Beach Reads

By Cindy Bilbao

book recommendations for beach vacation

From the Amalfi Coast in Italy to the shores of Hawaii, these books will sweep you away to the beach.

novel set on the amalfi coast

Four Hundred And Forty Steps To The Sea

By Sara Alexander

This book begins in 2005 with Santina Guida sitting on the terrace of her palazzo nestled high in the cliffs of Italy’s beautiful Amalfi Coast.  She is an old woman reflecting upon her life and the many years she has spent working in the house, so different from the life of poverty she was born into and hoped to escape. The story then steps back into 1949 and we are taken on the journey of Santina’s life, starting in the mountain forest high above Positano’s fishing village. As she grows into womanhood, she forms important relationships with people who come to shape her life. Secrets, sacrifice, compassion, and loss become the tapestry with which this emotionally rich journey is woven.

The true test comes for Santina when she begins working for the Major and his wife in their palazzo on the coast. She helps take care of their daughter and helps maintain the palazzo as the Major’s wife struggles with mental illness. Santina has an emotional connection with the Major that flourishes without the hope of a happy ending. Local suitor, Paulino, is intent on marrying Santina, but she dreams of traveling to America to start a new life for herself. As her relationships become entangled and increasingly complicated, she must live with the choices she will make, for better or for worse, and you may be surprised how it all turns out!

I was drawn into the life-changing decisions the characters make, even as I disagreed with some of them. This narrative tension contrasts beautifully with the eloquent writing from Sara Alexander, particularly with the illuminative way she describes the preparation of food that Santina makes for the Major and the peacefulness of the garden as they nurture and tend their vegetables together. I could almost smell the lushness of the lemon trees on the property and taste the lemon cake Santina makes for breakfast.

A common theme of this story is love, particularly how it changes shape from the perspective of various relationships in Santina’s life. This lends the characters depth and interest; Santina particularly is someone you will be happy to get to know.

Pick up this book to be swept away like a frothy Mediterranean wave, with its melodic writing style that’s richly filled with beautiful imagery in a setting so sunny and beautiful you will be transported!

romantic comedy novel

The Unhoneymooners

By Christina Lauren

Olive’s twin sister is getting married, but she despises Ethan, the best man. Unfortunately for her, the only two people who escape the disastrous food poisoning at the wedding are Olive and Ethan. With an all-expenses-paid honeymoon in Hawaii about to go to waste, they put aside their hatred for each other and fly off to the islands. What happens next may be too much fun in paradise!

This article appeared in the Beachcombing Magazine March/April 2020 issue.

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