REVIEW: The Suite Spot by Trish Doller
Content warnings: grief, past death of a child, sexual assault
Dear Trish Doller,
Last year you released Float Plan, the first in the Beck Sisters series. I loved it (in fact I must apologise because I did not include it in my best books of 2021 and I should have – in my defence I read it in 2020 and so my Goodreads sort failed me) and so The Suite Spot became one of my most anticipated books of 2022. Like in Float Plan, there are some heavy topics covered as the characters have dealt with serious trauma and for some readers this will be a deal breaker. I admit, this one hurt my heart – the hero’s young daughter died following a medical event. He’s still dealing with the grief of that (and always will be). His marriage imploded as a result of the tragedy.
Also like in Float Plan, the theme of The Suite Spot is picking up the pieces of your life after bad things happen and finding joy and happiness. In Float Plan the heroine, Anna, was grieving the loss of her fiance to suicide. The hero had lost his career as a racing boat sailor after an accident caused a below knee leg amputation.
In The Suite Spot, Rachel Beck (Anna’s sister) is a single mother to Maisie (nearly 4), trying to build a career in hotel management. She’s been waiting and hoping for Maisie’s dad, Brian, to commit to both of them. He’s charming and keeps worming his way into Rachel’s good graces after repeated disappointment.
Rachel is the night reception manager at a fancy hotel in Miami Beach and in line for promotion to concierge when a rich asshole gropes her, tries for more (it happens on page but it’s not as awful as it could be) and causes her to get fired after he is unsuccessful. In need of a new job and after Brian disappoints her one too many times and she finally realises he’s never going to be the man she needs him to be, she’s offered an opportunity to manage the accommodation at a new hybrid microbrewery and specialty hotel in Ohio. With little to lose, she decides to make the move with Maisie to Kelleys Island in Lake Erie where she meets owner and brewer, Mason Brown.
The hotel and brewpub is more of a concept than an actuality at the time Rachel arrives and she has to be convinced to stay (of course). But Mason offers her carte blanche to decorate the hotel and, once open, to run it unfettered; she can’t resist the opportunity.
The island is small but Rachel soon makes friends with the locals and builds connection, finding the sense of community and home she’d been lacking she’d been lacking in Florida, notwithstanding her beloved mother is still there.
Mason is sad and prickly – a little on the grumpy side even (I have a soft spot for grumpy heroes). Rachel describes him thus:
Mason is a human hedgehog who’s prickly on the surface with a soft underbelly
He lost his daughter just over a year ago and his grief and subsequent implosion of his marriage are still fresh. I liked that Mason’s ex-wife was not demonised. Both tried their best but the trauma of losing their daughter was too much for them to get through as a couple. Neither did anything wrong.
Losing Maisie would be unbearable, so I can’t blame his ex-wife for not listening when she was grieving. But I also can’t blame Mason for withdrawing into the one thing that brings him comfort when Jess was probably not equipped to offer it. No one is the villain here. They both deserve happiness.
Of course, having Maisie around brings back a lot of memories for Mason and sometimes he needs to take a bit of a time out but he’s never mean or gruff with Maisie. Rachel and Maisie live in the upstairs of the sprawling house on the property and Mason lives downstairs but they share a kitchen so it’s not possible to entirely live separately. After Rachel appreciates Mason’s history however, she makes every effort for her and Maisie to minimise contact. It’s not too hard because Mason is busy at the brewery making all sorts of fancy beers (most of which I understood very little about but if you like beer I imagine they’re very exciting) and Rachel is focused on the cabins which will be the boutique hotel side of things.
It helps that Mason is very wealthy having cashed out of a successful business venture shortly after his daughter was born with a heart defect, in order that he could be there for his family. He can fund the project but is fairly clueless about how to actually make the hotel work. Rachel has the skills and creativity to bring it all together and it quickly becomes apparent they make a great team.
The thing I didn’t love about Float Plan was the “black moment” I saw Anna and Keane heading toward and that I desperately wished for them to avoid. They’d been through so much and I just wanted them to be happy. (Fortunately they weren’t apart for very long and this was pretty much my only criticism of the book which was otherwise wonderful). In the acknowledgements at the end of The Suite Spot you note: Had 2020 not been such a traumatic year, The Suite Spot might have turned out to be a different book, but I found myself needing to tell a story that was warm and gentle. Had 2021 not also been such a traumatic year I may have wanted to read a different book but I need warm and gentle and kind too and so I found myself wallowing happily in the romance which was of the slow burn, cautious but inevitable kind. There is conflict and tension in the story but Mason and Rachel’s relationship unfurls organically and sweetly and the conflict does not come from within. And,when it comes it doesn’t take many pages to resolve, something I dearly appreciated.
Mason is a man coming out of the stupor of grief and loss and Rachel gives him the time and space to do it both for him and for her. She doesn’t want to be a rebound – she wants him to be sure too. And so the romantic arc is about them getting to know one another and becoming sure. In many ways their coming together is as easy as breathing. Maybe that sounds kind of boring but it was actually not boring at all. Also, it was beautiful. I didn’t want high drama. I wanted to read about good people being kind and being happy and falling in love and that’s exactly what I got.
