Category Archives: Coast

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Robert G. Edwards. An Image of Us. United States: 1st Ride Publishing, 2013.

image ofSam Fenton and Kathryn Ackart were high school sweethearts in the small coastal town of Meylor, North Carolina.  Sam’s dad ran a scrap metal business in town and battled a drinking problem, but that didn’t stop Kathryn and her family from welcoming Sam into their hearts.  After high school, Sam got on as a reporter with the local paper, while Kathryn left for UNC to pursue her dream of becoming a doctor.  The distance between the coast and Chapel Hill did not dampen the young couple’s love.  When Kathryn began to apply to medical schools, she and Sam discussed where they wanted to live–their life together was assumed.

All that changed when Sam received a phone call from family in Arizona.  Decades earlier, his mother’s family founded a store in the small town of Sterling.  That business was now failing–could Sam come and help save it?  Sam’s decision to go to Arizona led to a break with Kathryn.  For Kathryn, it wasn’t so much the decision itself, but how quickly Sam made it.  The life that Kathryn thought they were building was put aside in an instant.  Even as Kathryn moved on with her life–becoming a doctor, then a surgeon, marrying–she harbored bitterness and sadness about the breakup.

As An Image of Us opens, it is dozen years later.  The Meylor high school has undergone a major renovation and alums have been invited back for a tour and celebration.  Sam’s family business has failed due to the competition from big-box stores, and he is at loose ends.  Kathryn has just started her first vacation in two years, and what better way to spend it than with her family and old friends?  Sam hopes that he will see Kathryn at the celebration; Kathryn is not sure what she wants.  An Image of Us follows these two as they consider what they once had and what might still be possible for them.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Coast, Edwards, Robert G, Romance/Relationship

David Manning. Dead Letters. New York:imPRESSions, 2013.

Duncan Twist struggles to gain his bearings in the small, coastal North Carolina town of Dusktide Beach. Although middle-aged Twist self-identifies as a New Yorker, he did once live in Durham. Nevertheless, Duncan experiences serious culture shock in Dusktide Beach. The locals don’t exactly make Duncan welcome. They remind him that he’s New Yorker who sticks out like sore, Yankee thumb. But Duncan has no intention to stay in Dusktide Beach permanently. His client, Nick Varnish, has loaned him a cottage there for vacation. Duncan works odd jobs, like writing, editing, and researching, for Nick who owns the Brooklyn Bridge Cable Company. Despite his semi-regular freelancing, Nick does not warrant investing a full-time position over Duncan’s services.

When Duncan arrives at the cottage, the key that Nick swore would be waiting for him is not there. Irritated, Duncan speeds back into town in search of a phone, only to be cut off for a parking spot by Lump Whitefish. Duncan later learns that the Whitefish family owns a large stretch of undeveloped land that is the focus of a controversial pending six lane wide bridge. Despite their slightly hostile exchange, Lump sends his aunt, a real estate agent for most of the beach-side properties, to deliver a key to Duncan. Lump’s aunt does not bring the key to Duncan however. A familiar yet unexpected face plays messenger. Tendency Specter, Duncan’s old girlfriend, has relocated to Dusktide Beach, of all places. She acts as the town’s part-time archivist, and is, conveniently, divorced.

Reunited, Tendency and Duncan reflect on their previous relationship and their youthful counterculture days in the 1970s filled with bean sprouts, soy burgers, and the Peace Corps. Tendency wastes no time at introducing Duncan to the local tradition of the Kindred Spirit. The Kindred Spirit occupies Lorne Island in the form of a mailbox and can only be reached by crossing an inlet during low tide. Within the mailbox are two spiral-bound notebooks filled with messages addressed to the Kindred Spirit. The understanding behind the concept is that every person who contributes messages to the notebooks shares a kindred spirit. Townspeople started the tradition in 1968 and Tendency is interested in the phenomenon as the area’s archivist.

