A WEDDING ON THE BEACH

Portland author Holly Chamberlain can too easily be thought of as just another romance writer. However, her 19 novels aren’t just romances. They are much more — colorful, careful stories of depth and insight about relationships, marriages and friendships. And she often touches on subjects most people won’t talk about.

“A Wedding on the Beach” is the intricate story of a reunion of college friends, gathering to celebrate the fairy-tale wedding of Bess Culpepper, a never-married 42-year-old event planner, and successful businesswoman, a Pollyanna who sees the best in everyone and thinks she can fix everybody’s problems. When the friends arrive, Bess finds she is wrong.

Bess invites her closest college friends — men and women — for a two-week, pre-wedding vacation at an oceanfront house in Kennebunkport. She’s dreamed of her idyllic wedding and the prefect reunion, but she’s forgotten that people change, especially after 20 years.

Marta is struggling with an unwanted pregnancy, and her husband is clueless to her unhappiness. Tearful Allison announces she is divorcing her husband; their perfect marriage is over. Gay-married couple Chuck and Dean reveal a devastating medical issue, and Bess’s fiance Nathan hasn’t told her of a sensitive job opportunity. When Bess discovers her perfect friends’ perfect lives aren’t perfect at all, she begins to question her own thoughts about marriage and happiness.

As the wedding day approaches, tensions build and arguments and resentments surface, fueled by painful confessions and hurtful words. And then Allison’s soon-to-be-ex shows up and friends take sides. Bess’ romantic wedding might be a disaster.

As Chamberlain intends, and as Bess finally understands, marriage is not a noun — it is a verb, it’s not a thing. It’s an effort that takes constant, considerate attention. And yes, there may even be a happy ending.

 

FOREVER YOURS, BOSTON:  ANTIQUE POSTCARD IMAGES OF HISTORIC BEANTOWN AND BEYOND

Countless books have been written about Boston, but few have done it as cleverly as “Forever Yours, Boston” by Bar Harbor author Earl Brechlin.

This is a unique, selective pictorial history using colored postcards printed between 1905 and 1920, neither comprehensive nor scholarly, but rather “a visual sample of Boston more than a century ago.”  Brechlin has chosen 155 hand-tinted postcards to depict images of Boston and its neighbors Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.

Postcards in the early 20th century were a popular form of communication and souvenir, and Brechlin’s collection is stunning for its variety of subject and interest. Each postcard is accompanied by Brechlin’s short narrative of the scene’s history, and covers everything from churches, hotels, stores, bridges, monuments, theaters, gardens, beaches, lighthouses, ships, subways, trains, events and a few oddball characters.

This is a fun, fact-filled stroll through Boston, and there is a lot to learn here. Brechlin includes postcards of well-known Boston sites like Quincy Market, Faneuil Hall, the Old North Church and Fenway Park. Best, however, are the old postcards of obscure places like the Park Street Church at “Brimstone Corner,” the newsboy handout in Pi (Pie) Alley, the hard-to-find Agassiz Bridge and City Point’s floating lifesaving station.

Learn what the angels are really doing at the “Church of the Holy Bean Blowers,” about the statue of “the most important Bostonian that most people know nothing about,” where Malcolm X and Ho Chi Minh both worked as a busboy and kitchen helper and about America’s first underwater tunnel.

Brechlin also introduces Isabella Stewart Gardner and her wacky last will and testament, Provincetown’s tipsy town crier and his 300-foot long sea serpent and the goofy Poet of Poets Corner, also called the “Peanut Man.”

 

Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.


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