The Cafe at Beach End
by RaeAnne Thayne
Publisher: Canary Street Press
Release Date: June 13, 2023
Reviewed by PJ
When Meredith Collins was a child, the little beach town of Cape Sanctuary lived up to its name. Spending summers there with her grandmother, Meredith finally felt safe and loved.
Now she’s returning in disgrace. Her late ex-husband swindled investors out of millions of dollars and made Meredith a figure of scorn—though she knew nothing about his scheme. But she still has the beach cottage she inherited from her grandmother and half ownership of the local café. It’s a place to work and earn a little money. That’s if her cousin, Tori, will let her through the door. Once, Tori and Meredith were as close as sisters—until Meredith chose her neglectful parents’ expectations over their bond. Now widowed with a teenage daughter, Tori isn’t setting out a welcome mat for the woman who let her down so badly.
While Meredith tries to make a fresh start, she is drawn to a mysterious writer renting the cottage next door. Liam Byrne’s kindness is a balm, though she worries he might not be so friendly if he knew who she was. But Liam has his own secret and a mission that will help Meredith confront her past—and maybe, claim a surprising future…
The Cafe at Beach End is another emotional roller coaster from one of my favorite authors and a ride on which I happily jumped. There are so many meaty themes in this book and Thayne skillfully navigates all of them.
I'm drawn to characters with some life experience in their rear view. Meredith, Tori, Liam, and Sam all have that. It complicates their lives and their relationships, gives texture to their personalities, and a greater emotional depth to their feelings. The animosity Tori holds for Meredith is a living, breathing entity. Same for the anguish, despair, and hopelessness dogging Meredith but also the determination. Both are empathetic characters. When their stories are slowly revealed, the anger, fear, and vulnerability exposed, it makes it hard not to hurt for both of them...and also root for them.
I enjoy fractured families who find their way back together. It's a facet of many of Thayne's books and one she does well. I appreciate the fact that her characters don't quickly leap to "miracle" solutions but, instead, deal with all the messy emotions that would be encountered in real life. The pace of the relationships in this book feels authentic and real. In addition to Meredith and Tori's broken family relationship, the author also explores parent/child relationships, new romantic relationships, and, for one character, the opportunity to get to know herself and set a new direction for her life.
I also like complex stories about overcoming adversity, second chapters, and unexpected romance. We have all three in this book, as well as forgiveness, acceptance, and the possibility of new beginnings. I was with these characters every step of the way, cheering on happy endings for them all.
While this book is women's fiction, and primarily about the evolution of the two main characters, Meredith and Tori, it also includes sweet romantic threads with hopeful endings for both women. I enjoyed it and am already looking forward to whatever RaeAnne Thayne has in store for readers next.