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Book 3: The Seaside Strategy (Hilton Head Island Romance)

Book 3: The Seaside Strategy (Hilton Head Island Romance)

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Escape to the beaches of South Carolina with this Supper Club of ladies, each of whom is starting over in some way in their 40s. New loves, new lives, new businesses - and they're waiting for YOU, their new best friend!

About THE SEASIDE STRATEGY: Lauren Keller understands strategies. She adores them and never enters a marketing meeting without Strategy A, B, and C tucked away in the back of her mind. She’s one of the top executives at her firm…until it all comes crashing down with the news that her boss has been stealing money from their clients for almost a decade. So she strategically decides she’s had enough of the high-profile, corporate life, and she makes the move to Hilton Head Island – and the man who’s asked her out before. Can she strategically insert herself into Blake’s life without compromising her seaside strategy and finally get what she really wants…love and a lasting relationship?

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Read Chapter 1 Now!

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Lauren Keller used the remote on the larger of her two monitors to turn it off. She still had work to do, but she had to draw a line somewhere. Otherwise, she’d work twenty-four hours a day. She’d allowed herself to go down that path before, but not this summer.

No, this summer was about finding balance. Accepting things as they stood. Being more patient with herself—and those around her.

She sighed as she stretched both hands high above her head and held the position. Sitting at a desk wasn’t the best for her shoulders and back, and Lauren stood and went through a few simple exercises that should help the knot in the back of her neck.

What she really needed was a good masseuse, and she’d ask Cass who to go to here on Hilton Head when she made it downstairs. 

She left her bedroom-slash-office on the second floor of Cass’s beach house and went down the hallway. She’d be moving out next weekend, but she wouldn’t be going far. When she’d first decided to come to the island for the summer—as she had last year—she’d secured a rental.

Cass had thrown a fit. A major, royal fit, and she’d insisted that Lauren take the bedroom where she’d stayed last year. Cass had wanted help with the wedding, and Lauren didn’t need bad Supper Club mojo on her hands. So she’d been living with Cass and Conrad for about seven weeks, and the three of them got along splendidly. 

Conrad once again worked for the outdoor tour company he’d been with last year, and Cass had plenty to keep her busy with her interior design clients. The house was cool and quiet, and Lauren loved everything about it.

So much so, that she’d started looking at properties here on Hilton Head too. If she was going to live here for five or six months out of the year, she figured she should have her own place. 

Everything she did came with a strategy; she couldn’t help it. Her job as a marketing analyst, team leader, and corporate strategist had the label in the title. She barely got dressed without a routine, a strategy to get the most done in the least amount of time.

Right now, however, she set aside her strategies and went into the kitchen. No one else lingered, and she reasoned that it was five o’clock somewhere. Almost here, as a glance at the clock told her. So she popped the top on her Diet Coke and emptied the can into a tall glass.

Cass didn’t own any dishware that was plastic, and Lauren actually liked that about her. It made Lauren feel less like a diva for the nice things she enjoyed. She splashed in an ounce of rum, stirred her drink, and took a healthy sip.

The alcohol warmed her mouth and throat, almost burning as she swallowed. She sighed and relaxed her hip against the countertop, then put away the bottle and took her drink out to the patio.

She sat in the rocking bench and looked out to the ocean, letting her mind come and go the way the waves did as they washed ashore. She could hear them chattering, even as far away as she was, and she wondered what they said to each other. She wondered why she found them so soothing to her soul. She wondered how she could make them part of her permanent reality.

Coming downstairs or out of an office to a drink and the sound of the ocean? That was heaven to Lauren, and she flicked on her phone and started a familiar search for property here on the island.

Her biggest obstacle was price. Oceanfront property wasn’t exactly inexpensive, and it wasn’t infinite. She earned a good salary, and she didn’t really have anything or anyone keeping her in Texas.

Yes, her corporate headquarters were there, but they had branches and offices all over the country. All over the world. She was, in fact, assigned to the Miami office right now, and Lauren traveled for about a third of her working hours anyway.

She thought of Joy, Bessie, and Sage back in Sweet Water Falls. Cherry Forrester too, now that the woman had joined their Supper Club. Joy would especially be upset if Lauren made the move to Hilton Head permanent. 

“It’s not permanent,” she murmured to herself. “It’s a few months out of the year.”

Her phone chimed, nearly deafening her, as she’d forgotten to turn down the notification volume when she’d turned off her computer screen. Thankfully, it wasn’t from anyone on her team. No one needed help. There was no crisis.

