REVIEW: THE ISLAND HOUSE, BY NANCY THAYER

 

Courtney Hendricks will never forget the magical summers she spent on Nantucket with her college roommate, Robin Vickerey, and Robin’s charismatic, turbulent, larger-than-life family, in their gorgeous island house. Now a college English professor in Kansas City, Courtney is determined to experience one more summer in this sun-swept paradise. Her reason for going is personal: Courtney needs to know whether Robin’s brother James shares the feelings she’s secretly had for him.

Time with the Vickerey family always involves love and laughter, and this season is no different.

Vivacious matriarch Susanna Vickerey is celebrating her sixtieth birthday, but beneath the merriment, trouble is brewing. The family patriarch, Dr. Alastair Vickerey, is quiet and detached, while unspoken tension looms over oldest son Henry, a respected young surgeon. Warm and witty Robin, the most grounded of the siblings, is keeping a secret from her parents. Iris, the colorful baby of the brood, remains rudderless and in need of guidance. And the sexy, stunningly handsome, untouchable James—to Courtney’s dismay—may be in love with a beautiful and vibrant local artist. As the summer unfolds, a crisis escalates, surprising truths are revealed, and Courtney will at last find out where her heart and her future lie.

My Thoughts: I savored The Island House, a story of family, secrets, and chaotic upheavals in a gorgeous setting.

I liked Courtney right away, and I was also intrigued by her best friend Robin. Some of the other characters were less delightful, like Christabel, who was not a family member, but an island resident who always seemed to be around, making sarcastic remarks and stirring up trouble, while trying to be the center of attention.

James was the perfect hunk who distanced himself a bit…probably due to family issues involving the older brother Henry.

What will Courtney realize about herself as this final summer brings out revelations that show us more about what choices she should make?

The story flips back and forth in time, offering the reader a view of the events that defined the characters. The shifts in the time line were easy to follow, as they were presented in bold and smaller print.

A slow read that brought this colorful family full of interesting characters to life, the story captured me, making me feel a part of their lives and experiences; it kept me reading, even at times when I wanted the pace to speed up and take me to the final denouement. A satisfying tale that earned 4 stars.

***

REVIEW: THE PERFECT COUPLE, BY ELIN HILDERBRAND

 

It’s Nantucket wedding season, also known as summer-the sight of a bride racing down Main Street is as common as the sun setting at Madaket Beach. The Otis-Winbury wedding promises to be an event to remember: the groom’s wealthy parents have spared no expense to host a lavish ceremony at their oceanfront estate.

But it’s going to be memorable for all the wrong reasons after tragedy strikes: a body is discovered in Nantucket Harbor just hours before the ceremony-and everyone in the wedding party is suddenly a suspect. As Chief of Police Ed Kapenash interviews the bride, the groom, the groom’s famous mystery-novelist mother, and even a member of his own family, he discovers that every wedding is a minefield-and no couple is perfect.

 

My Thoughts: Against the backdrop of the gorgeous fairytale setting of Nantucket, The Perfect Couple offers romantic moments and promises of happily-ever-after.

But for the wedding couple, the promises do not come off as planned. Slipping back and forth in time, we learn the secrets behind the facades of the wealthy Winbury family, and we only begin to see what Celeste Otis wants and needs as the wedding date approaches. Her true heart will be revealed as the clock ticks toward the exchange of vows. A tragedy then takes everyone off course, and in the midst of chaos, self-examination must take place.

What makes a happily-ever-after couple? Will Celeste’s dreams of perfection, based on what she sees between her parents, the original “perfect couple,” guide her toward her own true love? Or will the trappings of wealth and privilege owned by the Winbury family misdirect her, forcing a focus on security and comfort? How does a last-minute attraction push her off course? Will she acknowledge her true feelings before it is too late?