A mystery surrounding one of the messages draws in Duncan and Tendency. The message implores the Kindred Spirit for help in locating a notebook missing from the mystical mailbox, as well as a missing person. Things take a turn for the weird when not one, but two, possibly Confederate skeletons turn up. Are the skeletons actually the remains of Confederate soldiers or is it a ruse? As Tendency and Duncan try to uncover the notebook and determine the identity of the missing person, they exhume a host of rivalries and petty squabbles. But this very mystery that has helped to fan the last embers of their former relationship might just tear Tendency and Duncan apart again. After they become deeply involved they realize that someone is not pleased about their investigation and might take ruthless measures to cease their sleuthing.

Manning’s inspiration for the Kindred Spirit is likely drawn from the Kindred Spirit mailbox on Bird Island near Sunset Beach, North Carolina. For other North Carolina novels that feature the Kindred Spirit, look at blog posts on Marybeth Whalen’s romance novel, The Mailbox and Jacqueline DeGroot’s mystery novel, The Secret of the Kindred Spirit.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Coast, Manning, David, Mystery

Joseph L. S. Terrell. Not Our Kind of Killing. Rock Hill, SC: Bella Rosa Books, 2013.

not our kindCrime writer Harrison Weaver made a frustrating trip to the North Carolina mountains in April.  A young woman had been murdered and left hogtied in her own car.  Harrison’s editor asked him to head up to the mountains to get the story but when Harrison found out that the crime was poorly investigated and the woman’s body cremated without an autopsy, there was not much he could do.  This was one crime that would remain unsolved.  Now it’s May and Harrison is thinking about other things, like his relationship with Elly Pederson. Elly is a widow who works for the county and through her Harrison has gotten to know many locals. After two years on the Outer Banks, he is starting to feel like he might fit in.

But Harrison does not fit in with everyone–not all the county deputies appreciate his style or the way he pokes his nose into police business, and District Attorney Rick Schweikert is especially antagonistic toward him.  So when Harrison finds a young woman’s body near a local kayaking spot, he has some explaining to do.  Not everyone wants to hear about how much this murder resembles the earlier murder in the mountains. But Harrison’s friend SBI agent Thomas Twiddy is open to the connection. As they investigate the local crime, Harrison remembers what the mountain people said about that murder being “not our kind of killing.”  Following this thought leads him to a pair of serial killers.

This is the third Harrison Weaver mystery. The series begins with Tide of Darkness.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Coast, Dare, Mountains, Mystery, Terrell, Joseph L. S.

Bennett Madison. September Girls. New York: HarperTeen, 2013.

September GirlsSeventeen-year old Sam isn’t excited by his dad’s resolution to spend the summer at a quiet little beach town on the Outer Banks, but he isn’t surprised by the scheme either. Earlier that winter Sam’s mother dropped all her responsibilities and abandoned her husband and her son to spend time at Women’s Land, which the book implies is something of a feminist commune. Prior to her departure, Sam’s mother, a “frumpy kindergarten teacher,” adopted radical feminist tenants, like the SCUM Manifesto, so the act is something of personal (or self-satisfying) liberation for her.

Sam’s dad has dealt with the change by throwing himself into hobbies from yoga to knitting to cooking. Sam jokes “if there was a tear-off sheet on a bulletin board in Starbucks he was willing to give it a try.” So his latest idea to relocate temporarily to the Outer Banks is one of many distractions from the reality of his wife’s abandonment. Jeff, Sam’s brother, has returned from college recently and helps somewhat to plug the hole left by their mother. With Jeff and Sam in tow, their father packs everything up and heads for the beach, even before Sam’s school year ends.

After several months of dealing with his fragile father and pressure from his friends–and now Jeff– to “man up” and “get laid,” Sam wants to escape. He is troubled by ideas of love and manhood. The men in his life don’t exactly provide a shining paragon of masculinity. But soon Sam’s attention is diverted by another presence on at the beach, the Girls. They are blonde and beautiful and, to Sam, interchangeable. Sam watches them working menial summer jobs around town, taking cigarette breaks, flipping through magazines, lying on the beach. Yet the strangest part is not that the Girls are everywhere, but that they are all interested in Sam. They eye him with a lustful hunger.

