Book Review: Grayton Beach Affair (2011)

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Chances are, you've never heard of James Harvey and his fascinating novel, Grayton Beach Affair, but I aim to change that. While on vacation in Seaside, Florida this year, I stopped into Sundog Books to pick up a birthday card. I noticed a sign saying that author James Harvey was signing books on the front porch, so I decided to check it out. After reading the following description of the book, I was hooked: 

Returning to Berlin after being educated but disenchanted with America, Christian Wolfe finds that he and Germany are on a collision course with destiny. Because of his skills in English and knowledge of America, he is coerced by the German military to board a U-boat bound for the Gulf of Mexico to locate and extract a high level German officer imprisoned in a POW camp near the coast. Christian's mission runs smoothly until he witnesses an unusual and violent act by Maggie Neal, a young woman living in Grayton Beach, against a man who had taken advantage of her and her servant. Suddenly their lives collide, resulting in a death and involvement with the local police. He and Maggie discover they need each other to survive. Sparks fly and they have a brief and passionate affair, leaving each with deep but unsettled feelings for the other. Upon returning to France, Christian relies on his instincts when an opportunity arises to reconsider his future. He joins the French Resistance and when he saves an American flyer who offers him a new start in America after the war is over, he seizes it. Arriving in Atlanta, he is determined to find Maggie, but with their relationship founded on death and deception, could they possibly build a future together?

I purchased the book and went to meet the author. He is a delightful man who got his start from humble beginnings in South Alabama and went on to have both a career at IBM and a career in real estate development and brokerage in Atlanta. In 2007, he began writing Grayton Beach Affair. Always intrigued by stories of German U boats who roamed the waters off the east coast of the US during WWII, he did extensive research in preparation for the book. He told me that he originally planned to write a book that would appeal primarily to a male audience, but as the story progressed, the strong female character, Maggie, led the story down a road filled with romance, betrayal, and death.  

As I prepared to read the book, I wasn't sure what to expect. I am happy to report that this is one of the best books I've read in years. Mr. Harvey has managed to write a novel full of beautiful imagery and complex characters. I immediately related to Maggie. She is a strong, independent Southern woman determined to find her way in this world, despite the social constraints of the time. I loved her relationship with her "maid" Theresa. Despite their differences, the two women find common ground and become bonded for life when they are faced with a horrible situation.  

I could also relate to Maggie's attraction for Christian. She is drawn to him even though he is German and at war with her country. After all, she has already lost so much to this war with her fiancé dying at Pearl Harbor. But sometimes you can't fight chemistry. Sometimes you are pulled toward another person by forces you cannot control.  

I would also like to mention that the book is perfectly edited. Recently, I have picked up a lot of books that have not had a good editor go over them. They are full of grammatical errors and misspelled words. I find this distracting and disappointing. Even if a story is good, I can't get past what I see as laziness. Fortunately, this is not the case with Grayton Beach Affair. Each sentence is perfect, simply perfect.  

I simply could not put this book down, and the characters are staying with me long after finishing the book. I hear that Mr. Harvey is currently working on his second novel, and I am anxiously awaiting it.  

I strongly recommend this book. And to add to your experience, Mr. Harvey will gladly answer any questions you  may have or will even participate in book club discussions. His email is j.harvey@graytonbeachaffair.com.  

You can purchase his book from my Amazon store above or from this link: 

Thanks for stopping by and getting buzzed! Let me know what you think of Grayton Beach Affair by commenting below.