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In this brand-new summer read by the USA Today bestselling author of The House on Mermaid Point, three women join forces to bring a historic seaside hotel back to life…
There’s nothing that a fresh coat of paint and a few glasses of wine can’t fix…
After losing their life savings in a Ponzi scheme, Maddie, Avery, and Nikki have banded together to make the most of what they have left, using their determination, ingenuity, guts, and a large dose of elbow grease. It’s Maddie’s daughter Kyra who stumbles across a once glorious beachfront hotel that has fallen into disrepair. The opportunity to renovate this seaside jewel is too good to pass up—especially when they come up with the idea of shooting their own independent television show about the restoration. What could possibly go wrong?
Everything. With the cameras rolling, Maddie’s second-chance romance with her all-too-famous new boyfriend gets complicated, Avery struggles with grief over the loss of her mother, and Nikki’s reluctance to commit to the man who loves her could leave her to face the biggest challenge of her life. Even the hotel seems to be against them, when their renovation uncovers a decades-old unsolved murder which just might bring their lives tumbling down all over again…
“Wax draws on her own childhood stays at the Rellim Hotel, in Saint Petersburg Beach, immersing the reader in a gorgeous coastal setting with true-to-life details. This warm, witty, and redemptive novel is a perfect summer read.”
“Readers will enjoy revisiting their favorite characters and places.”
–RT Book Reviews
“This is the perfect summer beach read . . . a great female friendship story and also a story of what it means to be a family, even when you’re not related by blood.”
–As the Page Turns
“You can’t ask for a better beach read than Sunshine Beach . . . Romance, beach, sun, sand, sea, and house renovations: What’s not to love?”
“Sunshine Beach is another great summer read, with romance, sunsets, and even a murder mystery thrown.”
–5 Minutes for Books
“Captivating . . . I was especially intrigued by the descriptions of St. Pete Beach in the 1950s . . . interesting characters, beautiful settings, and lots of twists and turns.”
–Chick Lit Central
“If you can’t get to the beach this summer you’ll feel like you’re there when reading Sunshine Beach. Wendy Wax’s novel hit all the marks . . . I enjoyed it all.”
“I could not put this book down. . . . I love a book with strong, determined and independent women that prove time and again that they can make it on their own . . . This author knows how to write about family secrets and drama! I did not want this book to end.”
–Cindy’s Book Binge
“Wendy Wax knows how to entertain . . . perfect for those lazy days and hot evenings . . . beautifully written with imaginative descriptions that transport us to the Florida beaches.”
–A Midlife Wife
“Plenty of romance, mystery, a major renovation project, and coming to terms with the past.”
–Seaside Book Nook
“It was great to catch up with these old friends . . . The motel is its own character with a history that will shock you . . . I have read a lot of Wendy Wax over the last year and I have really come to enjoy her quiet style of ‘girl power’ fiction. Her characters are strong and engaging . . . If you haven’t read her books you simply must.”
–Charlotte’s Web of Books
Nikki arrived back at Bella Flora with a pleasant ache in her calves and feeling far more relaxed than when she’d left. She found Maddie in the kitchen staring into the refrigerator and scribbling on a yellow pad. The kitchen was a warm and welcoming space with its Spanish tile floor, reclaimed wood countertops and soft green glass fronted cabinets. Sunshine poured in the floor to ceiling windows and dappled the wood kitchen table. The coffeemaker gurgled sending the scent of dark roast mingling with something cheesy. “Mmmm, smells good. What’s in the oven?”
“Egg soufflés I had in the freezer,” Maddie replied. “I thought we should have something special for our ‘business’ brunch.
“Sounds good to me,” Nicole said pulling a coffee mug from the cabinet.
“I think there’s enough fruit and coffee cake to round out breakfast, but I’m going to have to make a grocery run. It looks like Kyra and Dustin have been living on cereal, goldfish crackers and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I’ll pass the list around so everyone can add any special requests.
“Great,” Nikki said. “What can I do to help?”
“Could you set the table? And then maybe pour orange juice into this pitcher and cut the rest of the pineapple into the bowl of mixed fruit?” Maddie placed the juice and pineapple on the counter. “The soufflés should be out in twenty minutes.” She moved with an easy competence; the only one of them with bona fide homemaking credentials.
Thumps and murmurs from above indicated the others were up. Footsteps sounded on the back stairs. Maddie poured a cup of coffee, added cream and sugar, and put it into Avery’s hands as she entered. Nicole’s mother had been too busy working multiple jobs trying to keep a roof over their heads to spend any real time creating a homey atmosphere beneath that roof, but Nikki had come to appreciate the warmth and comfort of a real home that Maddie had created in each of the places they’d found themselves.
