Set in the tiny fictional community of Waves, North Carolina in the Outer Banks, is Jenny Hale’s newest romantic novel, The Summer House. As someone who loves to align her reading with the current season, I was so excited to pick up this book which is filled with new beginnings, friendships, and romance, all taking place in a beautiful beach setting.
Like a paper and ink version of a chick-flick which is a tiny bit predictable but still gives you the butterflies and leaves you happy and hopeful, The Summer House did not disappoint. Here’s how the story goes…
When the beach cottage she admired as a little girl comes up for sale, Callie Weaver sees it as a sign for a new beginning. Together with her best friend Olivia Dixon, she takes the plunge, purchasing it with the mission to turn it into a quaint and restorative beach getaway for the thousands of tourists who make the Outer Banks their summer escape.
There is a lot to be done if they want to open on time, but Callie and Olivia are determined and motivated by past disappointments – a heartbreak for Callie, a divorce for Olivia – and ready to move on with their lives in this promising new direction. Keeping them company is Gladys, Olivia’s sweet grandmother who lives across the street, and Olivia’s 8-year-old son Wyatt who is trying to make the best of a summer which is turning out to be long on renovations and short on friends.
Together, the four of them nicely piece together all of life’s ups and downs. Wyatt, young, unburdened, and eager to make friendships; Callie and Olivia caught in a quarter-life crisis which many of us may relate to; and Gladys, whose age and life experiences provide the calm and wisdom to recognize the magic in little things. The relationship between Callie and Gladys, especially, is so sweet and tender; it took me right back to the memories of my own grandma and the comfort of her advice, embrace, and of course, food.
There might not seem to be any room for distractions with all the action going on, but a good romantic story is full of serendipitous encounters. It’s not long before Callie runs into the infamous Luke Sullivan, multimillionaire heir to the Sullivan fortune while picking up lunch from town one afternoon. Luke is trying to escape a reporter when he sees Callie and uses her as his scapegoat. Callie can hardly believe her eyes, and when he offers to buy her lunch as a thank-you, she happily accepts.
Like any of us who have fantasized about running into a celebrity, Callie comes home in disbelief, smitten after their lunch, which somehow turned into a promise for dinner. Olivia is thrilled with what’s going on, pulling out local magazines to read the buzz about Luke. Not that it helps Callie — the buzz shows a rich careless playboy who doesn’t quite resemble the sweet and funny Luke she met in person. Thus starts the tug and pull between what Callie thinks she needs right now – finish the cottage renovations, start a business – and what her heart keeps getting drawn too – handsome and charismatic Luke who is leaving no stone unturned in showing her that he truly cares.
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There is something else keeping Callie awake at night though, and it is the hand-written diary of the previous cottage owner – Alice McFarlin. The diary turns up during an attic clean-out and even though Callie doesn’t want to snoop, she reads a few of Alice’s entries which refer to Alice’s brother Frederick and another mysterious and unnamed person. When a second relic turns up during the demo – this time a small metal lockbox with the initials FM – Callie really can’t help but get involved in uncovering one of the biggest mysterious the town has ever encountered. And, don’t you know, it might just have something to do with her crush Luke Sullivan’s family.
The Summer House was definitely a page-turner for me. I liked it for its feel-good-romance, exciting twists, and even a scary hurricane thrown in there for good measure. Even more, I loved the way Hale incorporated the scenic Outer Banks into the story, including Corolla and it’s beautiful wild horses.
In my opinion, a good story makes you yell at the characters on the page once in a while. There were plenty of times when I wanted Callie to just stop being such a worrywart and let Luke sweep her off her feet. Or, when I wanted Olivia to stop being in denial about someone special entering her own life. Thankfully, Hale is on top of it — providing a romantic conclusion that nicely ties all the loose ends.
Overall, The Summer House was like snuggling on the couch and diving into one of your favorite romantic movies. It is light-hearted and funny, a heartwarming story that would be the perfect addition to any summer reading list.
Jenny Hale, a resident of Nashville, Tennessee is a USA Today bestselling author of romantic fiction. Her novels Coming Home for Christmas and Christmas Wishes and Mistletoe Kisses have been adapted for television on the Hallmark Channel.