by Debbie Macomber
First Published: September 1, 2001
Format: Trade Paperback, e-Book, Mass Market Paperback, Audiobook, Hardcover
About the Book
16 Lighthouse Road, Cedar Cove, Washington
You don't know me yet, but in a few hours that's going to change. You see, I'm inviting you to my home and my town of Cedar Cove because I want you to meet my family, friends, and neighbors. Come and hear their stories — maybe even their secrets!
I have to admit that my own secrets are pretty open. My marriage failed some years ago, and I have a rather ... difficult relationship with my daughter, Justine. Then there's my mother, Charlotte, who has plenty of opinions and is always willing to share them.
Here's an example: I'm a family court judge and she likes to drop in on my courtroom. Recently I was hearing a divorce petition. In Charlotte's view, young Cecilia and Ian Randall hadn't tried hard enough to make their marriage work — and I agreed. So I rendered my judgement: Divorce Denied.
Well, you wouldn't believe the reaction! Thanks to an article by Jack Griffin, the editor of our local paper (and a man I wouldn't mind seeing more of!), everyone's talking.
Cedar Cove — people love it and sometimes they leave it, but they never forget it!
See you soon ...
Cecilia Randall had heard of people who, if granted one wish, would choose to live their lives over again. Not her. She'd be perfectly content to blot just one twelve-month period from her twenty-two years.
The past twelve months.
Last January, shortly after New Year's, she'd met Ian Jacob Randall, a Navy man, a submariner. She'd fallen in love with him and done something completely irresponsible— she'd gotten pregnant. Then she'd complicated the whole situation by marrying him.
That was mistake number three and from there, her errors in judgement had escalated. She hadn't been stupid so much as naïve and in love and— worst of all— romantic. The Navy, and life, had cured her of that fast enough.
Their baby girl had been born premature while Ian was at sea, and it became immediately apparent that she had a defective heart. By the time Ian returned home, Allison Marie had already been laid to rest. It was Cecilia who'd stood alone in the unrelenting rain of the Pacific Northwest while her baby's tiny casket was lowered into the cold, muddy earth. She'd been forced to make life-and-death decisions without the counsel of family or the comfort of her husband.
Her mother lived on the East coast and, because of a snowstorm, had been unable to fly into Washington State. Her father was as supportive as he knew how to be— which was damn little. His idea of "being there for her" consisted of giving Cecilia a sympathy card and writing a few lines about how sorry he was for her loss. Cecilia had spent countless days and nights by their daughter's empty crib, alternately weeping and in shock. Other Navy wives had tried to console her, but Cecilia wasn't comfortable with strangers. She'd rejected their help and their friendship. And because she'd been in Cedar Cove for such a short time, she hadn't made any close friends in the community, either. As a result, she'd borne her grief alone.
When Ian did return, he'd blamed Navy procedures for his delay. He'd tried to explain, but by then Cecilia was tired of it all. Only one reality had any meaning: her daughter was dead. Her husband didn't know and couldn't possibly understand what she'd endured in his absence. Since he was on a nuclear submarine, all transmissions during his tour of duty were limited to fifty word "family grams." Nothing could have been done, anyway; the submarine was below the polar ice cap at the time. She did write to tell him about Allison's birth and then her death. She'd written out her grief in these brief messages, not caring that they'd be closely scrutinized by Navy personnel. But Ian's commanding officer had seen fit to postpone relaying the information until the completion of the ten-week tour. I didn't know, Ian had repeatedly insisted. Surely she couldn't hold him responsible. But she did. Unfair though it might be, Cecilia couldn't forgive him.
Now all she wanted was out. Out of her marriage, out of this emotional morass of guilt and regret, just out. The simplest form of escape was to divorce Ian.
Sitting in the hallway near the courtroom, she felt more determined than ever to terminate her marriage. With one swift strike of a judge's gavel, she could put an end to the nightmare of the past year. Eventually she would forget she'd ever met Ian Randall.
Allan Harris, Cecilia's attorney, entered the foyer outside the Kitsap County courtroom. She watched as he glanced around until he saw her. He raised his hand in a brief greeting, then walked over to where she sat on the hard wooden bench and claimed the empty space beside her.
"Tell me again what's going to happen," she said, needing the assurance that her life would return to at least an approximation of what it had been a year ago.
Allan set his briefcase on his lap. "We wait until the docket is announced. The judge will ask if we're ready, I'll announce that we are, and we'll be given a number."
