Title: Half Moon Bay
Series: Key West series #1
Author: Meryl Sawyer
Narrator: Emily Beresford
Format: Unabridged Audiobook, 10 hours and 41 minutes
Published: July 26, 2016 (Dreamscape Media, LLC)
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Audible
Source: Audiobook JukeBox
Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 Wine Glasses
They called her Beauty and the Beast because half of her face was exquisitely lovely, and half was disfigured. But when Amy Conroy flees her old life to start anew in Key West, a terrible car crash changes everything. Mistaken for Shelly Ralston, a victim killed in the accident, Amy is rushed into surgery to reconstruct her now shattered face. And when investigative reporter Matthew Jensen is called to the hospital, he mistakenly identifies the gravely injured woman as Shelly. Desperate to save herself, Amy takes on this woman's identity.
"We need you to identify the victim."
Victim? Even now, hours later, standing in the Key West airport, Matthew Jensen could still feel the sudden weakness in his limbs at the policeman's words. Oh, Christ, no — not Trevor.
Before he had managed a response, the disembodied voice on the phone had answered his silent prayer. Trevor Adams had not been in a near-fatal automobile crash. His best friend was safe.
It was a woman who was critically injured.
Matt had hung up, then he'd tried to reach Trevor. He'd left a message on his friend's machine before flying to Key West. Matt had told the police he was coming, but he hadn't expected the officer in charge of the case to meet him so late at night.
He slung his carry-on bag over his shoulder and followed the man to his squad car. Outside the deserted terminal, the balmy air brought with it the loamy scent of the tropics, night-blooming jasmine and fragrant magnolias. This was the Key West he always enjoyed, the land of endless summer.
Now that he had quit his job at Exposé magazine, he wanted to spend time with his buddy from college, Trevor. Matt hadn't planned to come to Key West so soon, but he felt responsible for the comatose woman. The only identification she had was his business card. Undoubtedly, he knew her.
Matt studied the young officer leading him into the parking lot. During his years as an investigative reporter, Matt had encountered dozens of cops. This kid was green, hardly out of the police academy. He supposed it didn't matter. Not much went on in Key West. The main problem was tourists who'd guzzled too much tequila at Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville.
"The wreck was a real mess," the officer told Matt as he drove the squad car out of the airport. "Two people were killed. Your friend is the only one who survived — if she lives."
"I'm not sure who this woman is. None of my friends told me they were coming down here."
"She was driving an older-model blue Buick. Does that help?"
"No. Most people I know fly to Key West."
"A truck carrying diesel fuel plowed into her car just as she drove off the Oversea Highway. For once, not wearing a seat belt paid off. Everyone was thrown clear. The gas truck exploded. The other two people aren't much more than charcoal chips."
Half Moon Bay by Meryl Sawyer is an intriguing romantic suspense tale set mostly in Key West. The premise of the book drew me in and the setting closed the deal as I’ve always wanted to visit the Keys. I wasn’t disappointed, though some of the story was obviously dated. (The printed book was first published in 1999.) This is the first time I’ve ever read a book by Meryl Sawyer or listened to a performance by Emily Beresford.
I listened to this book in audio. Emily Beresford delivered a solid professional performance with a pleasing voice. Her male and female voices sounded genuine and she enunciated them well. She differentiated between the characters so I could always tell who was speaking from her voice. Suffice to say that I would not hesitate to pick up another audio that she has narrated based upon my enjoyment of her narration of Half Moon Bay.
As the story begins, Amy Conroy is on the run from despicable Dexxter Fox, a very dangerous man. She had been under the witness protection program on the west coast, but loose lips in the agency had caused the death of the federal marshal who had been protecting her. She fled with her life taking Jiggs, her neighbor’s abused dog, with her. There was no way she could leave Jiggs to suffer any more at that man’s hands. With no money and no friends, she has travelled across the country with Jiggs in the trunks of cars – selecting her targets at gas stations along the way.
