What are your favorite vacation spots? Mine are beaches and mountains. In my series, Vacation Sweethearts, I highlight just several of my favorite places in the Western Hemisphere (I’ll get to the Eastern Hemisphere soon). One of these places is the Bahamas, found in Book 1 of the series, Smile for Me.
When my husband and I went on a Bahamas cruise some years ago, it never dawned on me that I’d write a book set in the Caribbean. However, the memories of my vacation there were so vivid in my mind that I had to share some of the highlights with my readers. The hammock under the coconut trees, the clear blue waters, bright sunny skies…
When I think of sunny Caribbean islands, somewhere at the back of my mind is a reminder that there are hurricanes there. This month, Hurricane Dorian tore through the Bahamas, bringing Category 5 devastations on the islands. In short, Grand Bahama Island was flooded and people had to be evacuated from Freeport to Florida.
The good news is this is not a year-round event. Hurricanes have come and gone for centuries. God is still sovereign. Pray for the Bahamas that God would provide relief for the residents, that the water would subside, and the government can begin rebuilding the structures lost or washed away. However, I am confident that the islands will be restored, and it will be sunny skies once again.
Smile for Me begins in Nassau, which still shows traces of the Bahamas past as a former British colony. You can see history in the architecture, for example. I remember even seeing a red British post office box when we were in Nassau. At the same time, all around were local bazaars and markets selling many souvenirs found only in the Caribbean, such as straw bags and textile. In Smile for Me, Tina bought some brightly-colored fabric that Veronique helped her to sew into a skirt.
As someone who grew up on a tropical island back in the East, I am familiar with a type of flowering tree called the flame of the forest. In the Bahamas, these trees are called flamboyant. They sure are! In Smile for Me, I let these spectacular trees grow in the gardens of the Chapel by the Sea Christian School, where they provide shade for gatherings. Look for the picnic in which Byron is irritated, yet again, by Tina’s tardiness.
Close up, you can see the flowers on top of the trees here. In Smile for Me, gardener Augustus doesn’t have to do much to tend to these flamboyant trees. As long as God waters the islands with rain and the soil is fertile (it has deep roots), the trees flourish. By the way, the same trees are found in many tropical places across the world.
Speaking of flowers, there are many other flowers in Augustus’s garden at the school, including hibiscus, frangipanis, and bougainvilleas. Hibiscus plants look like bushes, but they come in many colors, from white to purple and all colors in between. Here is a rosy pink hibiscus.
When the frangipani flowers bloom, they are very fragrant. In some parts of the world, they could be threaded into garlands. I think there are two main colors, white and pink (at least these are the only two colors I’ve seen). But the spreading frangipani trees have thick, dark green leaves.
Both the frangipani and bougainvillea flowering plants can look like trees when they grow big, but they’re not as tall as the flamboyant trees. Back in the east, I remember going with my parents to some resort park where they had a giant bougainvillea tree that provided shade for a bench. My parents got their photograph taken there. I hope to find that photograph some day. Good memories of my parents while my dad was still alive.
Frangipanis are very fragrant while bougainvilleas have no smell, but the Lord God made them all.
Smile for Me also explores the neighboring little islands, called cays. In this novel, the Moss family is obviously very well to do. They own cruise ships, yachts, and an island that Byron’s grandfather had named Moss Cay.
It has an inlet and beautiful sand and sun. Among the coconut trees, they hung hammocks. I won’t tell you too much about the island because I don’t want to give away the scenes. All the teachers are there for the day trip to the island, including Tina, Byron, and Veronique. Byron’s cousin Augustus is also there, though he is not a teacher in the school. He’s family.
Byron’s younger brother, Donovan, has speaking parts in Smile for Me. In the secular world, he would be the playboy of the family. Eventually he will have to give an account to God for all the things he has done. I’m giving him his own book in the same Vacation Sweethearts series (hint: his story is in Pray for Me), but for now, suffice to say that Byron has tried to influence Donovan to do good with the money that he inherited. Speaking of the Moss family, Byron’s mom, Nancy Moss, makes a cameo appearance in Call You Home (Savannah Sweethearts Book 10). They all attend Chapel by the Sea, a small church which is a sister church to Riverside Chapel in the Savannah Sweethearts series.
There you have it, snippets and snapshots of the Bahamas, from Nassau to Moss Cay (please know that you won’t find Moss Cay on the map), and some of the floral and fauna in between. Have you been to the Bahamas or other islands in the Caribbean?
Smile for Me is about an uptight assistant school principal and a laidback artist and wheel potter. Art teacher Tina MacFarland travels to Nassau to teach in a summer camp at the Chapel by the Sea Christian School. She is called to go, but she knows she’ll have to answer to Byron Moss, the assistant principal in charge of the camp. Two years ago, Byron annoyed her with his over-thinking and over-planning when she taught Vacation Bible School. Will she be able to stand up to him this time around?
There is a lot of sand and sun in this novel, plus tropical flowers and plants that are bright and colorful. I highlighted some of them here in this blog as we went on location to the Bahamas.
If you haven’t read Smile for Me, you can find this novel on Amazon or via Kindle Unlimited: JanThompson.com/smile-amazon
Photo credits: Pixabay