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The Summer Wives

Review

The Summer Wives

In late spring 1969, well-known actress Miranda Schuyler is on the run. She has left behind a troubled marriage to her troubled film director husband in London after her life and career quite literally crashes and burns. The only place she can conceivably go undetected by the press is Winthrop Island, to the family home she left years ago.

Miranda first sets foot on the island in 1951, when her widowed mother is about to marry Hugh Fisher, the patriarch of the Fisher family. She quickly learns that this island is divided by the wealthy summer occupants who live in mansions dotting the Cliffside, with the other half consisting of the hardworking Portuguese fishermen, store clerks and their families. Normally the two sides don’t mix socially, but in this historic summer, they do --- and the results are explosive.

When she first comes to Winthrop Island, Miranda isn’t a famous actress. She is just an 18-year-old girl about to meet her mother’s new family. After losing her father at sea during World War II, it has been just her and her mother. But since her mother met the enviable, recently divorced Hugh, things start to change. The two are going to marry, and not only will Miranda have a stepfather, she is gaining a stepsister in the bargain.

"...a perfect beach read for those long summer days that will transport the reader to the capricious and stunning Winthrop Island... Fans of Elin Hilderbrand, J. Courtney Sullivan and Fiona Davis will devour THE SUMMER WIVES..."

Isobel Fisher seems, at least to Miranda, glamorous and worldly. She knows and appreciates the privilege from which she comes: “Money’s such a lovely thing to have. I don’t know what I’d do without it. Work or something, I guess.” She yawns. “I’m just like Daddy, no good for anything except decoration and conversation. And dancing. I’m a terrific dancer.” Miranda is immediately transfixed. But Isobel is far from satisfied with the island’s status quo: “Nobody ever says what they really mean. There is this vast fabric of tender little lies, and all the important things are unspoken. Boiling there underneath. We only bother to tell the truth when it’s too small to count.”

However, it isn’t only Isobel who catches Miranda’s attention. On the morning of her mother’s wedding, while looking out the window of Greyfriars, the palatial Fisher home, she notices that an older lobsterman has fallen overboard. Within seconds, a younger lobsterman leaps to pull the elder out of the surf and onto the rocks in front of their home, saving his life. This is Miranda’s introduction to the handsome Joseph Vargas, a young islander and fisherman whose family operates the local lighthouse. From then on, she is mesmerized by the hardworking local, but soon learns the insurmountable chasm between the moneyed summer folk and the industrious locals. And in that fateful summer, she also learns the other secrets that will keep the Fisher and Vargas families on opposite ends of the island, with one of those secrets leading to murder.

Beatriz Williams is back with another in her Schuyler Sisters series (although they feature some crossover or related characters, each novel can stand on their own), a perfect beach read for those long summer days that will transport the reader to the capricious and stunning Winthrop Island, loosely based on the very real Fisher’s Island, off the coast of Connecticut, where it will take more than the local lighthouse to avoid its rocky shores. The intertwined stories of Miranda; Isobel; Isobel’s sometime paramour, Clay; Joseph Vargas; and Miranda’s half-brother, Hugh Jr., provide a sort of post-war BIG LITTLE LIES.

Isobel knows precisely the difference between her family and the rest of the islanders, and the price people are willing to pay to be part of their exclusive set: “When you have money and prestige --- especially prestige --- you think you deserve it, somehow, and everybody else is just --- ordinary. Nobody else matters. Why do you think Daddy married Abigail? To be one of them, to be part of their little club…”

Fans of Elin Hilderbrand, J. Courtney Sullivan and Fiona Davis will devour THE SUMMER WIVES, and will certainly want to join Beatriz Williams’ fan club.

Reviewed by on July 12, 2018

The Summer Wives
by Beatriz Williams