Shelter Bay #4
He no longer believed in anything.
But she believed in him.
J.T. Douchett has returned home to shut out the world and escape the memories from his final mission as a Marine that haunt him. When he reluctantly agrees to provide security for a town event, the last thing he expects is to experience unbidden feelings for Irish movie star Mary Joyce.
Mary has surprised everyone—including herself—by accepting an invitation to a film festival in Shelter Bay. The Oregon coastal town immediately charms her, and an even larger surprise is encountering the stoic man who could be everything she's dreamed of.
As J.T. struggles to keep Mary at arm’s length, Mary reminds herself that she’s never been attracted to the strong, silent type. And having known so much sorrow, he’s wary of getting close to anyone. But in Shelter Bay, even the most strongly guarded heart is no match for love.
Belying the song lyrics about it never raining in California, a dark gray sky was weeping onto the black Suburban’s windshield as Marine captain J. T. Douchett drove through rain-slicked streets to carry out his mission. A mission he’d been catapulted into a year ago. A mission without weapons, which, given that every Marine was a rifleman, was not one he’d prepared for at Officer Candidates School, at the War College, or even during years of combat.
The rain was appropriate, he thought wearily, as he pulled into the parking lot of a Denny’s restaurant. As tough as this assignment was, it always seemed a lot worse when a benevolent sun was shining and birds were singing.
The drizzle reminded him of home. Back in Shelter Bay, his father and his brother Cole would’ve already gone out on their fishing boat. Maybe his grandfather, who often missed his days at sea, would have gone with them. The small coastal town would be coming to life—shopkeepers down on Harborview Drive would be opening their doors and lowering their bright awnings, beachcombers would be walking at the edge of the surf, gathering shells and agates, locals would be sitting around tables at the Grateful Bread, enjoying French toast and gossip while tourists lined up at the pier to go whale watching.
Memories of his hometown not only comforted; they reminded him of family, which, in turn, drove home the significance of this mission for which he definitely never, in a million years, would have volunteered.
But the first thing J.T. had learned at OCS was that every Marine was part of a larger picture. And the tradition of “Leave no Marine behind” was a sacred promise that went beyond the battlefield.
He and his passenger, a staff sergeant who, despite years of marching cadences, still had the slightly bowed legs of a man who’d grown up riding horses in Abilene, retrieved their garment bags from the backseat. They entered the restaurant, walking past the tables to the men’s room, where they changed from their civilian clothes into high-necked, dark blue jackets, dark blue pants with a bloodred stripe down the side of the legs, and shoes spit-polished to a mirror gloss.
Although he could feel every eye in the place on them, J.T. put on a focused but distant stare and glanced neither left nor right as he walked straight back to the Suburban. Neither man spoke. There was no need. They’d been through this before. And it never got any easier, so why talk about it?
After he was waved through Camp Pendleton’s main gate, passing a golf course, a McDonald’s, a Taco Bell, and a veterinary clinic on the way to his destination, it occurred to J.T. how appearances could be deceiving.
The treelined streets he drove through, set on hillsides behind a lake shadowed by fog, with their manicured lawns and children’s play park, portrayed a sense of tranquillity. It could, he thought, as he turned onto Marine Drive, be any one of a million suburban neighborhoods scattered across the country.
What made his destination different from most was that these tile-roofed beige stucco houses were home to warriors. Another reason he was grateful for the rain. On a sunny day, more people would be outside and the sight of the black SUV with two Marines wearing dress blues inside would set off alarms that would spread like wildfire.
J.T. leaned forward, trying to read the house numbers through the slanting rain. He could have used the GPS, but found the computerized female voice a distraction in situations like these.
The house was located at the end of a cul-de-sac. A white Ford Escape with a child’s car seat in back was parked in the driveway. A bumper sticker on the small SUV read My Heart Belongs to a U.S. Marine.
Exchanging a look with the sergeant, J.T. pulled on his white cotton gloves and climbed out of the Suburban. The heels of his shiny shoes clicked on the concrete sidewalk.
A pot of red geraniums on the small covered porch added a bright spot to the gray day. A blue star flag, signifying a deployed family member, hung in the side window.
J.T. took a deep breath. He knew the sergeant standing beside him would be saying a prayer. Wishing he still possessed such faith, J.T. found his own peace by envisioning himself back home. The remembered tang of Douglas fir trees and brisk salt-tinged sea air cleared his head.
Although he’d rather be back in Afghanistan, facing a horde of Taliban, than be standing at this front door on this rainy California day, J.T. squared his shoulders and braced himself as he reached out a gloved hand to ring the bell and shatter yet another woman’s heart.
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J.T. Douchett, a Marine officer and emotionally wounded warrior haunted by too many months of notifying relatives of fellow Marines’ deaths, enthralls Irish movie star and screenwriter Mary Joyce in Ross’s scorching fourth romance set in Shelter Bay, Ore. Ross gradually builds up the sexual tension between her characters with convincing tact in a comfortingly idyllic milieu where nearly everyone else is in love. When Mary agrees to be a guest at Shelter Bay’s first film festival and Douchett becomes her reluctant bodyguard, he finds her “really, really hot,” but despite those predictable erotic sparks, he maintains his self-imposed celibacy until Mary’s Celtic allure and her stories of inhibition-shedding selkies break through his depression and resolve. Ross satisfyingly fleshes out their mating dance with secondary characters familiar from her earlier books and tantalizing glimpses of stories to be told in future installments. ~ Publishers Weekly
This is a lovely addition to the Shelter Bay series. Ross builds a charming town filled with good, solid people -- the best place for warriors to come and rebuild their civilian selves. The women are strong, too, making Shelter Bay a place that readers will really want to visit. ~ RT Book Reviews
I felt like I waited for years instead of months for MOONSHELL BEACH
, the latest in Joann Ross’s Shelter Bay series. The problem is that because I love this series I immediately dug into MOONSHELL BEACH
and read it cover to cover in two days. I just couldn’t put it down. . . Shelter Bay is the kind of town I’d love to live in myself. . . I can’t wait for the next book in this series and to see just what is in store next for Mary’s movies, Maddy’s television show, Ethan’s romance and just what those Douchett boys will do next. ~ Love Romances and More