In On Sunset Beach (Chesapeake Diaries #8) by Mariah Stewart, Carly is working on a project that will thrill the art world and finally prove that she deserves to be where she is today. Growing up with it all, Carly has worked hard to be successful on her own. A splashy debut in one of Carly's galleries of previously unknown artwork of a famous painter from St. Dennis, along with a book Carly is writing about the painter, will demonstrate how far Carly has come on her own.
In St. Dennis, Ford Sinclair is finally home again after 7 years away with the military. He's been places and saw things most people don't see even in their worst nightmares, and he is having a hard time knowing where he belongs now, what he should do, how to fit back into civilian life.
When Carly ends up bringing her exhibit to St. Dennis, it is inevitable for numerous reasons that she will meet up with Ford. When she firsts meets him at his mother's Inn, not knowing who he is she is drawn to him...to his eyes, to his touch. Neither of them are looking for relationships or forever...Carly is only in St. Dennis temporary, and Ford is home, but he doesn't know if it's for good. But the attraction is strong, and as Ford is slowly drawn into more and more in St. Dennis, he is drawn more and more to Carly. They start a slowly growing, open and honest relationship, one that gives them both hope for a future. Ford has finally found someone he can just be with and talk to, but is it enough to move him away from his past to a brighter future?
Mariah gives us another great story in On Sunset Beach. I love that characters we've met in previous books are woven into the story line well enough to catch up with, but at the same time if you haven't met them in previous books you won't feel like you're missing anything. The Chesapeake stories are interlinked but completely separate stories. I really enjoy Grace's (Ford's mother) diary entries inserted in various spots of On Sunset Beach, they give a whole other perspective to the story outside of Ford and Carly's.
The main characters, Carly and Ford are both mature and strong. Carly is where she wants to be in her life, she's happy and positive. Ford is still finding where he should be after the military. I loved Mariah's descriptions of him in his kayak on the water...I could feel myself there too! This is where Ford does a lot of thinking and where we share Ford's memories and insights as well as his struggles. Mariah brings you right to his special place with him. I liked how Mariah didn't have to go into a lot of detail about what Ford's been through, but she manages to still evoke the images and feelings. Mariah brings Ford and Carly together very well. The spark is there, but they are slow to get things moving, and this felt very real. They felt real, and the relationship believable.
Mariah gives a great small town feel in On Sunset Beach. It is a well written and paced story that entrances and gives your heart hope and happiness. I'd recommend this to contemporary romance readers.