I just completed Sara Gruen's At the Water's Edge. Actually, I listened to the audiobook, which was performed masterfully. I was very impressed with the story and the storytelling.
The book has over 1,000 reviews and an average of 4 stars on Amazon. WTF! This is a 5 star book. But maybe I'm easily impressed.
At Water's Edge is about a young woman, Maddie, who's life is among the wealthy socialites in the 1940s Philly high society. Her husband Ellis and his friend Hank, both declared medically unfit for military service, go to Scotland to try to capture footage of the Loch Ness monster.
The trip to Scotland reveals their marriage for what it is as it unravels. In the meantime, she falls in love with Angus Grant, the landlord of the inn they're staying in. There is a happy ending so as you can imagine, lovebirds get together and the situation works out.
I'm interested in notions of romance in literature versus real life, so I was thinking about the romantic interest in this book. He is introduced as a commoner, bearded gruffy man, who runs the inn. We come to discover a few things about him. He is considerate. He's an expert hunter who supplements the diet of the needy in town with secret gifts of game, i.e., people wake up to find fresh meat on their doorstep and they know it's him. He was an elite military soldier who was gutted in combat but killed his assailant with his helmet while his intestines were hanging out. He was a loving husband whose wife gave birth to their stillborn daughter and in distress on hearing that Angus was missing, drowned herself in the Loch. He is super strong, fearless, but super gentle and kind. And then a big reveal is that even though he lives like a commoner, it turns out tht he's a lord or something like that and the "big house"/estate in town is his by inheritance.
In short, this guy is a dream.
Now, I was curious about the other men in the story and began to think about them. In a romance story, where the girl gets the perfect guy, how are the other males presented? I don't read romance books often so I don't know. But in this case it was clear that no one, not even one male could be written in a way that threatened the main love interest.
Absent of love triangle issues, is this normal? That other male characters serve as foils to highlight the glories of the lead male? But in this case, few, if any of the males, had any redeeming qualities. It certainly makes for a great read because you are rooting for Maddie big time.