by Nicola Harrison
The temperatures are getting warmer and many will soon be heading to the beach. Here are some books to take with you on vacation. And as a bonus, one of them is on sale now on Amazon for $1.99. How can you resist!
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Hazel Francis leaves her hometown of Witchita, Kansas after her fiancee enliststs in WWII. Her parents have both died and she doesnit have any reason to stay in Witchita and she doesn’t really want to be engaged. When she hears that they are hiring women in the airplane factory to replace the men who have gone off to war, Hazel heads to sunny California to help with the war effort. She gets hired and loves her job as a riveter working on airplanes. However, when the men return from war, the women are out of work because their jobs are given back to the men. She is told to go home, get married and have babies but Hazel isn’t interested in that right now.
With her meager savings she heads to Laguna Beach to look for work. She is befriended by Jimmy, a bartende at the Laguna Beach Hotel, who lets her sleep in the bar until she can find a place to stay. She is hired by Hanson Radcliff, a famous Laguna Beach artist to be his model and assistant. Hanson has deep roots in the artist’s community in Laguna Beach but he is difficult, moody and crabby. He gives Hazel a small place to stay while she works for him as long as she also helps out in the art gallery. Hazel is determined to make the best of his cantankerou nature and keep her job because she loves the ocean and the town and is welcomed into this artistic community. She begins to feel like she has found a permanent home at last. However, she begins to hear rumors about Hanson being involved in a famous movie star’s death. No one wants to talk about it because he is such a benefactor to the community. Hanson apparently painted a portrait of her that has disappeared and would be worth a fortune if it can be found. Hazel is determined to uncover the mystery of the painting and Hanson’s involvement with the movie star. He surely isn’t a killer, is he?
I really enjoyed Hotel Laguna, the setting and the artistic community. Hazel is a strong independent, feisty young woman and the other characters are well defined, too. If you like historical fiction with a touch of romance, a bit of a mystery and a beautiful artistic beach setting , you will like Hotel Laguna. This was the first book I have read by Nicola H.arrison and I look forward to reading some of her earlier works. Thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for the advanced reading copy. Look for it on June 20th!
You can pre-order or purchase Hotel Laguna from this link link.
The Beach at Summerly
by Beatriz Williams
Emilia (Cricket) Winthrop grew up on Winthrop Island. Her family once owned the island but now they work for the Peabody’s who own the big house, Summerly. The Peabody and Winthrop children grew up together playing in the sand, surf and and were best friends. Now it is 1946, WWII has ended and Winthrop Island is trying to get back to normal after the loss of so many during the war.
When Olive Rainsford comes with her children that summer to stay in the guest house of the Peabody estate, she takes Cricket under her wing. Olive is related to the Peabodys and she convinces Cricket that there is more to life than living with her family on Winthrop Island. Olive is a free spirit and rumors begin to circulate about her and her past. Emilia is taken with Olive because while she was caring for her invalid mother on Winthrop Island, Olive was traveling around the world, marrying interesting men and getting involved in political causes.
The story shifts to 1954 where Emilia’s has rebuilt her life as a professor at Wellesley, but she is damaged. When she receives word that Summerly will be reopened after being boarded up for many years and then another shocking event occurs, the reader is pulled into the story of what happened that fateful summer of 1946 on Winthrop island that changed everything for the Peabody and Winthrop families.
The author did a greatjob with the sense of place. I could almost smell the salt water, imagine the children swimming, sailing and causing mischief on the island. I was sometimes confused with the timeline but once I got into the story, I was able to keep things straight.
The Beach at Summerly has a little bit for everyone, family secrets, romance, espionage and a gorgeous setting. I enjoyed it.
Thanks to William Morrow and NetGalley for the Advanced Reading copy.
You can purchase the Beach at Summerly here
The Sunshine Girls
by Molly Fader
In 1967 Iowa, farm girl BettyKay enters nursing school over the objections of her parents. There she meets Kitty, her new roommate, that she seems to have nothing in common with. BettyKay is very dedicated to her studies while Kitty seems to just want to break the rules. She likes to sew and is escaping her unhappy home for nursing school until she can head to Hollywood and be a costume designer to the stars. They meet Jenny who really wants to be a doctor but pursues nursing so that she can enter the Vietnam War as a nurse. She is hoping that by doing this she will be able to help keep her brother from being drafted. The girls become fast friends and form a bond that will last their entire lives.
In present day, Clara and Abbie Beecher reunite for their mother’s funeral. BettyKay had always been a good mother but when she makes a deathbed confession, the girls are thrown into turmoil. Things get worse when a famous movie star, Kitty Devereaux, show up at the funeral claiming to be a good friend of their mother. Why have the girls never known or heard about Kitty when they knew Jenny, their mother’s other friend from nursing school?
Over a long weekend the sisters, who are dealing with their own issues, try to bring back the closeness they had as children as they try to unravel the mysteries in their mother’s life with unexpected consequences.