Cecilia nodded, feeling numb.
"We can be assigned any number between one and fifty," her attorney continued. "Then we wait our turn."
Cecilia nodded again, hoping she wouldn't be stuck in the courthouse all day. Bad enough that she had to be here; even worse that Ian's presence was also required. She hadn't seen him yet. Maybe he was meeting somewhere with his own attorney, discussing strategies— not that she expected him to contest the divorce.
"There won't be a problem, will there?" Her palms were damp and cold sweat had broken out across her forehead. She wanted this to be over so she could get on with her life. She believed that couldn't happen until the divorce was filed. Only then would the pain start to go away.
"I can't see that there'll be any hang-ups, especially since you've agreed to divide all the debts." He frowned slightly. "Despite that prenuptial agreement you signed."
A flu-like feeling attacked Cecilia's stomach, and she clutched her purse tightly against her. Soon, she reminded herself, soon she could walk out these doors into a new life.
"It's a rather...unusual agreement," Allan murmured.
In retrospect, the prenuptial agreement had been another in the list of mistakes she'd made in the past year, but according to her attorney one that could easily be rectified. Back when she'd signed it, their agreement had made perfect sense. In an effort to prove their sincerity, they'd come up with the idea that the spouse who wanted the divorce should pay not only the legal costs but all debts incurred during the marriage. It could be seen as either punitive or deterrent; in either case, it hadn't worked. And now it was just one more nuisance to be dealt with.
Cecilia blamed herself for insisting on something in writing. She'd wanted to be absolutely sure that Ian wasn't marrying her out of any sense of obligation. Yes, the pregnancy was unplanned, but she would've been perfectly content to raise her child by herself. She preferred that to being trapped in an unhappy marriage— or trapping Ian in a relationship he didn't want. Ian, however, had been adamant. He'd sworn that he loved her, loved their unborn child and wanted to marry her.
As a ten-year-old, Cecilia's entire world had been torn apart when her parents divorced. She refused to do that to her own child. In her mind, marriage was forever, so she'd wanted them to be certain before making a lifetime commitment. How naïve, she thought now. How sentimental. How romantic.
Ian had said he wanted their marriage to be forever, too, but like so much else this past year, that had been an illusion. Cecilia had needed to believe him, believe in the power of love, believe it would protect her from this kind of heartache.
In the end, blinded by the prospect of a husband who seemed totally committed to her and by the hope of a happy-ever-after kind of life, Cecilia had acquiesced to the marriage— with one stipulation. The agreement.
Their marriage was supposed to last as long as they both lived, so they'd devised an agreement that would help them stay true to their vows. Or so they'd thought.... Before the ceremony they'd written the prenuptial contract themselves and had it notarized. She'd forgotten all about it until she'd made an appointment with Allan Harris and he'd asked if she'd signed any agreement prior to the wedding. It certainly wasn't the standard sort of document; nevertheless Allan felt they needed to have the court rescind it.
16 LIGHTHOUSE ROAD is the first book in my Cedar Cove Series for MIRA Books. I can't tell you at this point how many books will be in the series, because I intend to write Cedar Cove books until all the stories are told!
And there many be many! Here's why -- Cedar Cove, Washington is modeled after Port Orchard, Washington, where I've lived for many years and where my husband and I have raised our children. In the Cedar Cove books you'll be introduced to many local landmarks that we see every day.
I hope you enjoy 16 LIGHTHOUSE ROAD and that the questions below generate lively discussion with your readers' group. If so, let me know, via the comments section in my guestbook, will you?
1. How is Cedar Cove like your hometown? How is it different? Would you like to live in a town like Cedar Cove?
2. Which character did you identify with the most? Why?
3. Have you had a relative or friend come close to what you would consider making a mistake in his/her choice of a spouse? What did you do? What would you do when faced with the predicament Olivia had with Justine?
4. Were Cecilia's feeling for Ian after the loss of their baby realistic? Why or why not?
5. What was the turning point in Cecilia and Ian's relationship? Why do you think Cecilia's feeling for Ian changed?
6. Why do you think Jack kept his past a secret from Olivia? Was he right in doing so?
7. What would you do if your spouse left mysteriously and without notice? Would you hire an investigator? Would you file for divorce? Why do you think Dan left so mysteriously?
8. What was your favorite scene in 16 LIGHTHOUSE ROAD?
9. Which couple's story was your favorite?
10. What do you think of books that are part of a series and have ongoing storylines?