The Island of Summer Sunsets
Publication date: June 8th 2022
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Sail away with this heartwarming beach read about hope, family, and finding out who was meant for us.
Among the dunes and salty spray, off the South Carolina coast, where the daily tide swells and the minnow counts are the only news in town, something big might just change Janie Brooks’s life forever, for better or worse.
In the small southern village of Fripp, Janie’s life is moving along at about the same slow pace as the island—exactly the way she wants it. After the death of Janie’s husband, unable to find her own way, she spends her days with the seagulls and swallow-tailed kites, in the serene bliss of the Atlantic coast.
Until newcomer Ryan Kennedy and his teenage daughter move into the rental down the street, shaking up Janie’s well-ordered, simple life. Ryan has enough to deal with, being a single dad. All he wants is to move into a brand-new house in this quaint community and start fresh. But, with Janie down the street, that might be easier said than done.
Will Janie and Ryan find their own version of paradise? Or will one get in the way of the other?
A summer escape that will whisk you away to an island getaway and have you wishing for a seaside retreat with your feet in the sand and the golden sunset at your back. The Island of Summer Sunsets is perfect for fans of Robyn Carr, Brenda Novak, and RaeAnne Thayne.
“Hey there, Janie-girl,” Joe Murphy called from atop the wood decking that wrapped around the old marina’s general store.
His gruff voice pulled Janie Brooks ’attention his way as she walked up. She waved, the salty air blowing between them.
“What can I get for you this morning?” he asked, wiping his large hands on a rag as a seagull squawked overhead in search of its morning meal.
Joe, owner of the general store at the end of Fripp Island’s seaside marina, towered over her. At five-foot-nothing, being towered over wasn’t unusual for Janie, but Joe was a giant of a man, with a steely-gray, grizzled beard that matched what was left of his hair. He reminded her of an ocean-facing house that had stood up to the salty sea air and endured the test of time. He was… weathered.
“Hey, Joe. I need a couple of bags of ice, some minnows, and Momma’s newspaper. How are the shiners today?” Janie asked, peering into the murky vat of bait minnows that lined the old clapboard wall of the building, trying to determine how active they were. Their smell was oddly comforting. It reminded her of going there as a little girl with Momma and Daddy. And then, with her late husband, Daniel. She loved visiting the marina before anybody else was up and around.
Something about the familiarity kept her thoughts on the day-to-day, not allowing her mind to move into memories that were still too painful to relive. The music of sameness filled her: the gulls, the glorious sunrise, and the smells of the island. Anything else put her into new territory, and Janie wasn’t ready for anything new. Even after two years.
“Just got ’em in yesterday. Should do you for a couple of days.”
Janie pointed toward the vat. “Momma wants two dozen, please.”
She noticed then that something was different about Joe that day; his manner was a little more distracted than usual. He’d looked over her head toward the entrance to the marina a couple of times already.
Joe pulled out the net, scooping up approximately twenty-four, then throwing in several more for good measure. Then he filled a plastic bag with water, dumped in the tiny silvery fish, and used a tube to inject oxygen from the tank before tying off the top with a rubber band. That would keep them alive until Janie got home and put them in the minnow bucket. He handed the bag over to her.
She looked up, shielding her eyes from the brightness of the morning daylight with her hand. It was early, but the sun was making a spectacular appearance over the water. The blaze of orange contrasted against the layers of cool blue in the sky just above. Below, the darker surf was almost glassy in its stillness, as it often was this early.
“Your momma fishing off the dock today, or y’all going out in the boat?” Joe asked.
“We’re going out tomorrow to hunt for driftwood on Pritchards Island’s beach. We’ve got some special orders for candle holders that could use a few more pieces.” Janie referred to her “sea treasures” business that she and Momma ran together. “She’s planning to do some fishing while we’re at it. Might throw a line in on the dock this afternoon.”
There was a limited window for maritime travel between tiny Pritchards Island and Fripp Island. Both were nestled among the string of more than one hundred islands from South Carolina down to Georgia, and if it weren’t for the stretch of ocean separating the two barrier islands, it would only be a half-mile walk between them. High tide happened twice a day, but the exact timing changed daily by roughly an hour. Tides were the gods of everything here, pulling the water from the canals that snaked through the marshes, so getting across by boat had to be carefully timed.
