Cottage by the Sea was inspired by the landslide in Oso, WA. Annie Marlow was a physician's assistant in California. Her mother desperately wanted her to come home to Seattle to celebrate Thanksgiving with her family. Her brother and sister-in-law and their baby Bella would be there.
Annie, however, had plans to celebrate the holiday with her cousin Grace and intended to go home for Christmas instead. Early Thanksgiving morning, a landslide sent dozens of homes into Puget Sound including her parents'. Annie was overwhelmed by survivor's guilt and grief. Her cousin Grace encouraged her to go to her happy place which Annie realized was Oceanside.
Cottage by the Sea is better than most of Debbie Macomber's recent efforts. My sense is that she likely tapped into her own grief caused by her son's suicide a few years ago. She writes with considerable empathy for everyone but women experiencing domestic violence. She clearly has no clue that sometimes it is safer to stay than to leave.