This text had come from Harrison Tate, Cass’s fiancée. The man she’d marry in just another week’s time.

Lauren’s heart bobbed around inside her body, nearly bursting through her ribs when she finished reading. MaryLou just called, Harrison had said. They approved your rental. You can move into my place while Cass and I are on our honeymoon.

“Thank you, Dear Lord.” Lauren pressed her phone to her chest and smiled up to heaven. She’d always anticipated finding somewhere else to live once Cass and Harrison tied the knot. She’d secured two other rentals—and they’d both canceled on her. She’d been scrambling for a week now, and Harrison hadn’t put his house up for sale yet.

He too was scrambling to finish the last building in a huge construction project he’d been working on for over a year. He wanted it done and signed off before the nuptials got said, and he hadn’t had time to call a realtor, clean up his place, and get it listed.

Cass had put a lot of time and energy into her house, and she was quite particular about the yard, the house, the textiles, all of it. Harrison had readily agreed to move in to her house once they were married, and he’d have his outdoor kitchen transplanted over here once they returned from Bora Bora.

Lauren took another sip of her drink and looked at her phone again. She’d been about to search for property here on the island, and she decided to go ahead and do that. Not rentals, though.

Something to buy.

She swiped and tapped, read about floor plans, and leafed through pictures. There were some really gorgeous homes here on Hilton Head, but nothing that truly spoke to her soul. Her eyes started to blur, and she lowered the phone once again.

“There you are,” Joy said, bringing up Lauren’s head.

“Hey.” She smiled up at her friend. “How was work?”

“Great.” Joy exhaled as she sat down next to Lauren, the bench swaying wildly as it accommodated for the extra weight. “I called you. Harrison said the HOA approved his rental. We can move in there.”

“I got his text,” she said. Her tongue felt a little thick, and her brain a tiny bit fuzzy. Maybe she’d splashed in a little too much rum. Or maybe it was just so warm and gorgeous here on this patio. The swaying of the bench. Something.

“I’m relieved,” Joy said. “I actually looked at a long-term hotel this morning.” She shook her head and bent to take off her shoes. She worked as a classroom aide in an elementary school back in Texas, but she’d come to Hilton Head this summer too. She’d been here for almost a month now, and she’d gotten a job at the library. She got to wear her cute work clothes and she seemed to like the people and patrons on Hilton Head. So much so, that she volunteered at the library when she wasn’t scheduled to work.

“Can you imagine?” Lauren asked. They laughed together, and then Lauren looked at her phone again. “Oh, I missed a call from my boss.” She got to her feet, and she didn’t wobble too much. She also had no idea how she’d missed a call from Mark. Had she fallen asleep after looking at real estate?

Probably.

She walked to the edge of the patio and tapped to call Mark Apgood, the man who’d been her boss for about a decade now. She worked directly beneath him, and there wasn’t really anywhere else for her to go. Another company, perhaps, but she enjoyed the work she did now, as well as the people she worked with. Most of the time, anyway.

“Lauren,” he said crisply when he picked up.

“Mark,” she said back. No excuses. She missed calls sometimes, and it was after working hours. She didn’t have to call him back until tomorrow if she didn’t want to.

“Can you be on a plane to Texas tonight?”

“Wha—? I—” Lauren turned around and looked at Joy. She’d leaned back in the swinging bench and closed her eyes. “Why?” 

“There’s some serious stuff going down, and I need you here.”

“How long?” Lauren asked, already moving back to the house. She could pack and be on the road to the airport in twenty minutes. Whether they had a flight or not, that was a different story. “Cass is getting married in six days, Mark.”

“Not that long.” Something banged on his end of the line. “I can guarantee you won’t miss her wedding.”

“I can’t,” Lauren said. “I won’t.”

“You won’t,” he assured her. “I’ll see you when you get here.”

“Your office?” True surprise wove through her as she strode through the living room toward the stairs. “Tonight? You’re not going home?”

“Not until this is settled,” he said. “See you soon.” The call ended, and Lauren dashed up the steps to the second floor. She had no idea what was going on—Mark had been very light on the details.

To her credit, she wore professional clothes to sit at the table in her bedroom, so she didn’t have to change. She threw a couple of extra outfits in a bag, sat at the computer, and looked for a ticket. She had toiletries and everything else at her place in Sweet Water Falls. Truth be told, she had clothes there too. Plenty of clothes.

