I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Before the Storm by Leslie Tentler
Published by Left Field Press on October 20, 2015
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Romantic Suspense
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Six years earlier, Trina Grissom disappeared, on the run for her life. Now living under an assumed identity—as Samantha Marsh—she still struggles with the dark secret she harbors and the fear she might one day be found. When she moves to the coastal town of Rarity Cove, South Carolina, to open a café, a handsome widower begins to chip away at the walls she’s built to protect herself.
Mark St. Clair lost his wife two years ago in a tragic accident. Head of the grand St. Clair resort, he distracts himself from his lingering grief by running the family business and caring for his troubled young daughter...until a beautiful restaurateur sets up shop in town. Before meeting Samantha, Mark was convinced he could never be drawn to another woman. But as his attraction to Samantha grows, the mystery surrounding her deepens.
As the two begin a hesitant courtship, double perils emerge. Someone from Samantha’s lurid past comes calling, threatening to expose her. And a powerful hurricane is forming in the Atlantic with the small beach town in its path. Trapped in the storm by the brutal man who wants vengeance on Samantha, she and Mark must fight for their lives.
Samantha Marsh ran from her old life six years ago and completely reinvented herself. She’s a chef and owns a gourmet café in Rarity Cove, South Carolina. When hotel owner Mark St. Clair and his adorable daughter happen into her life, she resists what may be the relationship she’s always dreamed of, for their sakes. Fear of her past coming back to haunt them is the basis for that resistance but Mark’s persistence takes her under.
I really loved this story starting with the beautiful cover, which is a perfect representation of what’s inside. Samantha and Mark are delicately crafted characters, considering their tragic backgrounds. As much as I hate relationships where one of the partners is harboring a major secret, this was a bit different as it’s clear from the onset that Samantha is hiding something. It just makes Mark work harder to gain her trust and he behaves in ways true to his nature.
The suspense side of the story is truly ominous and is always in the background. It culminates in an exciting climax that had me riveted. To say more would be spoiler-ish.
There’s a strong sense of place created, the coastal area of South Carolina figuring prominently in the story. I’ve visited the area and appreciated how well it was represented. It is an important part of the plot.
While the premise of the book is not unique, the writing is so well done and the characters so finely developed it feels fresh. It made for a lovely reading experience and I’m hoping this develops into a series (more Carter and Mercer!).