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Posts Tagged ‘Nantucket’

beachtownSun, sand, salt air. All of Mary Kay Andrews’ beach-worthy novels — from Savannah Blues to Summer Rental — have a sure sense of place. But setting is absolutely essential in Beach Town (St. Martin’s Press, advance review copy) because location scout/manager Greer Hennessey needs a picture-perfect coastal hideaway for a bullying Hollywood director’s next big film. No planned communities or condo high-rises need apply, which pretty much rules out Florida’s panhandle. Then Greer finds Cypress Key, the beach town time forgot after the toxic paper plant left town. It has the requisite beach and palm trees, as well as a shabby fishing pier, an aging motel and crumbling casino/dance hall. Greer figures the locals will love having a movie crew in town, but she hasn’t counted on Cypress Key’s mayor and jack-of-all trades Eben Thibadeaux, who wants to revitalize his hometown without exploiting it.

The sparks between Greer and Eben and the ensuing fireworks when the production hits town could be entertainment enough, but Andrews turns Beach Town into a summer blockbuster with a colorful supporting cast and complications galore. Greer’s long-estranged dad, a former Hollywood stunt driver, now lives in Florida. Eben’s rebellious teenage niece is enamored with movies and with this film’s star, a spoiled bad-boy rapper right out of rehab. A local heiress could be friend or foe, depending on how much money is involved. Add in paparazzi, palmetto bugs and portable potties, and you’ve got a hot mess that Andrews sorts out with her usual flair. Beach Town is a whole lot of fun with a side of serious. Bring it on.

summersendSeeing that Mary Alice Monroe’s The Summer’s End (Gallery, digital galley) is the concluding volume of her Lowcountry Summer trilogy about three half-sisters, a little catching up is in order.  In the first book, The Summer Girls, middle sister Carson returned to her grandmother’s home on Sullivan’s Island, S.C., and confronted her wild-child ways and drinking problem. In the second, The Summer Wind, older sister Dora needed the family as she coped with divorce and her autistic son. But both her grandmother, Mamaw, and housekeeper Lucille were keeping life-changing secrets revealed at book’s end.

Now in the third entry, younger sister Harper moves to the forefront as she tries to write a novel and separate herself from her controlling mother. A former Marine with PTSD  captures her heart, but the fate of the family home, Sea Breeze, hangs in the balance and all three sisters face decisions about their respective futures. Monroe’s environmental subplots about wild dolphins, a depressed shrimping industry and the threat posed by development give the books substance, but her characters give them heart. The verbal duel between feisty Mamaw and Harper’s snobbish English grandmother is an entertaining battle between two strong women who want the same thing — family happiness.

guestcottageSophie Anderson and Trevor Black meet cute in Nancy Thayer’s The Guest Cottage (Ballantine, digital galley) when both single parents accidentally rent the same beach house on picturesque Nantucket Island. Still, what follows is as much about family as romance. Sensible Sophie, blindsided by her architect husband’s request for divorce so he can marry a younger colleague, is more worried about her kids — Lacey, 10, and Jonah, 15 — than the demise of her marriage. She isn’t looking for a fling with a younger man like Trevor, the widower father of 3-year-old Leo, who misses his actress mom. It’s really for the kids’ sake that Sophie and Trevor decide to share the conveniently large cottage, and after some initial missteps, the arrangement proves comfortable and comforting. As for the grown-ups’ mutual attraction, it’s tested by romantic opportunities with other interesting parties and some thoughtless behavior. Sure, it’s all as predictable as the tides and light as a beach ball, but hey, it is summer.

 

 

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summergirlsIn Philadelphia, lawyer Kate is jilted the same day she discovers she is pregnant. In New York, former art dealer Vanessa is looking after her toddler daughter but dreaming of an old flame. And in San Francisco, aspiring writer Dani has lost yet another job and is struggling with her novel — “a story about a group of childhood friends at the beach, the death of a charming but reckless twenty-one year old boy, and a narrator plagued by secrets.” Mmm. Dani’s book sounds an awful lot like Meg Donohue’s entertaining All the Summer Girls (Morrow, digital galley), in which Kate, Vanessa and Dani reunite at Avalon Beach, N.J., their old haunt from high school and college years. Eight years ago, they spent the last carefree summer before college graduation on the Jersey shore, and it was wonderful “right up until the day it wasn’t,” when Kate’s twin brother Colin died. Unbeknownst to each other, they all have secrets involving Colin.

Donohue unpacks the trio’s considerable emotional baggage in present tense, rotating perspectives among the three friends. Each emerges as a strong individual with quirks and flaws that both irritate and endear them to one another. For example, “Kate is a Kate is a Kate,” the others say of her bad driving and good-girl ways. Vanessa’s beauty masks insecurites. Dani’s a romantic rolling stone with addiction issues. Still, friends take care of friends, and men are on the side, as Donohue’s novel mixes the grit of beach sand with the warmth of the summer sun. Vacation reading par excellence.

timefliesSo, too, is Claire Cook’s Time Flies (Touchstone, digital galley), which is as easy-breezy as its title implies (and cover depicts). Melanie is an Atlanta metal sculptor who creates works of art out of found industrial or household objects. Her latest project involves cutting up her marital bed after longtime hubby Kurt leaves her for another woman.

Still, other challenges await — Melanie’s best friend BJ has convinced her to attend their high school reunion in New England. Single-nester Melanie is more than a little wary. Road trips are bumpy when you have a highway driving-phobia, and reunions are downright dangerous when you don’t really remember the guy sending you flirty e-mails.

Cook handles familiar themes of mid-life crisis and memory lane with her typical wit and flair, and Melanie is another of her bright, sassy heroines. Merrily we read along, and the pages fly by. Woot!

islandgirlsThe three sisters in Nancy Thayer’s satisfying Island Girls (Ballantine, digital galley) have different mothers, but each calls charming Rory Randall her father. When he dies of a sudden heart attack, a codicil in his will insists his daughters spend the summer together in his Nantucket house before selling it and  splitting the proceeds.

Arden, a Boston TV host, arrives with a chip on her shoulder dating back to her teenage years and her exile from Nantucket at the hands of Rory’s third wife, whose daughter Jenny is already in residence with all her computer equipment. Middle sister Meg, a community college professor, wants the quaint back bedroom with the desk so she can finish her biography of Louisa May Alcott’s younger sister. The bickering begins immediately before a tentative truce is declared. Arden becomes swept up in a round of island parties, well aware of the presence of her TV station’s owner. Jenny, having recently broken up with her boyfriend, is forced to work on an IT project with his best friend and her arch enemy. Meanwhile, frumpy Meg makes a mess of her relationship with a colleague back in Boston. Heaven forbid they take advice from one another, but they do agree to a council of war with their respective mothers when Rory’s past unexpectedly arrives. Oh, goody, fireworks! Plus tears and laughter. Rory Randall would approve. I sure do.

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