Title: White Sand, Blue Sea by Anita Hughes
A St. Barts Love Story
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction
Length: 288 pages
Book Rating: C
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
Olivia Miller is standing on the porch of her mother and stepfather’s plantation style villa in St. Barts. They have been coming here every April for years but she is always thrilled to see the horseshoe shaped bay of Gustavia and white sand of Gouverneur’s Beach. This trip should be particularly exciting because she is celebrating her twenty-fifth birthday and hoping that Finn, her boyfriend of four years, will propose.
The only person who won’t be here is her father, Sebastian, whom she hasn’t seen in twenty years. He’s a well-known artist and crisscrosses the globe, painting and living in exotic locations like Kenya and China. When Sebastian unexpectedly walks through the door and floats back into Olivia’s life like a piece of bad driftwood she never knew she wanted, she starts to wonder if her world is too narrow. She questions the dreams and the relationship she’s always thought she wanted. But there seems to be more to the story than an innocent fatherly visit, and Olivia must decide if love is more important than truth.
Set on St. Barts, the jewel of the Caribbean, Anita Hughes’s WHITE SAND, BLUE SEA is a heartwarming story about romance and adventure, and most important, about knowing yourself, and what makes you happy.
In White Sand, Blue Sea by Anita Hughes, a birthday celebration on a lush tropical island turns into an unexpected reunion between a long estranged father and daughter.
Olivia Miller is eagerly anticipating her twenty-fifth birthday celebration at her family’s vacation home on St. Bart’s when a stranger arrives. Not immediately realizing who the surprise visitor is, she is absolutely delighted to discover he is none other than her long absent dad, Sebastian. After he walked out on her and her mother Hadley twenty years ago, Olivia’s only contact with him over the years has been through sporadic letters. Will Hadley and her husband Felix London welcome Sebastian with open arms? Will Olivia’s longtime boyfriend Finn be supportive of her need to reconnect with her father? And, perhaps most important of all, what is behind Sebastian’s sudden reappearance in his daughter’s life?
Despite her father’s abandonment, Olivia has led a pretty charmed life and she comes across as a little naive and entirely too trusting. Olivia is deliriously happy with Finn and she is eagerly looking forward to taking their relationship to the next level. While Olivia’s desire to have her father in her life is completely understandable, Felix has always been a doting stepfather who cherished and nurtured her throughout her life. This close relationship with Felix makes Olivia’s blind devotion to Sebastian an absolute mystery. She never even brings up the fact that he walked away from her without a second thought. She seems completely unaffected by the fact that he was NEVER involved in her life at all beyond a few letters. Instead, Olivia eagerly hangs on his every word and enthusiastically agrees with every harebrained suggestion he makes.
Sebastian is so laughably superficial and obviously self-absorbed that it is completely mystifying that everyone immediately falls under his spell. He spins quite a few incredulous yarns about his travels and everyone accepts his rather outlandish claims without blinking an eye. Sebastian might be charming and good looking, but he is so glib and manipulative that it is impossible to believe that not a single person beyond ex-wife Hadley is suspicious about the reason he is inserting himself into their lives.
Hadley tries to give Sebastian the benefit of the doubt, but her past experiences with him are a harsh reality check. She is rightfully angry at his unwelcome observations and self-serving proclamations about their daughter. To her credit, Hadley attempts to remain impartial so as to not influence Olivia’s relationship with Sebastian. However, even with their somewhat tempestuous past, Hadley is not completely immune to Sebastian’s (dubious) charms. He manages to find her weaknesses and he does everything he can to exploit them (which makes him even MORE unlikable).
Not even Felix and Finn are safe from Sebastian’s appeal and in a stunning turn of events, Felix’s objections over his wife’s ex-husband staying with them disappear almost immediately. However, Finn has a few reservations about Sebastian and his unhappiness over Sebastian’s interference in their lives puts him at odds with Olivia. The once happy couple is facing the first rough patch in their relationship and it is anyone’s guess whether or not they will smooth over the differences.
The one area where Anita Hughes consistently excels is her ability to bring the locations of her novels vibrantly to life. In White Sand, Blue Sea, St. Barts serves as a lush backdrop for the conflict and tension within the family and the island provides a nice escape for them when things become a little too intense between them. Flashbacks of Hadley and Sebastian’s relationship provide much needed context for what went wrong between them so many years earlier. Sebastian’s constant recounting of his adventures quickly becomes tiresome since;they are so obviously embellished they are unbelievable. The absolute best part of the novel is Felix’s relationship with Olivia and his easy acceptance of her need to get to know her father. While a bit unrealistic and a little frustrating at times, the various story arcs are completely wrapped up by the novel’s conclusion.