Allow me to cut to the chase: of all the independent authors I’ve discovered over the past three years, Dawn Lee McKenna is my favorite, and it’s not even close. If you take my advice and read her Forgotten Coast series, you’ll understand why.
I’m a horror guy. That should be plainly obvious. I also read fantasy voraciously, and on occasion I lose myself in an action-thriller. A mystery/suspense/romance story was a tough sell, even if the setting (Florida is my favorite state to visit) intrigued me.
My doubts didn’t last long. McKenna hooked me immediately, and I went on to breeze through her first three books like a hurricane churning through the Gulf. Now I’m finishing book six, and I hope her series produces many, many more novels. As long as she keeps writing them, I’ll keep reading.
Dawn Lee McKenna’s Forgotten Coast series falls somewhere between suspense and mystery, with multiple veins of complicated romance and family crises flowing under the surface. And hell if McKenna’s wry sense of humor doesn’t infect you with giggles when you least expect it. It’s a complex mix to pull off, yet she does so competently.
Set along the Forgotten Coast of Florida, the series follows Maggie Redmond, a lieutenant with the Apalachicola Sheriff’s Department. Low Tide, the first book in the growing Forgotten Coast series, immediately reveals Maggie’s tragic past, doing so in a way which makes the reader take personal stock in Maggie’s future, even as the reveal horrifies us.
Dawn Lee McKenna’s Apalachicola overflows with intriguing, richly-developed characters who fascinate and surprise. They make us laugh and cry, from Bennett Boudreaux, the refined, gentlemanly crime lord, to Wyatt, the sheriff who Maggie is falling in love with. The villains are both dastardly and believable, the supporting cast a varied group of characters with their own secrets and motivations.
One thread tying all of this together is McKenna’s obvious love for Apalachicola and northern Florida’s coast. She’s writing from the heart when she describes the town, the sea, the flora and climate. McKenna transports us to a place she loves to write about and tells us one hell of a story, but I can’t divulge more without spoiling the plots.
I’ll tell you one more thing about Dawn Lee McKenna: she is a survivor, much as my beautiful wife is. That she dedicates Awash to her fellow survivors says a great deal about her own character. Facing your own mortality at an early age and living to tell about it not only makes you a stronger person, it brings a life perspective that a talented author can tap and bring into her writings. McKenna’s perspective allows her to treat the losses of her characters with the sort of compassion and sympathy that most authors struggle with. I once told McKenna that I was brought to tears by the loss of one of her characters. I can’t remember the last time that happened to me in a book. Come to think of it, I rather doubt it ever happened before.
If you’re looking for a great novel to take to the beach, grab your copy of Low Tide on Amazon. Be prepared. If you are anything like me, you’ll quickly grab all the other books in the series. The story only gets better as the series progresses.
Want more beach reads? Check out my review of Armand Rosamilia’s Dying Days series. Zombies on a beach? I’m so there.