“Bless you,” Avery said lowering her face to the mug and inhaling the scent. “I don’t suppose you have….”
Maddie placed a small chunk of coffee cake into Avery’s other hand.
“You are magnificent.” Avery’s eyes opened another notch. She sniffed appreciatively. “Are those egg soufflés?”
Avery smiled with pleasure. Her eyes opened fully. “I’m going to nominate you for sainthood. What do you think of Madeline Singer, Patron Saint of Mornings?”
Maddie laughed. “I’m not sure my soufflés merit that degree of religious zeal. They are the never fail version; nowhere near as fancy as their name implies. But thanks for the vote.”
“Hey, they’re poufy and filled with cheese,” Avery said after another long pull on her coffee. “Is there a patron saint of stomachs?”
“If there were I’m pretty sure you’d already know about it. I don’t understand how you can eat all the crap you do without gaining weight,” Nikki said.
Everyone was present and accounted for by the time the soufflés came out of the oven all golden brown and impressively puffed up.
“I love egg soufflés,” Avery said.
“That’s just because they’re as close to a Cheez Doodle as anyone’s willing to give you this early in the morning,” Nikki pointed out.
“True,” Avery agreed. “Maybe next time we should try crumbling Cheez Doddles on the top.”
Everyone dug into breakfast with gusto. Avery gave them a few minutes before calling the meeting to order. “So,” she asked after a last forkful of soufflé. “Do we want to discuss each possibility and go over the pros and cons? Or should we take a vote and see if we already have a consensus?”
“Why don’t we take a vote and see where we are,” Maddie said.
“Okay, all in favor of pursuing a conversation with Lifetime’s new production head say aye.”
Nikki raised her hand. “Aye.”
“All in favor of approaching other networks?” Avery said.
Again, Nikki responded with an “aye.” Maddie joined her.
Seeing his grandmother’s response, Dustin raised his hand and chimed in with loud “hay!”
“All in favor of finding a project and producing Do Over ourselves as originally envisioned?” Avery’s hand went up the moment she’d finished speaking. Kyra’s joined hers.
“Does the vote have to be unanimous?” Maddie asked.
“Good question,” Avery said. “That would be nice, but I’m not sure how we’re going to get there.”
They considered each other. The decision was large. The risks even larger no matter which choice they made.
“Listen,” Nikki said. “I’m tired of working for other people and being abused in the process. I’ve had more than enough humiliation to last me pretty much forever.”
There were nods and murmurs of agreement.
“But renovating and producing on our own, not to mention purchasing air time? That’s a lot to take on. And to find investors we’ll need real numbers and time for fundraising. We could spend a year figuring it out and trying to secure the money.” Nikki shook her head. “And that could be a year without income.”
There was a silence as they all absorbed this.
“I’d like to find a way to do our own thing,” Maddie said finally. “But I think Nikki’s right. We need to pursue all of our options so that we can make an informed decision.”
“Agreed,” Avery said. “But we need to find a renovation project to even come up with a budget. And the only way I’d agree to go back to Lifetime or any other network is if the renovation, and not humiliating us, is the focus of the program. Which means we choose the project so there are no unpleasant surprises.”
There were murmurs of agreement.
“Since we need to stay local I can ask Chase and his dad to keep an eye out in the Tampa market.” She paused for a sip of coffee. “And whatever we choose needs to be architecturally interesting with some sort of … history.”
Nikki pushed her plate away, her appetite disappearing, as she contemplated the number of hurdles they were going to need to jump.
“I saw something unusual yesterday that might be worth taking a look at,” Kyra said wiping egg and coffee cake crumbs from Dustin’s hands and face. “It’s just up the beach. I kind of stumbled on it by accident.”
“Really?” Avery asked. “Is it a bungalow? Or one of the smaller Mediterranean style houses?”
“Not exactly.” Kyra shifted uneasily in her seat. “It’s a small hotel not too far from the Don CeSar.”
“We’ve never done a hotel before,” Maddie said. “Is there a For Sale sign? Or a Real Estate company listed?”
“No. It doesn’t seem to be for sale.” A strange look crossed Kyra’s face. “And it’s just sort of sitting there…abandoned.”
“That’s odd,” Maddie said, her eyes on Kyra’s face.
“Yeah and that’s not all,” Kyra said. “I Googled it early this morning. And I got a lot of hits.”
“Oh?” Nikki brightened. “Did somebody famous own it? Or sleep there? An interesting history could help pull an audience.”
