Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Hotel Riviera / Elizabeth Adler

For those who dream of someday vacationing in the south of France, The Hotel Riviera is the ultimate escape. It's about an American named Lola who is the chef/owner of a quiet villa near Saint-Tropez. It's been six months since her husband, Patrick, mysteriously disappeared, and Lola is picking up the pieces of her life while trying to figure out whether Patrick is alive or dead. The latter activity is the basis of the suspense half of this novel.

The romantic half focuses on Lola's developing relationship with a man named Jack, who lives on a small boat docked in the bay behind the hotel. He is the rugged, hard-bodied type -- a boat-builder who has lived a life of adventure and somebody who would never settle down, or so it would seem. He's a consummate charmer -- the kind of guy who could attract any woman through his signature smile. But in Lola he finds a challenge, for she seems not to notice any of his charms.

Romantic suspense is tricky in that it has to juggle romance and suspense in a single narrative. Adler does this by leaving the suspense portion in the background until midway through the novel. The first half mainly sets the scene of the story and establishes all of the characters. But then the suspense picks up -- the police find Patrick's car abandoned in Marseilles -- and Jack ends up being one of the people who help Lola get to the bottom of her husband's disappearance.

I enjoyed this novel and could see myself reading more books by this author. Ultimately, what became the main appeal of The Hotel Riviera was its heartwarming qualities. Sure, the romance and suspense are engrossing, including a fantastic chase scene near the end, and you need only an ounce of wanderlust to appreciate the idyllic setting. But what this book is ultimately about is a woman rebuilding her life following a disappointing marriage, learning to love again, and finding herself in the process.

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