Sam is befuddled that the Girls notice him rather than his hunky brother, or any other hunky guy around the town for that matter. He is scrawny and awkward, hardly a chick magnet. Then he meets one of the Girls, DeeDee. Normally they travel in pairs, but DeeDee seems different from the rest of the Girls. She and Sam bond, and he feels genuine affection for her. But she hesitates. There is a mystery of an otherworldly nature surrounding her and the rest of the Girls. When Sam learns the truth behind the secret, it alters his relationship with DeeDee irreparably.

Novelist Bennett Madison captures pitch-perfect the crude exchanges between Sam, Jeff, and their father, and Sam’s constant cynicism sounds like a teenager attempting jaded and world-weary angst. Madison structures the novel traditionally and from Sam’s perspective with numbered chapters, but he weaves in parallel chapters from the Girls with named chapters. The interspersed chapters from the Girls read like an echo and function similarly to a Greek chorus, summarizing background information and responding to and supplementing the story’s action. These chapters also successfully bolster the mythic quality of the story. However, Madison maintains a clean balance between the fairy tale and the reality. Madison’s treatment of Sam and his story is based the development of a boy tripping around the edge of manhood and a confused family trying to mend life’s rips and holes.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Children & Young Adults, Coast, Currituck, Dare, Hyde, Madison, Bennett

Joyce and Jim Lavene. A Haunting Dream. New York: Berkley Prime Crime, 2012.

hauntingDae O’Donnell has been enjoying her life.  She’s in her first term as the mayor of Duck, North Carolina and her popularity is high, in part because of her role in keeping the local bookshop and coffee house open.  Dae’s also in a relationship with a very nice man, Kevin Brickman, who’s been running the Blue Whale Inn for the past year.  Kevin is from away, but he fits in with the locals the way few outsiders do.  His background as an FBI agent never comes up, and although Dae knows that Kevin was once engaged to an FBI colleague, she doesn’t dwell on it.

But suddenly, she has to.  Kevin’s former fiancée, Ann, shows up, seemingly wanting to pick up where they left off.  But Kevin is not the same person, and neither is Ann.  As work partners, Kevin and Ann pulled a number of missing child cases.  When they they failed to find a child alive, it was hard on them, so hard that Ann eventually broke down.  The woman who shows up in Duck is a wraith, still showing evidence of her trauma and institutionalization.  Given Ann’s state, Dae decides that she needs to keep some distance from Kevin while he and Ann sort things out.  And Dae has some business to attend to.  Her elderly neighbor, Mac Sweeney, enlists Dae’s help in finding a missing medallion, one that Old Man Sweeney had picked up in a grocery store parking lot.  When Dae calls upon her psychic gift to find the medallion, she sees a vision of its true owner, local realtor Chuck Sparks, being shot.  Soon she finds his body, but not his young daughter.  As she attempts to find the girl, Dae learns about a criminal ring trading in stolen artifacts, people who will do anything to get their hands on certain treasures.  The FBI are called in, but when Dae senses that time is running out for the girl, she and Ann join forces.

This is the fourth Missing Pieces Mystery.  To start the series at the beginning, read A Spirited Gift.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Coast, Dare, Lavene, Jim and Joyce, Mystery, Novels in Series

Clay Carmichael. Brother, Brother. New York: Roaring Brook Press, 2013.

Brother, BrotherMem always had two rules for Brother: “Never assume anything and Pay attention, pay attention, pay attention.” When he came home late and tired after working at double shift at The Elms Rest Home and then getting into a fight with his best friend, Cole, seventeen-year old Brother didn’t think to check in on his grandmother. The next morning he found her dead in her bedroom. Mem’s death was not a total surprise to Brother. She had been sick with breast cancer and the doctor estimated she had only weeks left. But her death was still a blow. Mem raised Brother as his adoptive mother after Brother’s birth mother left him with Mem as a toddler. His mother died in a car accident soon after she passed Brother over to Mem. His father’s identity remains a mystery. The truth died with his mother. Or so Brother thought. That identity might not be a secret for much longer.

