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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,


| Chapter One and Chapter Two excerpts | Kindle | Amazon | Nook | BN | Borders |
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My First Sale by Mariah Stewart, Mama Didn’t Raise No Fool

My First Sale by Mariah Stewart, Mama Didn’t Raise No Fool

Mariah Stewart has penned over nineteen novels, been on the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists. She’s been a RITA finalist, received the Award of Excellence for contemporary romance and was recently inducted into the New Jersey Romance Writers Hall of Fame. I think I’ve read at least half of Stewart’s books and she does an excellent job of balancing romance with suspense. I’ve enjoyed her FBI books as they’ve all seemed so authentic with smart mysteries. Her latest release, Mercy Street, is no different.


My first sale almost didn’t happen.

book review I’d written that first book mainly to prove to myself that I could write – and finish – an entire novel. I’d started several that never got past the third chapter, so for me, the challenge was to finish one. Of course, one of the reasons why it took me so long was because I didn’t know how to type, and since a friend had assured me that however lovely my Palmer method handwriting might be, the manuscript would have to be typed if I wanted anyone other than a few close friends to read it. A co-worker dragged me to a computer store – pointed to a machine and said, "Buy it." I did. She even taught me how to use it, for which I will be forever grateful.

So I’d written what I thought was a really dramatic love story with a real pow! of an ending. I’d found an agent, and she’d sent the book out to several editors, and the wait began. Anyone who’s ever had a book out there, making the rounds of editors’ desks, knows exactly the kind of angst I went through waiting while judgment was being passed on my work.

Before too long, the responses starting coming in – and it wasn’t good news. Almost every one of the rejection letters read the same way: "I love this author’s voice, I love her characters, it’s a great story – but we just can’t take a chance on this because of the ending. If she has something else, I’d love to look at it…yada yada yada."

That pow! of an ending? Did I mention that it involved both the hero and the heroine being murdered in the second to the last chapter?

That thud I just heard…was that you falling off your chair?

When I said I’d written a really dramatic love story – well, let’s put it this way: I was channeling Romeo and Juliet. The editors were looking for another Whitney, My Love.

Yeah. What was I thinking?

I’d pretty much given up on selling that book – oh, ya’ think? – but since I’d achieved my goal, I was okay with that. I had finished it, after all, and had not only learned to type, albeit badly, but had learned how to use a computer as well. But there was one more editor we’d yet to hear from, and ironically, it was the very editor who, right from the start, my agent had most wanted to buy the book.
And wonder of wonders, my agent called late one afternoon to tell me that I was going to get a phone call from that last editor because she wanted to talk to me about my book.

After saying several very nice things about my book and my writing, the editor asked if we could talk a little about – you know this is coming, right? – the ending. "Let me tell you why this ending doesn’t work for a romance…" she said, and then she proceeded to explain how upset readers would be if I didn’t let my characters have a happy ending after all they’d gone through together.

The conversation ended with, "If you’d be willing to consider an alternate ending, we’d love to buy your book, and your next one, as well."

I can say in perfect honesty that by the time I hung up the phone, I would have walked through fire for that woman (she’s still my editor and I still feel exactly the same way).

She’d asked me to think about it and give her a call on the following Tuesday to let her know what I’d like to do. Well, Mama didn’t raise no fool. I already had an alternative ending in mind – a happy one, at that. By noon on Tuesday, the new ending was on the editor’s desk. She made an offer that day and the rest, as they say, is history.

That was twenty-three books ago. Every sale, every book, has been special to me – though I have to admit, that first sale was especially sweet because I’d pretty much given up on selling that book, which was Moments in Time. It was published on Valentine’s Day, 1995, and is still in print from Pocket Books. Thirteen years later, I still get mail from readers telling me how much they loved J.D. and Maggie’s love story, and how they just knew that the two of them were meant for each other and would live happily ever after.

And thanks to my wonderful editor, they will.

Mariah Stewart
Mercy Street, A Mercy Street Foundation Novel #1