cover image Sandcastles


Luanne Rice, . . Bantam, $24 (336pp) ISBN 978-0-553-80419-5

Given the title, July 4 pub date and settings on the Connecticut shore and County Cork coast, readers may expect the consummate beach feast from bestselling Rice (Summer of Roses ). She almost delivers: all the ingredients for a clambake are here, but Rice doesn't bother to light the fire. Honor Sullivan is a woman torn apart. Her famous earthworks artist husband, John, has spent six years in an Irish prison for killing a man who attacked their then 14-year-old daughter, Regis. Now he's back at Star of the Sea Academy, the convent and school in Connecticut where the Sullivans live and teach—or rather, is in the area, but hesitant to return home and face Honor's ire at being effectively abandoned. His notes find their way to Honor, perhaps via Sister Bernadette Ignatius, who runs the community and is John's sister, and Auntie Bernie to John and Honor's daughters. Or perhaps they come via Tom Kelly, still in love with Bernie and bone-loyal to John. Add a little moonlight mysticism, Regis's impending bad marriage and a red-haired nurse given up for adoption the same year Tom and red-haired Bernie went off to Ireland to trace family roots. If only Rice seemed to care. If only she didn't craft an entire paragraph out of the word "Moonstones," which will have fans wistfully recalling nuanced Rice fiction like Blue Moon . (July 4)