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Mariah Stewart

REVIEW: Coming Home by Mariah Stewart

REVIEW: Coming Home by Mariah Stewart

Mariah Stewart Coming HomeDear Ms. Stewart:

Because I don’t follow many author newsletters, I was a bit surprised to find out that you were turning away from your harder edged FBI romantic suspense books for a more softer toned contemporary series set in Chesapeake Bay.   The covers and stylings reminded me strongly of the Robyn Carr books that have become so popular.

While Coming Home is the first book in The Chesapeake Diaries series, it involves several characters from previous books.   Grady Shields, the hero of the story, is the older, allegedly hermit like, brother of Mia Shields who is getting married.   The plot of the story centers around Mia’s wedding (Mia having starred in a previous book).   The heroine is Vanessa Keaton, the sister of the groom, Gabriel Beck.

Much of Vanessa’s backstory must have been told in a previous book because we are given a summary rundown.   To wit, Vanessa and Gabriel are half siblings who have in common their mother, Maggie’s,   abandonment. When Vanessa shows up in St. Dennis, Gabriel and his father welcome Vanessa with open arms, practically adopting her.   They’ve helped her find a home, set up her own upscale clothing store, Bling, and integrated her into the community.   We readers don’t see this take place, rather it is a fait accompli.   Vanessa’s story arc is the challenge that her mother provides when she blows into town and strikes up a new romance with Gabriel’s father, Hal.   To say that Gabriel and Vanessa were unhappy is an understatement yet Gabriel’s emotions toward his wayward mother are largely hidden from the reader.   Vanessa, who has much less of a stake in preventing the budding Hal and Maggie relationship, is left to provide the agnst over the renewal of feelings between the older couple.

Vanessa and Grady are thrown together because Mia asserts that Grady lives a spare, near hermit like existence. Mia asks Vanessa to make sure that Grady doesn’t spend the week on the sidelines.   I believe that the intention was to make us believe that Grady was dark and brooding but what we are told in the beginning regarding Grady doesn’t match up with how Grady is presented to us as readers.   It is possible that Mia is supposed to be an unreliable narrator but the blurb reinforces the Grady as a loner theme:

In the wake of his wife's murder, agent Grady Shields turned his back on the FBI-’and everything else-’to retreat into the vast solitude of Montana, grieve for his lost love, and forget the world. But after years in seclusion, his sister's wedding draws him to St. Dennis, a peaceful town on the Chesapeake Bay.

I felt that the portrayal of Grady as a brooding loner was non existent.   From the first moment he arrives in St. Dennis, Grady has no problems interacting with others including flirting heavily with Vanessa.   Vanessa and Grady’s flirtations quickly (over a matter of a couple of days) turn into a relationship that has Vanessa fretting about the future and Grady thinking about his past.   The romance stakes are ratcheted up when Vanessa strangely becomes the target of acts of violence.   Because the time period is so compressed and Vanessa and Grady’s chemistry so lukewarm, I felt unmoved by Vanessa’s distress over Grady’s imminent departure.   Grady had no such problems because he was the one in control of the “relationship.”

I felt like the suspense plot was just as tacked on as the characterization of Grady as a loner and Vanessa’s agnst over her mother’s lastest love affair.

The secondary romance between Hal and Maggie was actually far more interesting. Hal has every right to feel embittered and angry at Maggie’s leaving him and Maggie is a mess emotionally having undergone several marriages and divorces.   The title Coming Home really has meaning for Maggie. Hal was her first love and he represents a stability that she was never able to recapture no matter how many wealthy men she tried to pin down.   Hal’s position to let the past lie in the past is consistent with how he treated Vanessa and the optimistic way he tries to live his life.   The slow evolution of his romance with Maggie was far more intriguing to me than the quick and ordinary one involving Vanessa and Grady.    I’m not sure, though, if I am invested enough to pick up the next Chesapeake Bay series book.   C

Best regards,


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Dear Author

REVIEW: Mercy Street by Mariah Stewart

Dear Ms. Stewart:

book review I was really grateful to find your book on my doorstep. I admit that I had stopped buying your books when they went to hardcover because of cost and then I would forget to buy the book when it came out in paperback. This is kind of sad on my part because you are really a good writer. Mercy Street is a good blend of romance and mystery/suspense and the secondary plot line provides a very piquant dilemma for your readers. I’m still ambivalent about how I want the secondary plot to be resolved.

Four teens go into a park. Two are shot dead and two go missing. The grandmother of one of the mmissing boy is Father Kevin Burch’s parish secretary. Father Burch gets his cousin, Robert Magellan, to underwrite the hiring of a PI. Mallory Russo, a good looking blonde, was forced to retire from the local police force but remains, in the eyes of her supervisors, a superior investigator. Detective Charlie Wanamaker returns to his home town to take care of his alcoholic mother and autistic sister. Mallery and Charlie work together to solve the mystery of the missing teens.

The subplot is that of Robert Magellan, a wealthy internet entrepreunuer. Robert’s wife and child have been missing for 15 months. No sign of them has appeared and he’s half ready to give in and take his own life. His personal assistant, Suzanne, has loved Robert forever. She thought by sticking with him that perhaps he’d awaken to her as a woman. Instead he met another woman, had a whirlwind affair, and married her. Suzanne continues to work with Robert and searches for Beth and his child in the meantime, knowing that without finding them, Robert will never be able to move forward. Because Suzanne and Robert are so likeable, their story arc is very moving. There is bound to be some tragedy awaiting them both regardless of whether Beth and the child are alive or dead.

The romance is fairly uncomplicated between Mallery and Charlie but in these suspense books, I like it that way. I think if the romance was more angst filled, it would be too much drama along with the suspense. I loved that it was the heroine leading the investigation. It also made sense given that Mallery was more familiar with the people and the landscape.

My complaints were related to the resolution of the mystery. First, I thought the solution was pretty obvious at the beginning and was a bit impatient for everyone to catch on. Second, I thought that the red herring was too easily resolved at the end. It was too pat and for the gravity of the situation, too emotionless.

When I finished, I was anxious for the sequel. B

Best regards,


This book can be purchased in hardcover from Amazon or Powells or ebook format.