Sanctuary Island, Book 1
St. Martin's
ISBN-13: 978-0-312-01837-3
August 2013
Contemporary Romance

Sanctuary Island, off the Coast of North Carolina Present Day

Ella Preston has never forgiven her mother for leaving her and her sister Merry fifteen years ago, and she's spent the intervening years in therapy learning to deal with Jo Ellen's desertion.  How could a woman become so addicted to alcohol that she walks away from her marriage and her children?  As far as Ella is concerned, there is no room in her life for the woman who gave birth to her.  Ella's sister Merry is her exact opposite.  Merry sees good in everyone and is now demanding to see Jo Ellen, whether her self-appointed protector (Ella) likes it or not!  So, grudgingly, Ella and Merry travel to Sanctuary, where Jo Ellen has been living.

Ella agreed to spend only two weeks on the island, and not a second more.  She tells Jo Ellen that she is on leave of absence from her job in Washington D.C., and she must return as soon as possible.  What Ella isn't telling anyone is that her boss nearly fired her, telling her not to come back to work until she could loosen up a little and calm down, but Ella won't reveal that little piece of information to anyone, not even Merry.  Always the workaholic, Ella immediately sees the opportunity to develop property on Sanctuary Island, never mind the island's current status as a wild horse preserve.  Money is all that matters to Ella.

A very pregnant Merry is beside herself with excitement over seeing her mother again, even after all these years.  Jo Ellen left when Merry was just a baby, so Merry has no memories of her mother, but that doesn't matter.  She wants this chance to get to know Jo Ellen and means to stay on Sanctuary, whether Ella likes it or not.  Likewise, Jo Ellen Hollister wants to see her daughters, and maybe make up just a little for leaving them all those years ago.  Now that her life is back on track, she hopes there is a future for them once again.

Jo Ellen's friend, Grady Wilkes, is scared both emotionally and physically after a horrendous accident when he was part of a search and rescue team.  He came to Sanctuary Island, as many do, to heal.  Jo Ellen has helped him, and now he protects the island, as well as the wild horses.  But, after meeting Ella, Grady falls quickly under her spell, unaware that she plans to destroy everything the island stands for.

SANCTUARY ISLAND is the first novel in a new series that takes us to a place where dreams and healing walk hand in hand.  Here, Ella, Jo Ellen, Merry, and Grady learn the power of forgiveness.  The characters are well drawn, but I did spend most of book disliking Ella and her stubborn determination to destroy the island preserve for her own selfish gain.  Ella finally comes to her senses in the end, but I would have liked her to have had a softer edge to her personality.  That aside, this is a great beginning to a new series!

SANCTUARY ISLAND is indeed a wonderful place to escape to.

Diana Risso