Book Review: The Shark Club

The Shark Club
Published By: Viking
Publication Date: June 6, 2017
Page Count: 288
Source: ARC Kindly Provided by Publisher via Edelweiss
Adult - Contemporary

Dr. Maeve Donnelly has been obsessed with sharks since she was bitten by one as a child. Instead of recoiling from the creature that caused her pain and left a nasty scar, she craves knowledge about the fierce sea dwellers. She devotes her life to learning as much as possible about sharks. Her life's work is to educate the public on the true nature of sharks and dispel the myths that paint them as vicious man hunters. Yes, sharks attack humans from time to time, but it often has a scientific explanation. Maeve wants people to understand the creatures as she does so that she can protect them from being hunted.

Maeve's devotion to her work has cost her time with her family and is even partially responsible for the loss of her first love, Daniel. Maeve chooses to go on a research trip before her upcoming nuptials and while she is away Daniel makes a devastating choice that tears the pair apart. I have a huge issue with Daniel's past choices, so I was firmly on Maeve's side on this issue. I felt like her family was pushing her to forgive and move forward with the relationship, but that wasn't fair to Maeve. She was made to appear to be the "bad guy" at times when Daniel was the one who made the choice that tore them apart. I'm not saying Maeve should have headed odd to study sharks and rescheduled the wedding - she did some things wrong as well - but I found Daniel's mistake to be reprehensible and inexcusable.

Maeve throws herself further into her work and shuts off her heart to anyone beyond the small circle of her family. In spite of her efforts, Maeve can't help wondering what might have been. She can't bring herself to forgive and forget, but she can't totally shake the soul deep feelings she has for Daniel.

A research trip in Bimini begins to provide Maeve a way out of the darkness in the form of the handsome Nicholas, a fellow marine biologist with a British accent and intense eyes. While romance is forbidden among colleagues, the pair strike up a friendship and work partnership that threatens to blossom into more. As they both prepare to head back to their home bases in Florida, they reveal their attraction to one another. Maeve realizes that Nicholas is the sort of man who would never ask her to forsake her research trips or choose between him and the sharks. Nicholas understands her need to be in the water and seems to share her intense need to be with the creatures she loves.

Things begin to get murky when Maeve returns home to find that her twin brother, Robin, has written a novel partially based on her life and failed relationship with Daniel. To make matters worse, Maeve can't seem to escape Daniel and his daughter, Hazel, since her grandmother hired him to be the chef at the restaurant in her literary themed hotel that has been Maeve's home since her parents died when she was young. Maeve wants to get on a plane and leave immediately, but she keeps finding reasons to stay. Without meaning to she falls in love with Hazel and her vivacious little personality that is curious about the sea and its inhabitants. Spending so much time with Hazel throws Maeve into Daniel's path more and more until they fall back into their old familiar routine. Is this their time? Can they move past the old hurts and betrayals? Can Maeve truly forget everything that she felt for Nicholas?

In addition to the detailed nuances of the relationships in this novel, there is also a mystery element. Maeve's return home doesn't just bring her romantic life into question, but also forces her to confront something she finds morally and ethically reprehensible - shark finning. This element of the novel was difficult to read at times because the treatment of sharks during the finning process is brutal. I understand that these can be frightening creatures, but they don't deserve to be killed in such a manner simply so someone can take their fins. Maeve's passion for sharks began to rub off on me as I read and I began to see them more as victims rather than as vicious predators. That being said, I still don't want to swim next to one.

All in all, I found this to be a compelling summer read in a beautiful setting that made me crave a trip to a literary hotel, an evening discussing books with Perri, a slice of key lime pie, and a quick (sharkless) dip in the waters of the Atlantic. I can only hope that Hazel would allow me to be an honorary member of The Shark Club. 

One Last Gripe: I found that I wanted this novel to be longer; some elements felt rushed.

Favorite Thing About This Book: I enjoyed learning more about sharks.

First Sentence: Tucking away a long strand of hair that floated in front of my scuba mask, I kicked through the blue-green waters of Bimini on the last day of my research term, keeping watch for Sylvia, a five foot, four-year-old lemon shark I'd named for oceanographer Sylvia Earle.

Favorite Characters: Hazel with Perri a close second

Least Favorite Characters: Daniel (from time to time) and the Finners (all the time)

A warm and wonderfully vivid novel about taking second chances—in life and in the sea

One summer day on the beach in Florida, two extraordinary things happen to Maeve Donnelly. First, she is kissed by Daniel, the boy of her dreams. Then, she is bitten by a blacktip shark.

Eighteen years later, Maeve has thrown herself into her work as a world-traveling marine biologist discovering more about the minds of misunderstood sharks. But when Maeve returns home to the legendarily charming and eccentric Hotel of the Muses where she was raised by her grandmother, she finds more than just the blood orange sunsets and key lime pies she’s missed waiting for her.

While Maeve has always been fearless in the water, on land she is indecisive. A chance meeting on the beach with a plucky, irresistible little girl who is just as fascinated by the ocean as Maeve was growing up leaves her at a crossroads: Should she re-kindle her romance with Daniel, the first love she left behind when she dove into her work? Or indulge in a new romance with her colleague, Nicholas, who turns up in her hometown to investigate an illegal shark-finning operation? 

Set against the intoxicating backdrop of palm trees, calypso bands, and perfect ocean views, The Shark Club is a story of the mysterious passions of one woman’s life: her first love and new love; the sea and sharks that inhabit it.