Sand and Water

Title: Sand and Water
Author: Shae Connor
Cover Artist: Reese Dante
Buy link:
Genre: Contemporary M/M
Length: Novel/229 PDF pages
Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5

Review Summary: If you like romances where most of the book is about kids’ play dates and meals, then you will absolutely love Sand and Water. I wanted more romance between John and Bryan.


Widower John McConnell gets along fine raising his daughter on Georgia’s Tybee Island, though he wouldn’t exactly say he’s happy. Haunted by the memory of his dead wife, John hasn’t considered dating again until he meets Bryan Simmons in the park. It isn’t long before John realizes that what he feels for Bryan could be something real, but how will he know he’s ready to move on?

As John soon discovers, Bryan carries some heavy emotional baggage of his own. With John’s help, Bryan starts to put his demons to rest, and together they lay the foundation for a relationship. It looks like they might finally leave their tragedies behind them—until John takes a misstep that could turn a magical night together into their last.


These would have been my closing comments in this review but I was so disappointed with this book that I decided to start with the negatives. I was really looking forward to reading this story, but it soon became clear that it was not going to live up to my expectations. As a matter of fact I almost didn’t finish it because the prose and dialogue were so painfully repetitious.

In my opinion about one third of Sand and Water could have been deleted or edited down significantly, without losing anything that was important or relevant to the romance or John’s relationship with his daughter. There was so much mundane information in almost every chapter about “Bethy’s” daily routine and what she ate at every meal (seriously), what she did every day at the beach, her bath, or shows she watched on television, her movies, being put to bed with her favourite stuffed toy etc. that my eyes glazed over. To add to my WTF moments, there was almost as much information about John’s daily routine, which increased the level and amount of irrelevant data that seemed to be filler. Was this to increase the page count? I have no idea. However, not only was I was getting indigestion from the information overload about Beth’s activities and meals, at times I wondered whether I was reading a romance or a children’s book. I had other issues with the story, but I’ll get to those later.

John’s wife died 5 years ago and he was raising his daughter on Tybee Island with the help of his aunt Meghan who was more like his sister because she was only a few years older. Although John had been a widower for a long time, he couldn’t get over his wife Liz’s death in childbirth and he still dreamed about her all the time. The light of his life is Beth and everything revolves around her. He moved from Atlanta to Tybee Island so he could work at home and take care of his little girl 24/7; he prepares her meals, provides all the usual parental support and supervises her activities. However, the information about Beth’s daily activities is repeated throughout the book ad nauseum. Did I want to know that she ate sandwiches, carrot sticks and milk at almost every meal except for when she had macaroni and cheese? Not really!

John met Bryan and his nephew at the same park where Beth played every day. So now two kids are the focus of the story – overactive Jeremy and pampered Beth. John is attracted to Bryan but feels guilty even though Liz has been dead for such a long time; he still misses her every day but despite that, manages to fall in love with Bryan in the space of one week. I’m not sure if he was in love with the person or Bryan’s looks, because his thoughts are all about how beautiful Bryan is. Eventually the romance gets underway and there’s a first kiss 55% into the story, by which time I was wondering if I was reading a vintage Harlequin romance where the female protagonist is kissed at the end of the book. Personally I’m not a fan of M/M romances that are all sex and no story, but in Sand and Water the prose is about almost everything but the romance, from Bryan and John watching Braves’ baseball games on television (I’m an avid baseball fan but this was too much baseball even for me), to detailed descriptions of Bryan’s clothing, to phrases such as “paper napkins printed with the restaurant’s logo,” to Bryan talking about certain colours being flattering against John’s skin. Huh?

There was no tension in the relationship as both Bryan and John were very careful about each other’s feelings and personal issues, which might have been a good thing since both of them had had tragedies in their lives, but I wished that the book had accelerated rather than continued along its slow moving pace. There were really no challenges or conflicts other than John always being concerned about the reactions of others. He was so concerned he discussed with his pastor whether the church and congregation would reject him should he enter into a relationship with Bryan, even before he told Bryan he loved him. John’s religion, values, and rituals were very much a part of his character.

There was one external conflict in the book between John and his mother who made her disapproval clear about his potential relationship with Bryan, but other than that it was the same old, same old every day. There was no growth in the characters and not a lot of depth to their personalities but Bryan was more fully fleshed out. I also thought that the dialogue and prose were stilted and trite and the story needed a major infusion of excitement. However, not everything was a downer and the few positives included Meghan, John’s aunt, who was fun, as well as Bryan’s ex Eddie who had been permanently handicapped as a result of a beating a few months before but was rising above his disability. The way Bryan dealt with Eddie’s new reality was one of the high points for me.