Brother discovers from the undertaker, Bayliss, that Mem had a newspaper in her bed when he came to take her body. The newspaper contained an article about the reviled Senator Gideon Grayson, and his son Gabriel, who recently suffered an overdose. Mem was the housekeeper’s daughter for the Grayson family. But that’s not the eerie part. Gabriel and Brother are spitting images of one another – and, feasibly then, twins separated at birth. After he sees the picture, Brother sets out for the Grayson family home, on Winter Island off the coast of North Carolina, to find his brother and learn the truth behind his parentage.

Before Brother leaves his small-town with his faithful Australian shepherd mix, Trooper, he winds up saddled with another unexpected burden. Cole has vanished. Cole was a flashy big-talker who dreamed about winning a fortune through cards or the lottery. Presumably, Cole skipped town to seize such an opportunity. In his absence, Cole left behind his little brother, Jack. Along the way to find his twin, Brother, Jack, and Trooper meet Kit, a teenaged girl, who helps them on their trek to the Grayson home. As they journey closer to the island, Brother is mistaken for Gabriel, and the reaction is anything but pleasant–it turns out that Brother’s long-lost twin has quite a reputation.

When they reach the island, the Senator’s stepdaughter Lucy intercepts them. She hides the band of castaways in a cottage on the island and delivers them food and other supplies. Lucy insists that the three fugitives remain hidden, at least initially. She assures Brother that he must wait for the right opportunity to approach the Senator. Over time, Brother suspects that Lucy might not be as sweet as she pretends. He grows restless and ready to march into the Senator’s estate, named – amusingly enough – Eden. But Brother would be wise to remember Mem’s two life rules. Eden is unlike his small town. It is full of the most disingenuous types of people around: politicians, lawyers, and their lackeys who spin lies in any direction they want.  To get to the truth, Brother must think savvily. The truth he hopes to uncover though might be much more poisonous than he could have ever imagined.

Novelist Clay Carmichael revises the prince and the pauper tale for a modern audience and weaves in elements of a road trip story. The book is geared toward young adults, but has content that could grip readers of many ages. Carmichael is a Chapel Hill native with a degree in creative writing from UNC-Chapel Hill. She currently resides in Carrboro. For information on her first novel, Wild Things, read this post.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2013, Carmichael, Clay, Children & Young Adults, Coast

Holley Trent. My Nora. Blue Ash, OH: Crimson Romance, 2012.

noraWhen Matt Vogel shows up at Nora Frederickson’s barn door, she can’t wait to get rid of him.  Nora is a painter, and she’s bought this old farm in Chowan County from a distant relative so that she can work undisturbed.  Matt has dropped by because he is used to hunting on this land and would like to get the permission of the new owner–Nora.  Hunting is a no-no for Nora.  She has just moved from a bad neighborhood in Baltimore, and she has heard enough gun shots to last a lifetime.

Even as Nora gives Matt a quick brushoff, he likes what he sees and begins to look for excuses to come by.  Matt works at the local fishery where his early morning hours give him free time in the afternoons for hunting–and other things.  Matt is handsome and handy, and Nora’s feelings toward him thaw. Their relationship crosses racial lines, but this is not a major obstacle, and the author handles it in a way that reflects the way we live now.  The more significant barriers to their relationship are the the demands of Nora’s career and the problems that their friends and frenemies make for them.  Matt’s attempt to keep his so-called friend Chad away from Nora backfires as Chad dallies with two women who are close to Matt and Nora, and Chad’s sister tries to torpedo Nora’s career.  Despite the smallness of small town life, Nora finds inspiration in the fields and forest and people of Chowan County.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Chowan, Coast, Romance/Relationship, Trent, Holley

Sherryl Woods. Sea Glass Island. Don Mills, Ont: Harlequin Mira, 2013.

