The Beast Within

At the Water's Edge: A Novel - Sara Gruen

At the Water’s Edge follows 3 rich, spoiled twits who set off on a frivolous adventure in the middle of World War II. Maddie, a beautiful young woman with a loveless childhood, her rich husband Ellis, a flippant college dropout and trust fund baby, and his close friend, Hank, who is determined to avoid marriage for as long as possible, make a rowdy bunch. The Colonel, Ellis’ father, finally has enough of their silliness when the two embarrass him at a society function. As if it weren’t bad enough that neither Ellis nor Hank can enlist due to minor medical quirks!


Faced with being disowned and left with no allowance with which to wile away their meaningless existence, Hank and Ellis hatch an idiotic plan to redeem themselves by proving that they are man enough to restore the Colonel’s good name, which was sullied on a monster hunting trip in Loch Ness. And so, in the middle of World War II, the trio jaunts off to Scotland.


When in the privileged ballrooms of American Society, shallow conversation, getting drunk, and popping pills may have little consequence, but these habits are looked down upon in the hardscrabble highland town Maddie, Ellis, and Hank invade. Left on her own as the men gallivant gaily about, Maddie befriends the women who work in the inn and sees their struggles more clearly than her own. Soon, hard truths about Ellis and Hank and their goals for the trip come into focus as honest work, new love, and the natural surroundings work their way into Maddie’s heart.


Several plot situations cause this novel to feel contrived and ridiculous, but it’s fun enough and Maddie was likeable enough that I was compelled to read on anyway. If you’re good at suspension of disbelief, you may want to give it a try, but I found All the Light We Cannot See to be a far more tightly plotted novel set in the same era. Those interested in wartime romance in Scotland might try Letters from Skye instead.