Out this month is my Bungalow Nights, the second book in my Beach House No. 9 trilogy of full-length romance novels available both in digital and print. I’m really appreciating the good reviews, including a coveted starred review from Publishers Weekly. That publication said “Ridgway’s emotional and powerful second beach-themed contemporary…is exemplary in its slow exploration of desire” and added that it’s “everything a romance reader could hope for.” Romantic Times Book Reviews gave it 4 1/2 stars, named it a Top Pick as well as nominating it for the March Seal of Excellence, saying the book “is one of those rare contemporary romances that does absolutely everything right.”
The book takes place, obviously, at Beach House No. 9, where combat medic Vance Smith meets Layla Parker. At the behest of his dying commanding officer, he’s there to give the girl a month of sun and ocean. And that’s what Vance expects, a girl, because his CO carried a photo of a ten-year-old in his helmet. Instead, upon arrival Vance is startled to discover Layla is a full-grown and very lovely woman. Both have wary hearts, and there’s that small matter of Vance being uncomfortably aware he didn’t promise Layla’s father to do any more than show her sunsets and give her rides on Ferris wheels. Oh, what to do?
Also complicating Vance’s life is his estrangement from his family, who live about an hour away in “avocado country,” a land of hills and horses, orchards of citrus and trees with dark green leaves that bear the prickly but delicious “alligator pear.” In the course of Bungalow Nights, the characters take a detour from their beach destination to visit this new place.
While the Crescent Cove of the Beach House books was inspired by the real-life Crystal Cove, a California state park, the land where Vance’s family grows avocados also exists in more than my imagination. Just up the road from me are acres of avocado ranches, where twisty roads take you through creeks and under the spreading branches of rough-skinned oak trees. Just minutes from the Pacific you are in the lazy warmth of an agricultural region.
Romantic Times praises both “gorgeous settings” and Publishers Weekly mentions the “wonderfully evocative Californian setting of orange groves and avocado orchards.” Yes, I love these fabulous reviews.
Especially because I wrote this book when I was virtually bound to my bed after surgery for a broken leg. I couldn’t put any weight on the leg. I had to get downstairs by bumping down them one by one on my behind. My crutches came with me to the bathroom.
All this during the winter, when days were short and darkness descended early. It was Vance and Layla who took me away. Telling their story, going with them onto the sand or into the avocado orchard took me away from my bedroom and my broken leg.
That’s what a book can do…whether reading one or writing one. Has a book taken you away? (It doesn’t have to be from a particularly “bad” time either. I remember passing the time at a prestigious Track & Field meet my brother participated in by sticking my nose in two books I’d brought along. My parents were horrified!)