Beach Reads by Charlie Donlea

When I was invited to write a post about Beach Reads for the July newsletter, I reflected back to when I was an aspiring writer, long before I found an agent, signed a book deal, or plotted with an editor. Before I broke in as a writer I harbored a fantasy of someday walking along a beach and spotting someone reading one of my books. Sunglasses in place, cold drink next to them, and a Charlie Donlea thriller in front of their face. Because I’m such an avid fan of beach reading, I’ve forever been curious about which authors make it to the tropics. From John Grisham to James Patterson, Lisa Jackson to Elin Hilderbrand, when vacationing I’m fascinated to see which authors fellow travelers take with them to the beach. I’d always hoped to someday be one of the chosen.

During a signing for my first novel I confessed my dream of one day spotting a vacationer reading my book on the beach. Weeks later, photos flooded my inbox of readers enjoying Summit Lake on vacation. Not quite the same as stomping through the sand and stumbling on a fan who has my book in their hands, but still quite a thrill.

Don’t Believe It is my third novel, and with a June pub date it’s my first summertime release. It has all the elements of a Beach Read, and not just because the book takes place in the Caribbean, but also because I finished writing it there. My wife and I were headed to St. Lucia to celebrate our anniversary when my editor sent his final revision notes along with a two-week deadline to complete them. So, along with my sunscreen and swim trunks, I also packed my laptop before jumping on a plane to the beach.

I learned that there’s no greater inspiration for putting the final touches on a novel than sitting on a patio that overlooks the Caribbean Sea with the twin Pitons of St. Lucia next to me.

It was surreal to write the last sentence of my novel while vacationing at the very resort where the story takes place. Because I was enjoying all the perks of a great beach vacation while I was writing what I hoped would become a great beach read, I made sure to include in the pages all the ammunition needed to fend off the inherent pitfalls of reading in the sand. The book opens with a grisly murder, which should help keep your attention when distractions like sunsets, surf and scantily clad men and women are in front of you. I included enough twists to keep you focused through your mid-afternoon rum buzz. And the ending is so haunting that it should have you sunburned from forgetting to reapply. I can dream, anyways.

Speaking of dreaming, with Don’t Believe It just hitting bookstore shelves, I’ve still never come across anyone reading my books on the beach. Maybe that’ll change this July when my family and I head to Hawaii for two weeks. I’m not sure exactly how I would react if I came face-to-face with a fan flipping the pages of my novel on Grand Cayman’s Seven Mile Beach, Jamaica’s Bloody Bay, Kauai’s Hanalei Bay, or St. Lucia’s Sugar Beach where the novel takes place. I’d like to think I’d approach and ask how they’re enjoying their beach read, introduce myself as the author, and buy them a rumrunner to thank them for reading my book. But I know myself better than that. In reality, I’d just keep walking, kicking through the sand while sipping my own rum punch and trying unsuccessfully to suppress the smile on my face from knowing that I made it to the tropics with Grisham and Patterson, Jackson and Hilderbrand.

Happy beach reading, all summer long…

—Charlie Donlea

From acclaimed author Charlie Donlea comes a twisting, impossible-to-put-down novel of suspense in which a filmmaker helps clear a woman convicted of murder—only to find she may be a puppet in a sinister game.

The Girl of Sugar Beach is the most watched documentary in television history—a riveting, true-life mystery that unfolds over twelve weeks and centers on a fascinating question: Did Grace Sebold murder her boyfriend, Julian, while on a Spring Break vacation, or is she a victim of circumstance and poor police work? Grace has spent the last ten years in a St. Lucian prison, and reaches out to filmmaker Sidney Ryan in a last, desperate attempt to prove her innocence.

As Sidney begins researching, she uncovers startling evidence, additional suspects, and timeline issues that were all overlooked during the original investigation. Before the series even finishes filming, public outcry leads officials to reopen the case. But as the show surges towards its final episodes, Sidney receives a letter saying that she got it badly, terribly wrong.

Sidney has just convinced the world that Grace is innocent. Now she wonders if she has helped to free a ruthless killer. Delving into Grace’s past, she peels away layer after layer of deception. But as Sidney edges closer to the real heart of the story, she must decide if finding the truth is worth risking her newfound fame, her career . . . even her life.