Sea Glass IslandSamantha Castle is the eldest of the three Castle sisters and the only one yet to find love. Her youngest sister, Emily, is frantically tackling the details of her fast-approaching nuptials with her fiancé, Boone. Her other sister, Gabi, is transitioning into motherhood and waiting for her opportunity to marry her perfect match, Wade. But love isn’t the most immediate issue on Samantha’s mind, it’s her acting career. Now that Samantha has hit 35, she is no longer able to land the parts that are reserved for bright-eyed actresses in their early twenties. Even reasonable parts, like mom roles, are cast unsuitably to actresses much younger than Samantha. But, at 35, it seems that Samantha is too young to play mature women and too old to play even a mom. Caught in a limbo, the lack of job offers has forced Samantha into lean times. With TV and Broadway opportunities drying up, Samantha is questioning her dedication to her craft.

But her concerns are divided when Emily places new demands on Samantha. Emily has an unexpected and atypical responsibility for Samantha–to be her maid of honor. Specifically, she is scheming to pair Samantha up with Boone’s best man, Ethan Cole. Emily is determined that Samantha and Ethan are a natural couple, and she has their grandmother and matchmaker pro, Cora Jane on her side. Samantha is skeptical. Back in high school, she had a not-so-secret crush on Ethan. That, of course, was obvious to everyone except Ethan. In high school, Ethan was a football star with girls falling at his feet. After high school, Ethan’s luck changed.

Presently, Ethan runs a small emergency clinic in Sand Castle Bay. He and another doctor, Greg Knotts, established the clinic after returning from service in Afghanistan. During his stint in Afghanistan, Ethan lost the lower portion of his left leg in an IED explosion. He now wears a prosthesis. Upon his return, Ethan also founded a charity, called Project Pride, motivated out of a desire to improve the self-image of children with prosthetic limbs. At first, the town treated Ethan as war hero. However, his fiancée Lisa broke his heart by leaving him. Since the break-up, Ethan refuses to get emotionally involved with women and acts disinterested in romance. To protect himself, he resorts to cynicism and general animosity.

When Boone tips Ethan off about Emily and Cora Jean’s plot, he is less than pleased. Ethan assumes that Samantha, an actress after all, will be vain and shallow. Or so he hopes her to be. An empty-headed and self-absorbed woman is much easier to ignore than a woman with some substance. Unfortunately, when the two encounter each other, Ethan discovers with great surprise, and even greater ire, that Samantha is not at all what he expected – she’s unpredictable, kind, and full of spark. They each fight back attraction by first avoiding one another. Yet that proves impossible with meddling family members who continue to force them together for wedding-related activities, so Samantha and Ethan resolve to be friends. But as they spend more time together, their friendship becomes increasingly difficult to maintain. Whether or not they like it, Samantha and Ethan’s relationship might just evolve without them.

Sea Glass Island is the third and final novel in Sherryl Woods’ Ocean Breeze series. Much like the other two installments, Woods reinforces the value of family. She also presents the importance of moving past surface assumptions and appearances as reflected by Ethan’s initial dismissal of Samantha in addition to the prejudices formed against other characters with prosthetic limbs.

Check out this title in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Coast, Novels in Series, Romance/Relationship, Woods, Sherryl

Jacqueline DeGroot. The Secret of the Kindred Spirit. Bloomington, IN: 1st Books Library, 2002.

kindredDevelopment is always a contentious issue on the barrier islands along the North Carolina coast.  Be it beach nourishment, road improvements, or an ocean-front mansion, locals perceive that there will be winners and losers.  As this novel opens, Cassie Andrews has arrived on Sunset Beach Island to begin a controversial, long overdue replacement for the bridge linking the island with the mainland of Brunswick County.  As she surveys the old bridge close up in her kayak, she is horrified to discover a man’s head bobbing up against a pylon.  Soon the police are on the scene, and when the man is identified as one of the chief opponents of the new bridge, Cassie knows that this assignment will be more challenging than previous ones.

