North Carolina writer Kristy Woodson Harvey's latest novel, "Feels Like Falling," is about two women who become friends and get strength from each other in troubled times.

Ocean temperatures are rising and folks can walk on the shore again, so we've definitely reached beach-reads season. Eastern North Carolina writer Kristy Woodson Harvey supplies the need with "Feels Like Falling," a romantic comedy that looks like Hallmark Channel material.


In fictional Cape Carolina, Gray Howard is suffering a horrible, no good, very bad year. First, her husband, Greg, waits for a trip to the Caribbean to say he no longer loves her and wants a divorce. Then he takes up with a perky, perfect little MBA who could be the spitting image of Gray about a decade ago.


Worse, he's suing for the lion's share of Gray's company, a digital marketing firm she launched out of college and turned into a regional success.


On top of everything else, Gray's mama dies just when she needs her most.


Quinn, Gray's little sister, is no help at all. The former wild child has off and married Pastor Elijah. Now, she's serving Gray pamphlets on how divorce is an unforgivable sin and how women should submit to their husbands.


Fortunately, this is the moment Gray runs into Diana, a 40-year-old self-described "trailer trash orphan." Diana's just lost her job and walked out on her no-account boyfriend after he lost all her money in a poker tournament. Now, she's sleeping in her rusty Impala.


Over the years, however, Diana, has worked as a housekeeper, and she's a superb cook. In no time, she cleans up the piles of dirty dishes and dirty laundry in Gray's beach house and is feeding her three square (and delicious) meals a day. This earns her a berth in Gray's guest house.


The two women back each other up and help each other out. Before long, Diana has a shot at her longtime dream of opening a waterfront diner -- and getting her autistic brother out of institutionalization.


Other things turn around as well. Gray, dreading her impending 35th birthday and looking forward to a lifetime of spinsterhood, soon finds herself with not one beau but two. Which shall she pick?


Meanwhile, Diana, after a lifetime of Mr. Wrongs, suddenly bumps into Mr. Right, whom she hasn't seen in two decades. Plus, he's still carrying a torch for her. Plus, he's rich. But can she trust him?


Other complications present themselves, but Harvey steers her plot toward the requisite happy ending in passages narrated alternately by Gray and by Diana.


The dialogue is down-home and the side characters are especially delightful, from Marcy -- Gray's next-door neighbor and "favorite partner in crime" -- to Gray's personal assistant, Trey. He whistles show tunes in the car, gossips incorrigibly and calls everyone "Miss Priss," but Trey revives a Southern type originally described by the late Florence King: the Gay Good Old Boy Who Really Isn't. (Trey is thoroughly straight.)


Harvey underlines the vital power of female friends bonding, and she serves up laughter mixed with tears. Fans of "Steel Magnolias" will love this.


Ben Steelman can be reached at 910-616-1788 or peacebsteelman@gmail.clom.