It’s obviously not summer yet according to the thermometer and the (lack of) sun these days, and even by the calendar it’s not going to be summer until late June, BUT in the world of books, summer reading starts much earlier than actual summer. Which makes perfect sense, really: when do you really want to read about beaches and vacations? When you’re actually at the shore or actually taking a vacation, or before that, when you still have time to dream about those things and long for them? I don’t know about you, but I’m in the “read vacation books BEFORE vacation” group. Fortunately for me, and for people in this category, The Field Library has a collection of summer reads already, in late May, for your reading and dreaming pleasure.
Mary Kay Andrews is well known to people who want a good beach read, or a good pre-beach read. Her latest, The High Tide Club, gives us everything we want in a summer read: a gorgeous location (the barrier islands of South Carolina), family intrigue, characters coming together to either discover their relationships or rediscover them, and intrigue as well. Brooke Trapnell is an attorney who’s very surprised to be summoned to the crumbling pink mansion, Shellhaven, of rich and incredibly eccentric 99 year old Josephine Bettendorf Warrick. It’s not that she doesn’t know of Josephine by reputation, but she has no idea why Josephine would summon her for legal work when they’ve never met before and Josephine already has a high powered Atlanta law firm doing all her legal business. Josephine tells her a story of old friendships, betrayals, and a long unsolved murder. She wants Brooke to bring together the heirs of her old friends, the members of the High Tide Club (a name they chose after some skinny dipping escapades) so that she can make amends to them, and unite these disparate strangers for the first time. But while Brooke is willing to do this, she’s also inadvertently digging up some old secrets which just might make someone incredibly rich, or the victim of a murderer.
Another of the great beach read writers is Mary Alice Monroe, especially with her Beach House series, set in the Isle of Palms off the coast of South Carolina. The newest book in the series is Beach House Reunion. This is not a series where you have to read all the books in order (though it helps ground you with the characters if you do); you can start with this one and then go back and see what happened to these people in this place before the events of this book. Doesn’t everybody need a place to go where their friends and family are around to support you, listen to you and give you advice when you need it, a safe haven that’s in a beautiful location to boot? For Cara Rutledge, still grieving for her dead husband and now taking on the responsibility of a new adopted baby, the Isle of Palms is the perfect place to return to, a place where her late mother’s influence is still everywhere and where her friends and family remain, a place she can start over. For her niece, Linnea, who recently graduated college but hasn’t found a real job yet, it’s a place where she can work as a nanny for Cara’s baby, Hope, while she gets her bearings and decides what she really wants to do with her life. It’s a home, it’s the shore, it’s a place to move forward and try new things in the comfort of old friends and old memories.
And if you’d like some beach atmosphere a little closer to home, there’s Judy Blundell’s The High Season, set in the Hamptons on our own Long Island. Ruthie Beamish has her house in a quiet Long Island town, and she intends to keep it, despite her divorce from her husband. It’s her nest egg, her retirement savings, her daughter, Jem’s, college fund. The problem is that she has to rent it out every summer in order to afford to stay there the rest of the year. So on Memorial Day, she and her daughter move out so that Adeline Clay, this summer’s renter, can move in with her gorgeous stepson. But this summer turns out to be different from the usual: Adeline starts trying to take over Ruthie’s life, her friends, her home, her ex-husband, and even making trouble for Ruthie at her job, at which point Ruthie has to start fighting back. The same summer, Jem is beginning to spread her wings with an independent job, but she’s also getting in over her head. Add social climbers, Ruthie’s former lover, mysterious millionaires and all the intrigues of a summer at the Hamptons, and you have the ingredients for a summer that will leave no one unchanged.