Sand and Water didn’t exactly thrill me for the reasons outlined, but everyone’s taste is different and if you have small children or like romances that feature kids in at least 50% of the book you will love this story. While I don’t mind kids in romances, when they take over the story I lose interest, consequently I can’t recommend this book. On a more positive note, the cover is great!


  • Yes, I’m breaking the “rules” by replying to a review, but I wanted to say thanks, Wave. No, that isn’t sarcasm; I’m being sincere. Sand & Water is my first novel, and I knew the way it developed wouldn’t be for everyone, but I’m always glad to get specific, detailed comments like yours so I can apply them to future work. I also appreciate it when reviewers are careful to say that what isn’t to their taste may be great for others. From those perspectives, this is a wonderful review, despite the relatively low overall grade. 🙂

    • Hi Shae
      I’m sure you know that there are no “rules” on this site. 🙂

      Generally I love romances with kids as part of the plot as you can tell from some of my recs.

      When I criticise a book I’m always specific. You’ll never find a review from me that just says “this book sucks” or “this book is fabulous” (which is why they are always so long). I know that writing is a tough gig and although this book was not to my taste for the reasons indicated in the review, I’m sure there will be many other readers who will love it for the same reasons I didn’t.

      BTW I read a short that you wrote a few months ago called Chicago that I liked a lot – unfortunately I don’t think I reviewed that one. 😀

      • And that’s what I like about the reviews here (not that other sites don’t do it well too). Out of curiosity, I checked to see what other books had the same rating, and found one of my favorites among them. Taste is always going to vary.

        And thanks re: Chicago! 😀

        • Taste is a funny thing, which is why my top book may be someone else’s 1 star review. 😮 Whenever we write a negative review we are very careful to indicate our reasons even more than a positive review.

          Many readers will probably love Sand and Water for the same reason I didn’t.

          I loved the characters in Chicago as well as the plot. 😎

  • When I read this review I kept thinking this sounds familiar. Then I realize it sounded like the plot for Aquarius: He Said, He Said by Jamie Craig. The two men were single parents. One was divorced & the other was a widow & they met in the park when they children started to play together. In that book though, I think they achieved a good balance between the romance & the kids in the story, although I do think kids can take over a story very easily & so I prefer when they’re not in romance books.

    • Sara
      Some authors are skilled in integrating kids into a story without letting them take it over. I haven’t read Aquarius: He Said, He Said by Jamie Craig but I’m sure they would have avoided all the plotholes and potholes in Sand and Water because they are very experienced writers.

  • Auch. I was looking forward to reading this book because of the kids/family theme. I’ll probably still buy it, just not anytime soon.
    Thanks for the review Wave 🙂

    • Eva

      If you like reading about kids’ activities a lot you will like the book. It’s not bad, I just found the emphasis on Beth and her life WAY over the top. I have read many M/M books with kids and most of them are delightful because they have something that this book does not have – balance.

      I’m reading a wonderful book now by Steve Kluger called Last Days of Summer and the star is a 12 year old smart aleck boy named Joey. If you’ve never read it I highly recommend LDoS.

      • Thanks for the rec 😀
        I’ve heard about LDoS and Kluger’s books in general a while back but somehow never got around to reading them. Guess I’ll have to rectify that soon.

        • Eva
          If you really want to read what I consider to be Kluger’s best work you should look into getting Almost Like Being in Love which is reviewed on the site. Both books are excellent. There’s a kid in this one too and he’s also great.

  • Darn, I really wanted to read this. I love kids in the right story, when they’re written in well AND serve a purpose…but this sounds distracting (??) to me. Romance, yes please. Anthropological study of a family’s behaviour, not so much. 🙁 Good review, though. Thanks!

    • Brian
      I’m sorry I couldn’t be more positive about this book but I really wanted to love it too.

      I love kids in RL and in stories except when they’re being a brat. Beth was not a brat but the author might well have made her into one one because she annoyed the crap out of me through no fault of her own.

  • I wonder if this is the same author under a different pen name as Jake Mactire. It sounds exactly like his books, minus the kid. Incredibly over-descriptive: meals, clothing, etc. There is more romance, I guess, and it sounds like definitely more smexxin (Jeffy and Mike get it on pretty early and often), but those books as well could have benefited by a heavier editing hand.

  • I actually won this book from the author on Facebook during a promo that the publisher ran about a week ago.

    I actually own a beach house on Tybee Island,(about 500 feet from that pier on the cover) so I really wanted to read this book. Hopefully, the scenery will be enought to hold my interest, since, like you, I don’t mind kids in the story, but don’t really want the plot to revolve completely around them or dictate every move they make in the daily habits.

    • Hope
      You might like it a lot more than I did, but in my opinion the kids almost took over the book and the romance ran a distant second.

      You will probably also love the references to Tybee Island since you own a beach house there – lucky you. 🙂


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I live in Canada and I love big dogs, music, movies, reading and sports - especially baseball
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