Joe’s gaze followed Janie’s. “Gonna be a good day for it tomorrow.”
They stood silently for a moment, looking upward at the sky, which had now transformed into a full-blown daytime blue.
“A perfect day, according to the forecast.”
Most days on Fripp Island were perfect days as far as Janie was concerned. But this day seemed to sparkle. Truth was, they lived in paradise on this tiny slice of an island many people west of Georgia and north of the Carolinas had never even heard of.
Fripp was quiet this early in spring since the lucky tourists who knew about the island invaded during the warmer months. The late March weather was warm but breezy, with a few puffy white clouds floating by. Being surrounded by nature’s beauty on a protected bird and wildlife sanctuary was all Janie wanted.
Janie carried over the bag of minnows and set them on the floor of her golf cart.
“I’ve got some of that sweet cornbread mix from the mill your momma always asks for.” Joe peered up the stairs toward the entrance of the general store.
Janie was extremely fond of Joe. He ordered specific things he knew his customers liked. “Then I’d better grab the mix too while I’m here.”
Janie started to follow Joe when someone caught her eye, causing her to turn instinctively. A tall, sandy-haired man had just parked a four-seater golf cart on the crushed shell lot and was walking over.
“Hey, Joe,” she muttered, just loud enough to get his attention.
“Yup?” He raised grizzled brows.
“Who’s that?” She nodded as furtively as possible toward the newcomer.
He was tall, dark-haired, lean, and moved with a grace that caught her eye. It was apparent the man wasn’t a regular resident because she’d never seen him before. Not only was he unfamiliar, but, dressed in faded jeans and a worn blue T-shirt, he was clearly a misplaced underwear/sunglasses model who’d washed up on their island out of season.
Joe lowered his polarized glasses and glanced over, his sun-damaged blue eyes having a look. “Hmm. Looks like he’s here earlier than expected.”
“Who?” she hissed, wanting to know before the guy got to them. It would be nice to have a clue what was happening around here.
Joe eyed her for a long second. “That’s my nephew, Ryan. Got some interest in our new resident, do you, Janie-girl?” Joe winked at her, grinning as she flushed a dark, beet red.
Janie knew she was doing this because it was the curse of being a redhead. And one with freckles, too. Her skin told the world her deepest thoughts. Like a flashing billboard.
Janie’s curiosity competed with her awkwardness over Joe’s nephew’s unexpected appearance. So she ignored his taunt.
“Resident? How did I not know about someone new moving in?”
Joe had mentioned his nephew a few times in the past, but they’d never met. And she would have remembered him.
“It happened pretty quickly. Must’ve slipped my mind the last time you were here.”
Judging by his smirk, she knew Joe had misinterpreted her reaction as interest instead of mortification. After last year, when Joe had tried to set her up and it had failed miserably, he, of all people, should have understood where she was coming from.
The nephew came closer. Joe raised a hand in greeting toward the man as he neared them. Janie eyed her golf cart and wondered if she could make it there fast enough to avoid saying hello, but then she realized how silly that was.
Joe let out a low rumble of laughter. “Come and say hello.”
Janie Brooks was no coward. Never that. And Joe was like family, so she had little choice.
“Fine. He’s your family, after all.” There. That would stop any ideas Joe had about possible interest in his nephew.
“C’mon then.” He grasped her shoulders gently and maneuvered her forward as if she were a child, causing Janie’s face to flame up like a flare gun, something that didn’t happen often but had happened twice in the last five minutes. But then again, in Fripp, she was rarely caught off guard…
Susan Sands grew up in a real life Southern Footloose town in Northwest Louisiana, complete with her senior class hosting the first ever prom in the history of their tiny public school with half the town chaperoning. Is it any wonder she writes Southern small town stories full of porch swings, fun and romance?
Susan lives in Roswell, Georgia with her husband, Doug, their Labradoodle, Watson, and lots of material for her next book. Her three adult children are in various stages of finishing college and getting off the payroll.