Solving the mystery of the body in the harbor keeps everyone a bit off balance for the duration. Meanwhile, the vision of a perfect couple, and what that looks like, haunts each of the characters. Taunting them, reminding them of what others have, and what somehow eludes them. In the end, answers come, but they seem sad and anticlimactic. 4.5 stars.***

REVIEW: SECRETS IN SUMMER, BY NANCY THAYER

 

Memorial Day weekend means that seasonal visitors have descended on the glamorous island of Nantucket. For year-round resident Darcy Cotterill, it means late-night stargazing in the backyard of the beautiful house she grew up in and inherited from her beloved grandmother. It’s also Darcy’s chance to hit the beach and meet her new summertime neighbors. But the last person the thirty-year-old librarian expects to see staying next door is her ex-husband, Boyz, along with his wife, Autumn, and stepdaughter, Willow.

Darcy must also navigate the highs and lows of a new romantic relationship with local carpenter Nash Forester even as she becomes smitten with handsome vacationer Clive Rush, a musicologist in town to write a book and visit family. And she finds herself pulled into the concerns of Boyz, Autumn, a charming elderly neighbor, and an at-risk teen.

As the season nears its end, Darcy must decide her next move: retreating to the comforts of her steady and secure island life, or risking it all for a chance at true happiness.


My Thoughts: Swept away by the author’s descriptions of the homes, gardens, people, summer events, and the magic of the island, I savored every page in Secrets in Summer. I felt an immediate connection to Darcy, whose grandmother Penny had raised her, having had a special relationship with my own grandmother. I could understand why she loved the home that had belonged to her, and where she grew up.

I could visualize the backyard gardens that were close together, separated only by hedges, which also lent themselves to unique connections. When Darcy found out that her ex-husband Boyz and his new wife were renting the house next door, I anticipated that there would be awkward moments. And there were, but what I didn’t expect was the relationship that would develop between Darcy and Boyz’s stepdaughter Willow.

In the rental house on the other side of Darcy’s were an elderly woman Mimi and her grandson Clive. Mimi was like a surrogate grandmother, but her vivid personality and her tendency to openly share her thoughts made her a more modern day version of Penny. All the new and old friends shared the delights of the season.

Themes of friendships, even those transitory summer connections, kept me interested throughout, as did the drama from Willow, who turned out to be a more likable teen than we usually see in fiction…or real life. Would Darcy find a permanent love connection with her lover, Nash, or might she choose someone new? A delightful story that made me long to visit Nantucket and find some summer friends that might even last through the seasons. 5 stars.

 ***

REVIEW: THE MATCHMAKER, BY ELIN HILDERBRAND

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Dabney Kimball Beech had lived on Nantucket her whole life. In her childhood, she lived there alone with her father, after her mother abruptly left one day under circumstances that would forever impact Dabney’s life. Some believed that Dabney’s agoraphobia, which kept her from leaving the island, could be traced back to that abandonment.

As the Director of the Nantucket Chamber of Commerce for the past 22 years, and as the wife of brilliant economist John Boxmiller Beech (Box), some might say she has it all. Additionally, she has a reputation as a “matchmaker,” since she can detect a rosy aura around those who are “meant to be.” She has never been wrong, and all the couples she has matched are still together…if they are alive.

But despite her marriage and her ability as a matchmaker, her own heart has belonged to her first love and the father of her daughter Agnes: Clendenin Hughes, a journalist who left for Southeast Asia on assignment before he learned of her pregnancy and has never been back.

Until now. An e-mail telling her of his imminent return throws her into a tailspin.

What will happen between them when they see each other again? And what about Agnes, who is returning to Nantucket for the summer? Can she handle connecting with the father she has never met? Will everything spin out of control now?

The Matchmaker: A Novel thoroughly engaged me, and as I immersed myself in this book, which was also narrated by individuals that had been “matched” by Dabney, I enjoyed seeing how their stories offered a unique perspective on Dabney’s gift.

I was rooting for Dabney and Clen, and also hoping that Agnes would break up with her controlling fiancé C.J. It was intriguing how much these characters’ lives mattered to me, and I couldn’t stop turning those pages. But as a dark tragedy loomed over them, I had to reach for the box of Kleenex while I kept hoping for a reprieve of some kind.

A beautiful story of love, loss, mistakes, and second chances, I wanted more time and more magic for these unforgettable characters. Definitely a five star read for me.