’t such a terrible idea. Nor is throwing out that carefully made plan and living.

The finale of the novel is sensational. It reads just like a rom-com finale (and would make an excellent movie or TV series) with many plot threads coming to a head and trying to force Jenny and Muriel into a decision. It’s a smile inducer, and there’s just enough doubt to make you wonder which path Muriel and Jenny will choose. Overall, it’s a delightful novel. The interactions between Jenny and Jack are witty and fun, with more than a hint of sexual tension. Having the story told in the first person from Jenny’s point of view also gives the reader a greater insight into the war in her mind – a safe and stable life or living on the edge of a wave? What will she lose if she chooses the latter? What is she really chasing? Jenny’s growth as a character and the realisation of what has driven her life to date is done very well – clearly and in tune with her character. Jack’s growth is revealed more slowly, but never at the detriment of his character. We learn just a little more at the right time, either through a throwaway comment or Bridget, his niece. Speaking of Bridget, I defy anyone not to like her. She’s a cute kid, hiding behind tragedy and a life that’s been upturned irreversibly. She and Jenny seem to see something in the other that pushes them on to bring out the best. Overall, all the characters are nuanced and easy to remember for all their quirks. Marion Lennox has created a community that I’m rather reluctant to leave behind.

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