From 1960’s Iowa to Hollywood in the 1970’s to the Vietnam War and the present, The Sunshine Girls is an engaging novel about strong women, family secrets and the power of female friendships. The author’s note at the end reveals that something that happens in the book was taken from her own mother’s life. This engaging novel kept me turning the pages and I love the cover of the book!
The Sunshine Girls will be published on December6, 2022. Thanks to NetGalley and Harlequin .Trade Publishing for the advanced reading copy.
The Sunshine girls can be purchased from this here is currently on sale for $2.99. I hope you enjoy it!.
On Gin Lane
by Brooke Lea Foster
I read Summer Darlings by Brooke Lea Foster and liked it so when I saw this new book set in 1957 and read a description of it, I knew that I had to read it. A big thanks to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for the advanced reading copy of it for my honest review.
Everleigh (Lee) Farrows grew up with her wealthy parents in the Plaza Hotel in New York City. Her mother has struggled with mental health issues her whole life and Lee’s childhood was often lonely. Her parents want her to marry a wealthy man, settle down and have children but after a failed engagement, Lee is in a bit of a bind. Her ex has been spreading rumors about her and her mother’s mental illness has cast a shadow over her life. The eligible young men in her social circle aren’t interested in her now. When she meets handsome, wealthy Roland Whittaker, everything changes. After a whirlwind romance they become engaged and her parents buy them a house. After years of living in a hotel, Lee can’t wait to marry Roland, move into their new house and start their new life together,
However, in June Roland takes her to Southampton for a surprise. He is building a giant waterfront hotel on prestigious Gin Lane and is naming it the Everleigh Hotel after her. Roland thinks that she will be thrilled to spend her days drinking cocktails by the pool and socializing with her wealthy, snobbish friends from Manhattan. She is less than thrilled but decides to go along with Roland’s hotel for the summer and then they can move into their new house.
When the opening of the hotel is a disaster and things start to go wrong, Lee begins to see some things about Roland that she has never noticed. She can’t afford to be a social outcast with another failed engagement and she won’t get her inheritance until she marries so what can she do? As her relationship with Roland continues to deteriorate, Lee begins to discover her own voice and what she really wants to do with her life.
On Gin Lane was an enjoyable read and the setting in Southampton pulled me right into the story. If you enjoy historical fiction set in the 1950’s with a bit of a mystery, you should like On Gin Lane as much as I did.
On Gin Lane is currently on sale for $1.99 and you can order it from this link. I hope you enjoy it.
by Jane Green
I had never read any books written by Jane Green but when I read a description of Sister Stardust about a young girl from a small British town who meets and parties in Marrakish with Talitha and John Getty, rock stars, actors and fashion designers in the Swinging 60’s, I knew that I had to read it!
At the beginning of this book Claire is going through some boxes in the attic with her daughter, Tally. When Tally sees the beautiful Morrocon things in one of the boxes and letters from someone signed T, she wonders how her boring mum acquired them. Claire decides to tell her daughter about her anything but boring time in Marakesh during the swinging 60’s. Her story is then told in a flashback.
In 1966 Claire lives in the small English town of Dorset. She yearns for more excitement and after a disagreement with her cold stepmother, Claire heads to London. Her life in London, working in a department store, isn’t quite what she expected but she does start to get involved in the London nightlife. After she loses her job she is afraid that she will have to move back home. However things change when, through a series of fortuitous events, she finds herself flying to Morocco to stay at the home of Talitha and John Paul Getty Jr. in Marrakesh. Here she falls completely under the spell of Talitha, Marrakesh and the musicians, actors and celebraties that are frequently camped out at the Getty’s Palace.
At first Claire is enthralled with the opulence of the home, the sights and smells of Marrakesh, all of the famous people she meets at their palace and the sex and drugs. Talitha takes Claire under her wing and they become friends. As she gets closer to Talitha Claire begins to feel very protective of her. Claire is right to feel protective of Talitha because beneath the beauty, glamour, opulence and hedonistic bohemian lifestyle is a troubled young woman.
This historical fiction novel based on real people is a page turner. Sister Stardust has a strong sense of place and the reader is brought into the sights, smells and marvels of Marrakesh and the Pop Culture scene of the 1960’s. There is name dropping of famous rock starts, a lot of sex and drugs but also a story of female friendship and that of a vibrant young woman whose star burned too brightly to ever stay lit.
I knew the Getty name but didn’t know much about Talitha or other members of the Getty family so reading this book led me to do some research. Jane Green has an extensive bibliography at the back of the book, too. There is even a fun Sister Stardust playlist that someon put on Spotify with songs by various rock groups with music popular at the time.
There is also some information about Talitha and Sister Stardust fron Jane Green’s website: https://www.janegreen.com/blog/
Sister Stardust will be published on April 5, 2022. Thanks to Harlequin Trade Publishing and NetGalley for an advanced reading copy of Sister Stardust for an honest review.
You can purchase Sister Stardust from this link and I hope you enjoy it.