A flight left Atlanta at ten-forty, and Lauren booked herself a ticket. Then she grabbed her purse, her bag, and her laptop and headed for the door.

Whatever was happening better get resolved quickly, because Lauren would not miss Cass’s wedding. Oh, no, she would not.

What Readers are Saying

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ “Elana Johnson does it again! A believable plot and delightful characters make The Seaside Strategy a novel to enjoy and savor. As summer draws to a close, I lost myself in the Hilton Head setting and characters who were so like my own friends. Wonderful, Elana, just wonderful. Many thanks.” ~Jane

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ “Another great story from the supper club. It is so sweet to watch these "older" women find love. I look forward to Joy's journey to happily ever after.” ~Elaine

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Indulge in a delightful journey to the Lowcountry and visit Hilton Head Island to fall in love!

For fans of heartwarming women’s fiction, beach romance, and feel-good stories, immerse yourself in these later-in-life romances and found family friendships of the Hilton Head Island Romance series!

  • Book 1: The Love List

    Beatrice Callahan loves lists. Sometimes she even makes a to-do list of things she’s already done, just to go check, check, check and feel accomplished. So it’s easy to understand why, when her divorce is finally final and her ex is all moved out, Bea takes a cool, close look at her life…and makes a list. But when things get confusing and her life morphs once again… Can she add fall in love at age 45 to the list and check it off?

  • Book 2: The Paradise Plan

    Cassandra Haslam loves plans. Lunch plans, wedding plans, and floor plans—they all bring her joy. But then her husband dies suddenly, right when she’s about to enjoy the fruits of all of her hard work and planning, leaving Cass reeling and…well, without a plan. So, with one of her best friends now living in Hilton Head, Cass makes a move and purchases a piece of waterfront property on the island. Can she find her new life and a new love, all without any plans at all?

  • Book 3: The Seaside Strategy

    Lauren Keller understands strategies. She adores them and never enters a marketing meeting without Strategy A, B, and C tucked away in the back of her mind. She’s one of the top executives at her firm…until it all comes crashing down with the news that her boss has been stealing money from their clients for almost a decade. So she strategically decides she’s had enough of the high-profile, corporate life, and she makes the move to Hilton Head Island – and the man who’s asked her out before. Can she strategically insert herself into Blake’s life without compromising her seaside strategy and finally get what she really wants…love and a lasting relationship?

  • Book 4: The Beach Blueprint

    Joy Bartlett needs a blueprint before she takes a single step in any direction. She loves seeing what she's getting into before committing, and just because half of her Supper Club has moved 1200 miles away doesn't mean she's going to start packing boxes. Can she figure out how to arrange all of the pieces in her life in a way that makes sense? Or will she find herself cut off from everyone who's ever been important to her?

  • Book 5: The Tropical Ticket

    Bessie Clifton adores baking. With her daughter Wynona by her side, she's turned her passion for the perfect loaf of bread into a dream for a bakery. They move to Hilton Head Island and work to get their shop open with the help of Bessie's five best friends. Enter Oliver Blackhurst, the grumpy owner of The Mad Mango smoothie shop. Bessie's sunshine and warmth seem to clash with his prickly exterior. Will Bessie's journey to self-discovery lead her to the love she's always craved? Can Oliver let go of his past and embrace the warmth that Bessie brings to his life?

  • Book 6: The Waterfront Way

    Sage Grady is a master of transformation. She's a seasoned hairstylist who's perfected the art of change, one cut and color at a time. Ty's made a fortune flipping properties and developing luxury resorts. Yet beneath his polished exterior is a man who's been burned by love, and he's built walls higher than any of his skyscrapers. As Sage snips, styles, and sashays her way into Ty's heart, she discovers that her way of life isn't the only transformation happening. Can Sage and Ty navigate their contrasting worlds to create a happily-ever-after? Will they find that the path to true love doesn't always follow the path most trod, but might just be discovered through...the waterfront way?

Fall in love with the hometown heroes of Hawthorne Harbor!

Escape to the beach today with single moms, single dads, and that one old lady that knows everyone in town... This sweet and clean romance series is sure to have the heartfelt love stories and heartwarming women's fiction you're looking for. Travel to Hawthorne Harbor for these hometown heroes without leaving your house!

Read this series if you like: 

✔ Second chance romance

✔ Sweet Beach Reads

✔ Contemporary romance

✔ Later in life romance

✔ Friends to lovers romance

✔ Enemies to lovers romance

✔ Small-town romance

✔ Military romance

✔ Single-dad romance