Mason and Rachel also have excellent sexual chemistry so I want to be clear to readers that “sweet” does not mean there is no sexy here. It’s not super explicit but it’s definitely sexy too.
I read this book in about 24 hours – wanting to immerse myself in the story and enjoy it like a bear hug from the best person you know. Honestly, this book was just about perfect. No doubt this book will be on my Best of 2022 list – and this time I won’t miss it.
“You are beautiful and smart,” he says. “And any man who doesn’t appreciate all of you doesn’t deserve any of you.”
Fabulous review. This sounds like the book I need right now but it’s $11.99 in Canada. I’ll have to wait till it’s on sale or at my library.
Agree with @Kris. I loved FLOAT PLAN (it was on my favorites of 2021 list) and am looking forward to reading THE SUITE SPOT, but the U.S. price is $10.99—far too much for an ebook imho. I’ll wait for a sale or for my library to get a copy.
Maybe I should give Float Plan another try? I read maybe 20 or 25% but it felt really slow to me. Also the heroine setting out on a long sailing voyage alone was an eyeroller, grief or no grief. She knew enough about sailing that it should have been obvious to her just how dangerous that was.
Float Plan was a DNF for me for the exact reasons Janine mentioned. I just got this new one from the library and this review has gotten me excited. I could use a good romance. A lot of big releases have disappointed me this year.
I, too, enjoyed Float Plan and look forward to reading this. Thanks for your review, Kaetrin!
@Jenreads: Keep me posted. If you like this one a lot better than Float Plan, I’ll see about getting my hands on it.
Float Plan started a little slowly for me, and I had to suspend disbelief about Anna’s taking the boat out on her own, but once she meets up with Keane, the story really became compelling and I loved it. I have a hold in at the library for The Suite Spot and after this review, I am anxious to get my hands on it. Thanks, Kaetrin!
@Becky: Good to know, Becky, especially since we seem to be in tune on some of the books we’ve both read. Maybe I’ll give it a second shot.
My middle son was born with Tetralogy of Fallot, a serious congenital heart defect (actual 4 defects, as the name implies), and until he was 3 and had surgery to repair the defects (with 2 prophylactic surgeries before that), we didn’t know if he would live or not. Thanks to luck and modern medicine, he’s now an adult with a child of his own, and he’s lived a full and fairly adventurous life. I’ve always admired him for pulling himself right up despite all the obstacle’s Life has put in his way to try to knock him down (although to be fair Life also granted him a formidable intelligence and other gifts). All this as an introduction to explain why I want to read The Suite Spot, as it will have an extra layer of meaning and empathy for me. Clearly even modern medicine can’t save every child, and I think Mason’s situation will break my heart, but I look forward to seeing him find joy in the end.
@Kris: @DiscoDollyDeb: Eep! That is a lot. Hopefully your library will get it soon.
@Janine: @Jenreads: I go with pretty out there set ups fairly regularly so the premise for Float Plan didn’t bother me at all. I think Anna knew she was in over her head but she did it anyway (I do think that grief can make one irrational at times so I was able to go with it easily) – once she gets going it quickly becomes clear she needs help and that’s where Keane comes in. (*sigh* Keane…)
@Becky: Keane. That’s the comment.
@Kareni: I hope you like it as much as I did Kareni!
@Susan/DC: Oh wow. I’m glad your son is okay! I don’t have that experience and Mason’s story broke me but I think the author uses a deft hand with the topic. She is able to convey the grief and sense of loss without it feeling like the reader is being hit over the head with it – if that makes sense. I hope the story works for you and it isn’t too much for you to read. Mason is wonderful. Just wonderful.
@Kaetrin: But doesn’t Anna think at one point (shortly before she decides to put up the notice that she’s looking to hire someone to sail with her) that she should have realized it would be too dangerous?
@Susan/DC: Thank you for sharing your story, Susan. How wonderful that your son has done so well. I will think of you as I read The Suite Spot, and it will help me to remember that some children can survive and thrive such a life threatening condition. @Janine: Janine, I hope you like Float Plan. Keane is a wonderful man who really respects Anna’s grieving, and she does grieve for a lot of the story, even while she is developing feelings for Keane and becoming stronger and more capable with the boat. I think Doller handled Anna’s grief really well, with no quick fix or instant revelation. It felt very organic and lovely, so that when she and Keane come together, you believe that she is ready and that they can make it work. It seems like The Suite Spot also has a grieving MC, so that must be a subject near to Doller’s heart.
@Becky: Have you read her first book, Something Like Normal? It too deals with grief, so that must be a theme for her. A lot of people loved that book to bits. I didn’t, but it wasn’t bad and if you like the way she explores that theme then it’s probably worth seeking out.
@Janine: No, I haven’t but I will look into it. Thank you for suggesting it— I will check it out!
@Becky: I loved Something Like Normal Becky!!
@Janine: I think that supports my view that she knew she was in over her head.