Part of the challenge for Cassie will be to keep her mind on her work.  Michael Troy, one of the police officers on the murder case, is instantly attracted to Cassie, an attraction that grows when he follows her to nude bathing section of Bird Island.  Much of the novel is devoted to verbal–and other–interplay between Cassie and Michael.  Interwoven with that is the story of the victim, Damn Duke Ellington, a seemingly destitute island native who was known chiefly for his opposition to the new bridge and his support of the island’s feral cat population.

The break in the case comes from a message in a notebook left in the Kindred Spirit mailbox on Bird Island.  Micheal’s good detective work with the notebook leads him to the murderer, and not a minute to soon.  The Kindred Spirit mailbox is a real part of the Sunset Beach story, and it figures in at least one other novel on this blog, Marybeth Whalen’s The Mailbox.  Readers who like softer, more meditative romances, should read The Mailbox.  Readers who prefer a fast-paced, more graphic story will enjoy The Secret of the Kindred Spirit.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2002, Brunswick, Coast, DeGroot, Jacqueline, Mystery, Romance/Relationship

Marybeth Whalen. The Wishing Tree. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013.

The Wishing TreeJust as the pieces of Ivy Marshall’s life are shattering, it seems like all of the elements in her sister Shea’s life are fitting together seamlessly. Shea’s long-term boyfriend Owen plans a grand, romantic proposal on national television. Meanwhile, Ivy discovers that she’s losing her job at the family company because her father is shutting down her local branch in Asheville. On top of that, she finds out that her husband Elliot has cheated on her. Ivy bears Shea’s good news through gritted teeth. To add insult to an already terrible situation, Ivy’s family and friends blithely tell her not to worry about her job termination and to see it as an opportunity to prepare for Shea’s upcoming wedding. For the time being, Ivy has decided to keep word of her marital discord under wraps. Since she and Elliot married under tense circumstances, she is ashamed to admit possible defeat to her family.

Six years ago, Ivy was engaged to Owen’s cousin, Michael. Childhood friends Ivy and Michael and Shea and Owen coupled off naturally in their teens. Their lives were set on a happy track, but when Ivy met Elliot at a ski lodge on vacation, she recognized Elliot immediately as her true soul mate. She abandoned her family and her home in Sunset Beach and tossed away her former life to move to Asheville and wed Elliot instead. Lately though, Ivy observes that she and Elliot only seem to discuss “the business of life – what groceries they were out of, what bills needed to be paid, when they were expected to be somewhere” and she rues that their spark has mellowed. Elliot’s betrayal unhinges Ivy, but it is not a total surprise. The instant Ivy learns of Elliot’s infidelity, she sets out for Sunset Beach without waiting around for an explanation.

The process of wedding planning is near traumatic for Ivy, especially since the news team that covered Shea and Owen’s engagement story is also interested in broadcasting their wedding. As all the decisions and preparations play out before Ivy’s eyes, she cannot help but consider the wedding she was supposed to, but never had. She fights back jealousy for Shea and what appears like a perfect wedding. Disillusioned by a broken engagement and a failing marriage, Ivy flings herself alternately between the men in her life, Michael and Elliot, confused about which path to take into the future – her past or her present. As she wonders what could have been with Michael, she plays a dangerous what-if game.

But Elliot is not ready to let Ivy go and he uses creative measures to communicate his remorse. In a charming and modern twist on traditional love notes, Elliot creates a Twitter account and tweets his apologies and affections for Ivy through the handle, @ElliotIdiot. Forgiveness is a concept central to novelist Marybeth Whalen’s The Wishing Tree. One of Ivy’s greatest struggles is learning to accept being alone. While Ivy owes forgiveness to many people in light of her impulsive actions, she must also separate her individual desires and fears, and forgive herself, before she can find a happier ending.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Brunswick, Buncombe, Coast, Mountains, Religious/Inspirational, Romance/Relationship, Whalen, Marybeth