Virginia Kantra’s Dare Island series was one of my favorite discoveries last year. I got the recommendation for this series from one of my favorite contemporary romance authors: Laura Florand. I’ve also seen positive reviews about the Dare Island books from my friend Brandy and that has just made me more curious. I love romances that don’t just focus on the couple but also highlights the important people in their lives. The Fletcher family is a very close-knit family. Growing up as Marine brats, the Fletcher siblings knew they had to support each other – they even had a motto: “back to back to back”. I liked how the stories in the series are so different from each other because of the distinct personalities of the characters. I had a lot of fun reading about the Fletchers and the cozy island where they’ve made their home. I’ve never been to the Outer Banks of North Carolina but it seems like a lovely place based on the descriptions in the books. I like the small town vibe of the island, with everyone sticking their noses into everyone else’s business but people are also willing to help out when the need arises.
I grabbed a copy of Carolina Home back when it was a Kindle deal. I was just waiting for the right mood to strike before I dived into it. I was in a contemporary romance kind of mood one night last December so I decided to start reading Carolina Home over dinner. It was very easy to get into and I was immediately absorbed. I read it on my commute back to the flat and stayed up late to finish reading the whole thing. I basically gave up sleep and read the book in one sitting because it’s such an enjoyable read. Matt is firmly settled in Dare Island, taking care of his teenage son and helping out his aging parents. Allison has never really put down roots but she fell in love with the island and wants to see if there’s a chance for her to become a part of this place. Aside from that, Matt grew up in a very supportive, close-knit family while Allison feels the need to keep a distance from her controlling parents. I like the contrast between Matt and Allison and how well they fit together in spite of their differences.
Another great romance set in Dare Island! I loved seeing more of the Fletcher family in this one. I was a bit frustrated with Meg for being so blind about her boyfriend Derek’s faults, how she made up excuses about him and how she kept insisting that they have a good relationship. But overall, that’s just a minor quibble. I liked how driven Meg is, from getting an undergrad degree in Harvard to an MBA in Columbia to climbing up the ranks in the corporate ladder. Meg and Sam have so much history between them even if they haven’t seen each other in years. I really enjoyed seeing them reconnect with each other and also with the island community after being away for so long. It was interesting to read about how they’re both trying to figure out what they should be doing with their lives, career wise. I found their romance sweet and satisfying. By this point, the Dare Island series has hooked me and I happily succumbed to hours of pleasurable reading.
I have liked the brief glimpses that I’ve seen of both Luke and Kate in the earlier books and I was more than happy to find out how their romance unfolds. Luke’s life suddenly changes when he gains custody of ten-year-old Taylor, a daughter he had no idea about until his high school girlfriend passes away. With family being a strong theme in the Dare Island series, it was no surprise that Luke and Kate’s story is intertwined with Taylor’s. I love how Taylor instantly becomes Luke’s number one priority the moment he finds out about her. I also liked how Kate develops a relationship not just with Luke but also with Taylor. All three – Luke, Kate and Taylor – have been through difficult situations and I wanted things to work out for them. What I appreciated about this book was that even if the characters have carried heavy burdens, the story never gets too dark. There’s a nice balance of grief and sorrow vs. hope and happiness. I think that applies to the other books in the series too.
Caroline Blues is the first book in the series where the main characters aren’t part of the Fletcher family. It’s still set in the same town and both Jack and Lauren know the family well so we still see a lot of them in this installment. Jack and Lauren are new to the island – with Jack just settling in as Chief of Police and Lauren taking a much-needed break to restart her writing. I liked seeing Dare Island from their points of view, which is different from how locals see it. Their romance is a bit tentative, with both of them trying to keep things casual at the start but eventually developing deeper feelings for each other. Similar to the earlier books in the series, Caroline Blues is a heartwarming romance about two flawed characters set in cozy Dare Island.
I gobbled up the whole series in one weekend, that’s how much I enjoyed reading Virginia Kantra’s writing. I can’t wait to read the next book in the series, Carolina Dreaming, which will be released sometime this year. Recommended for fans of contemporary romance set in small towns, similar to books by Liza Palmer (especially Nowhere But Home) and Sarah Addison Allen.