“It has a history all right,” Kyra said. “Only it’s not a happy one. She paused. “A man died there under mysterious circumstances in the early fifties. The main suspect disappeared the same day and was never found.”
©Wendy Wax 2016
1. In order to renovate the Sunshine Hotel and Beach Club, Madeline, Avery, Nicole, and Kyra must help solve the mystery of what happened to Renée and Annelise’s parents. What else do the characters learn as they renovate the club? Does each woman have to make peace with a certain part of her own past to move forward with changing her life?
2. Renée and Annelise suffered a brutal loss when they were children and have dealt with that loss very differently. Renée feels the Sunshine Hotel and Beach Club, the place where the loss occurred, should be torn down while Annelise doesn’t want it touched. How do these different approaches to the hotel reflect how each sister has dealt with her loss? Do you think that’s a result of their ages at the time of the incident, their personalities, or both? How does solving the mystery of their parents’ deaths help the two sisters? How do they each change as a result of what is discovered? How does that change their view of the hotel? Avery has to come to terms with the unexpected death of her mother, Deirdre Morgan. Do you think that is made more complicated, since she had just reconciled with her mother? Do you think Avery regrets not allowing her mother back into her life sooner?
3. When Steve Singer comes to stay at Bella Flora it changes his relationship with his ex-wife, Madeline, and his daughter Kyra. How does each relationship change? How do Kyra’s feelings toward her father change the longer he lives in the house? What does she learn about him?
4. Maddie chooses to let Kyra reach her own conclusions about Steve. Why do you think Maddie handles it this way? Do you think it was the right strategy? How does Steve change through the book? Do you think he learns any lessons? How does Maddie and Steve’s relationship transition throughout the book? What do they each learn about each other? As Kyra’s view of Steve as a father changes, does it influence how Kyra feels about Daniel Deranian’s parenting skills?
5. Do you think Kyra is still in love with Daniel? When she lets Dustin stay with his father on the movie set do you think she has any sympathy for Tonja? Why or why not?
6. At the end of the book Kyra takes a loan against Bella Flora to raise the money the women need to renovate the hotel and fight the network lawsuit. Her father and John Franklin are very concerned about the risk involved. Do you think Kyra is making a wise decision? Do you understand why she is willing to risk Bella Flora? Do you think she should have told Maddie, Nikki, and Avery the truth about where she got the money? Do you understand why she didn’t, and why she didn’t want to take a loan from Daniel? Have you ever taken a similar risk?
7. Nicole is struggling with how to tell Joe Giraldi that she is pregnant with his baby. Have you ever found yourself scared to reveal a secret that affected another person so closely? Do you agree with how Nicole handled the situation? Why do you think it was so hard for her to tell Joe? Why is Nicole so scared to trust Joe’s love? Why is she reluctant to marry him? Do you think her feelings have changed by the end of the book?
8. Why do you think Nicole feels obligated to visit her brother Malcom Dyer in prison, after all he has put her through and after all the lies he’s told her? Why do you think she wants to believe in him and to trust him? In contrast, why is it so hard for her to trust Joe? —continued— Wendy Wax’s Sunshine Beach Discussion Questions
9. Daniel Deranian and William Hightower have both been celebrities for a long time and they both encourage Maddie, Nicole, Avery, and Kyra to keep the paparazzi like Nigel Bracken interested and reporting on the women’s activities at Bella Flora. They feel that relationship will help the women to promote and protect their television show, Do Over, and that it’s a mutually beneficial relationship. Do you think that’s true? What do you think about reality television stars who are famous simply because they’re willing to have their lives filmed? What role do the paparazzi play in their celebrity status?
10. Madeline feels like she’ll never be able to compete with the young, gorgeous rock-star groupies who hang on William Hightower. Do you think her fears are reasonable? Do you think women are under an enormous amount of pressure to appear young, thin, and beautiful no matter their age? Why do you think William values his relationship with Maddie? Could you relate to Maddie’s insecurities?
11. Maddie and Kyra are navigating complicated relationships with high-profile stars. Maddie is romantically involved with the rock star William Hightower, and Kyra’s son Dustin was fathered by Daniel Deranian, a major movie star. What difficulties are presented for each woman because she’s involved with a famous man? How are their challenges similar and different?
12. At the end of each day, Maddie asks everyone to share one good thing to toast at sunset. Why do you think Maddie feels that tradition is so important? Does it help each character? Does it help some of the women more than the others? Do you have a similar daily ritual?
13. Avery, Kyra, Maddie, and Nikki each faced different challenges in the novel. Which woman’s story resonated the most with you? Why? What do you think each woman learns throughout the course of the book? What causes the breakthrough for each of them?