Close to her final destination, Amy selects the trunk of a woman for what she hopes to be the last leg of her trip to Miami. Unfortunately, the woman, Shelly Ralston, will continue past Miami towards the Keys, and, along the way, she will die in a freak automobile accident. Amy and her dog will be thrown from the scene.
Since Shelly’s body is burned beyond recognition, the police believe that Amy is Shelly. Mathew Jensen, a reporter that Shelly knew, arrives and confirms that she is Shelly. Amy goes along with it as she certainly can’t be herself in the condition she is in with Dexxter after her.
Amy is smart and computer-savvy, but very shy. She was born with an unsightly birthmark that covered half of her face. She will never forget being told: “I thought Beauty and the Beast were two people, not one.” Because people are put off by her appearance, she has always been a loner. Now, of necessity, she’s assumed the identity of Shelly Ralston while she recovers. She finds herself attracted to Mathew. He’s the first man who’s ever been kind to her. The case, though, gets more twisted. Amy learns that Shelly was stalking Mathew Jensen. So… Mathew is reluctantly forced into being the hero to the woman who was stalking him.
I liked Amy and Mathew. They both seemed genuine and I could relate to the concerns and desires of each. With all of the issues between them, it seemed an impossible task to bring these two together no matter the chemistry between them. But, Meryl is obviously a miracle-worker.
The supporting characters were great. I loved big-hearted Trevor who embraced the colorful characters and animals who were drawn to him including Amy and Mathew. AND who wouldn’t love Jiggs who was missing half an ear? Jiggs was a hoot crushing on Bingo, a one-eyed tomcat. Then, there’s Bubbles who sells Alien Abduction Insurance for a living, and Kyle, a dashing ex-Navy SEAL who has a mansion located next door to Trevor’s. I also can’t forget the doctor who sees Amy/Shelly to treat her for her supposed fixation on Mathew. I laughed out loud when she was introduced. There’s plenty more…
Following please find a few of my favorite quotes from Half Moon Bay:
She tried to shriek for help, to cry out against the blinding agony, but her mouth wouldn’t open. The scream stalled in her throat and she gagged. Oh my God. She couldn’t move her lips. She couldn’t say one word.
“Jensen, have you forgotten I’m a psychopath?”
Raising his head, he gazed into her eyes. “No, you’re not. You’re a little mixed up. That’s all. Having your whole family die so suddenly probably accounts for the way you behaved.
The heartrending tenderness in his smoldering blue eyes startled her. Oh, my God. She had unwittingly given him a way to excuse Shelly’s actions.
He stretched out beside her with a slow, sexy smile. His touch was light, teasing, as he brushed her lower lip with the pad of his thumb.
“Jenson, knock it off. I’m dangerous…honest.”
“So am I.”
The ocean was a molten gold. A drum roll sent the crowd into a frenzied cheering which reached a fevered pitch when the ocean swallowed the sun in a kinetic bolt of color representing the entire spectrum of light. Matt studied Shelly as she watched awed. The child-like delight on her face was captivating.
“Hey Shelly, you’re looking at me like I’m from another planet. What’s wrong?”
“Nothing’s wrong. Bubbles sold me alien abduction insurance. I haven’t got a care in the world.”
While listening, I was shocked to learn that the famous painter, John James Audubon, was not the naturalist I had always thought him to be. Audubon was a noted hunter and taxidermist and actually shot and killed every bird he painted. In the book, they said that “Audubon considered it a bad day if he didn’t shoot a hundred birds. “It’s amazing that his name has become synonymous with conservation.” It is truly an amazing twist of fate that his name is now associated with the National Audubon Society known for its conservation policies for the benefit of birds and other wildlife.
This was an enjoyable listen with a satisfying ending via an epilogue. It had plenty of twists and there were scenes that had me on the edge of my seat. I would recommend Half Moon Bay to anyone who enjoys romantic suspense with a Key West flavor.
Suggested Reading Order:
Half Moon Bay (Book #1) – First published in March, 1999
Thunder Island (Book #2) – First published in December, 1999