books and reading · reviews

Book Review: Secrets in Summer by Nancy Thayer

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Darcy Cotterill is one of Nantucket’s year-round residents. A children’s librarian who inhabits her late grandmother’s large home, she likes her life the way it is: working hard, spending summer weekends at the beach with a good group of friends, and exploring a new relationship with a carpenter named Nash. She usually doesn’t meddle much in the lives of the renters who surround her house in the summer months. But then her ex-husband Boyz shows up with his new wife and 14-year-old stepdaughter, renting the house behind hers. And the other renters around her seem to pull her into their orbits as well. Before long, Darcy’s having a summer most unlike those of her past, and she’s got enough secrets to last her a lifetime.

Thayer is considered the queen of the beach read, and it’s easy to see why. Frothy, light, and full of lovely descriptions of the island, Thayer knows her niche. A colorful cast of characters round out a pretty basic plot, and the result is a sweet (if very forgettable) novel perfect for a summertime read.

By far the book’s best moments are when Darcy is forging inter-generational friendships with 14-year-old Willow and elderly neighbor Mimi, who reminds Darcy of her late grandmother. There’s also the overworked Susan, mom to three boys, who joins the group and bonds with them. The women’s scenes together are some of the book’s most natural ones, and they’re wholly enjoyable.

Less realistic are the romantic aspects of the book. There was something off about Darcy’s burgeoning relationship with Nash, and I could never quite put a finger on it. She’s supposed to be 30, and he’s got to be around the same age, but they act like they’re from another era, and the reinforced gender stereotypes were only part of the problem with the portrayal of their relationship. Darcy’s inability to speak up for her own needs rankled this reader, especially because it didn’t seem like an intentional characteristic of the book’s heroine. The two also didn’t interact in a realistic way, and that was distracting.

There are some characters who feel like easy targets to move the plot along, and that’s to be expected in a novel like this. The writing isn’t anything spectacular, but it goes down easy and is very likely to appeal to fans of Elin Hilderbrand. There’s a reason these books are called beach reads, and this one fits the mold perfectly.

Secrets in Summer by Nancy Thayer. Ballantine: 2017. Library copy.

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