3 out of 4 stars
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St James Landing, written by Frank Waltmire, takes place in a fictitious resort town called St James Landing (SJL) in southwestern Michigan. Thirty-seven-year-old protagonist Zachary Fields is an eligible bachelor who moved to SJL to escape a less-than-perfect past as a drug dealer. He blends in with the crowd in an upscale neighborhood, home to a picturesque group of people who like to socialize.
At the beginning of the book, an old friend of Zachary's from the old days, Bobo Kingsley, gets hit on his Harley and ends up in the hospital. Bobo was a rather rough middle-aged man, and Zachary felt that he would never fit in with the local crowd at SJL. But as the story progresses, Bobo does join Zachary in SJL, and surprising events unfold.
What I enjoyed the most in this novel was its well-developed cast of characters. I particularly liked the author's depiction of Penelope Cooper, a middle-aged professor of history who lived alone in a house near Zachary's. Penelope and Miles Cooper, her younger brother, are descendants of Lucas and Naomi Cooper, founders of SJL, and Penelope is passionate about Michigan's history. As a descendant of SJL's founders, Penelope's fight to preserve the town's historical places made for a nice backdrop against which the plot developed, and I appreciated it.
Above all, I liked the author's portrayal of Zachary, who was a multidimensional and likable protagonist. The local women, notably a married one, appreciated his charms and musical talent. Zachary found a quieter life in SJL's small and welcoming community, but he still longed for the thrill he got from the drug business. This contradiction colors the story, and I thought that the author explored Zachary's ambivalence well.
On the other hand, although the characters were interesting, I was frustrated by the dialogue between them. I felt that it was rather bland and unimaginative, with no place for nuance. Moreover, I thought that the writing style just wasn't vivid enough to make for a compelling story. This aspect was what I liked the least.
In closing, I rate the book 3 out of 4 stars. I subtracted a star due to the writing style issues previously mentioned. Still, the book is an entertaining read. Due to its use of profane language and exploration of adult themes, especially drug use, I wouldn't recommend it to younger audiences. If you enjoy character-driven novels that take place in small towns, you should consider reading it.
St James Landing
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