The Way to Cape May takes place between the courtrooms of Philadelphia and the white, sandy shores of the Jersey Cape. This ensemble cast of characters features Philly peeps who go “down the shore” for relaxing weekends in the sand and surf, like many of us.
Ocean City, the northernmost coastal town in Cape May County, is known as “America’s Greatest Family Resort”. It’s a family-oriented town with a 2.5-mile boardwalk featuring shops, restaurants, rides and other amusements. It’s also where our bride and groom, Delaney and Dalton, meet as seven-year-olds when their families moved into adjoining houses on the boardwalk, just north of Wonderland. They, like many other Pennsylvania / New Jersey families, were lucky to grow up spending their summers at the shore—playing as kids, working as teens and falling in love as adults.
Strathmere, just south of Ocean City, is a sleepy little residential town located on the barrier island known as Ludlam Island. It doesn’t have a commercial center but is home to a few popular restaurants. Unlike other New Jersey coastal towns, Strathmere’s wide, beautiful beaches are free—no beach tags required. Strathmere is where best friends Marley Maguire and Sam Adams have rented shore houses with their respective friends.
Sharing its Ludlam Island home with Strathmere is Sea Isle City, is a hopping resort town featuring shops, restaurants and bars, as well as a 2-mile paved promenade that’s perfect for jogging, walking and bike riding. Cleo and Tori, Delaney’s roommates, are staying in Sea Isle for the week before the wedding. On one fly-infested beach afternoon, they’ll meet bartender extraordinaire, Nigel of Nottingham, who will serve up drinks with a surprising twist at the once-famous beachside Carousel Bar (RIP).
Avalon and Stone Harbor are neighboring towns located on Seven Mile Island, to the south of Ludlam Island, and an often-defunct bridge that (sometimes, but not always) links the two. Avalon is an upscale resort town with beautiful natural dunes and a small commercial center, and Stone Harbor is a favorite shopping and dining venue. Maid of Honor and sister of the bride, Kate, will spend a couple nights here with friends just before the wedding. One night, they’ll go to the famous Princeton Bar and Grill where Kate’s love life will be changed forever.
Fifties crooner Bobby Rydell sang about “Wildwood in his famous song. Actually, the City of Wildwood is one of three communities that make up “The Wildwoods”, which also include North Wildwood and Wildwood Crest. This area features a 2.5 mile boardwalk with three huge amusement piers and wide beaches. Wildwood is hugely popular among beachgoers seeking a bit more excitement than the other laid-back towns of the Jersey Cape have to offer. It’s here where Dalton’s sister Lisa and her family are staying the week before the wedding. It’s also home to the fictitious ride, The Viper, which Lisa’s son Eli desperately wants to ride until he discovers he’s too short. It’s also where his sister, Bella, meets a Cute Ride Guy who shows her and Eli how important it is to do good.
And then, there’s Cape May, the final destination of our journey. Cape May rests on the southernmost tip of the Jersey Cape. Known as “America’s Oldest Seaside Resort” Cape Ma is known for its Victorian charm, with brightly colored houses, plentiful bed-and-breakfasts, and year-long themed events. It’s here where 19th-century Philadelphians once came to convalesce from sickness. Before long, it became a popular vacation destination, linked to the northern cities by trains and, later, the Garden State Parkway where it is literally and affectionately known as “Exit 0”. Cape May is home to the popular seaside resort, Congress Hall, the setting for many weddings—including Delaney and Dalton’s.
The inspiration for this story was the Jersey-famous song, “On the Way to Cape May”. It was written by Maurice “Bud” Nugent in 1960 as he drove his family from Ocean City to Cape May. It’s about a couple who, like Delaney and Dalton, meet in Ocean City and fall in love on their way to Cape May. It was later produced and recorded by Philly-famous Al Alberts (and others) and, to this day, is often played in bars along the southern Jersey Cape.
This book was originally intended to be a collection of short stories set in each of the towns until the movie “Love Actually” provided additional inspiration to link these characters with interrelated stories of goals, hopes and dreams. Often, it’s the journey that teaches us the most about our destination, and I wanted these characters to be a part of each other’s journeys as they found inspiration on their way to achieving their own versions of happily ever after.
I hope you enjoy getting to know these characters and following their stories, as much as I have in creating them. Hopefully, they will make their way to the big screen one day. After all, winter boasts of fun ensemble movies including Love Actually, New Years Eve and Valentine’s Day. Isn’t it time summer had its turn?
Of Special Note…
Weeks after completing the first draft of this novel, I had the pleasure of spending the night at Congress Hall with one of my friends and first beta readers. At night we went out on the grand lawn of the hotel and I pointed out where Bella and her new boyfriend sat in a lifeguard stand one night and shared their first kiss as a shooting star shot across the sky. As I was pointing it out, an actual shooting star—the largest, brightest and longest lasting one I’ve ever seen—fell from the sky.
The following day, my friend and I went on a bike ride around the Cape in search of a special meal. After reviewing several sidewalk menus, we found what we were looking for. We looked up and saw the name of the restaurant, which we hadn’t seen before. It was called “Delaney’s”. We laughed and I said, “Now all I need is to see a wedding at Congress Hall and I know this book was destined to be!”
Lo and behold, later that afternoon back at Congress Hall, a crowd of well-dressed twenty-somethings began to gather on the lawn. For—you guessed it—a wedding rehearsal. The wedding coordinator called out the names of the bride and groom and they were the same names as two of my characters who will, in a future sequel, get married. I literally began crying right then and there. I took it as a sign. This book was my destiny.