At the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen

How do I decide which books to take on holiday? My requirements:  They must be an easy read, yet intelligent enough to hold my interest when I’m sure to be reading in fits and starts.  I read At the Water’s Edge while galloping across Central Europe and it fit the bill beautifully.

From the blurb:

After disgracing themselves at a high society New Year’s Eve party in Philadelphia in 1944, Madeline Hyde and her husband, Ellis, are cut off financially by his father, a former army colonel who is already ashamed of his son’s inability to serve in the war. When Ellis and his best friend, Hank, decide that the only way to regain the Colonel’s favor is to succeed where the Colonel very publicly failed—by hunting down the famous Loch Ness monster—Maddie reluctantly follows them across the Atlantic, leaving her sheltered world behind.

WWII is raging and yet this unlikely trio arranges passage across the Atlantic sailing through U-boats to a small Scottish village on the shores of Loch Ness.  The only inn falls far below their usual standards, there is no electricity at night, there are severe food shortages, and rations on what little food is available. 

Ellis and Hank are unwilling to adapt to the war-time conditions, expecting room cleaning, laundry service, and extravagant meals after their outings attempting to photograph the Loch Ness Monster.

Maddie, happily left behind during the men’s outings, starts to become friendly with the two young women who work in the inn and begins to see beyond her wealthy Philadelphia background.  Maddie soon dons an apron and helps out around the inn, grows even fonder of her new friends — and especially the rugged Scotsman inn manager.

Meanwhile, our hapless American males grow even more obnoxious as they set out to interview locals who have reportedly seen “Nessie”.  The villagers are having none of these monster seekers. They have no interest in helping out, so tell conflicting stories and give wildly inaccurate locations.  As Ellis and Hank continue to fail in their quest, they drink excessively, stay out for days, and there are repercussions, not only to the marriage and their friendship– but throughout the village.  Maddie grew on me, just as she did with the Scottish villagers. And the range of village characters were well drawn and unique.

This novel isn’t just about a Scottish village or searching for the Loch Ness Monster — there’s a hint of murder, a haunted castle, ghosts, a war story, superstitions, abuse and romance– and in the end — good versus evil.

I’ll admit there were some downright silly elements to the book. Normally I would roll my eyes but for some reason I was able to forgive them in this story.  (See above — requirements for books when I travel.)

While the ending is a bit predictable, and sometimes the characters were either a bit all-too-good or all-bad, but this historical romance was a fun read with a beautiful setting and compelling story line.

Good vacation reading.





  1. sally allinger
    Jul 8, 2018

    Barmy made me want to read this book, while a previous review had left me exquisitely uninterested. I love the idea of Nessie, but am usually not drawn to those who are silly enough to search for her.
    Thanks, Barmy, I’ll let you know soon whether or not this one was a good choice for me. s

    • BookBarmy
      Jul 8, 2018

      Hope you like it too – understand it’s vacation reading – a mix of romance, mystery, culture, etc.
      Not great literature, but fun.

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