Monday, June 29, 2020

Book Review: Summer Darlings by Beatrice Lea Foster

Pages: 368
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: May 5, 2020
Publisher: Gallery
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "Set during the splendid summer days of 1960s Martha’s Vineyard, this page-turning debut novel pulls back the curtain on one mysterious and wealthy family as seen through the eyes of their nanny—a college student who, while falling in love on the elegant island, is also forced to reckon with the dark underbelly of privilege.   In 1962, coed Heddy Winsome leaves her hardscrabble Irish Brooklyn neighborhood behind and ferries to glamorous Martha’s Vineyard to nanny for one of the wealthiest families on the island. But as she grows enamored with the alluring and seemingly perfect young couple and chases after their two mischievous children, Heddy discovers that her academic scholarship at Wellesley has been revoked, putting her entire future at risk.  Determined to find her place in the couple's wealthy social circles, Heddy nurtures a romance with the hip surfer down the beach while wondering if the better man for her might be a quiet, studious college boy instead. But no one she meets on the summer island—socialite, starlet, or housekeeper—is as picture-perfect as they seem, and she quickly learns that the right last name and a house in a tony zip-code may guarantee privilege, but that rarely equals happiness.  Rich with the sights and sounds of midcentury Martha’s Vineyard, Brooke Lea Foster’s debut novel Summer Darlings promises entrance to a rarefied world, for readers who enjoyed Tigers in Red Weather or The Summer Wives."

Heddy is nothing like the wealthy and glamorous family who employed her for the summer to watch their children.  It's 1962 and Heddy is from Brooklyn, so spending the summer on Martha's Vineyard sounds like absolute heaven.   At first glance Ted and Jean Rose look like the perfect couple, but as Heddy spends more time with them, she realizes their perfect facade is covered up a ton of cracks.  Their children, Teddy and Anna, have their own issues and if it wasn't for the housekeeper, Grace, Heddy would be on her own.  Thankfully, Gigi McCabe, Jean-Rose's former friend, takes Heddy under her wing and helps her to navigate the elite social circle of Martha's Vineyard. But Gigi isn't your usual woman; she is a movie star and is unconventional.  As the summer progresses, Heddy meets Sullivan, the educated guy she should probably date, and Ash, the bad boy surfer.  All the while, Heddy has to face the fact that she may not be returning to college next fall and she needs to get her ducks in a row, because without her scholarship, she can't afford the tuition.  The more time Heddy spends on the island, the more she realizes that secrets float just below the surface and nobody's life is picture perfect.  Summer Darlings by Beatrice Lea Foster is a fantastic historical debut with a Mad Men vibe and a great setting.

Heddy is an interesting character in Summer Darlings. I felt for her due to her circumstances and obviously the issue surrounding her college scholarship.  She is in a jam, but this summer doesn't make things any easier for her.  I didn't always agree with the choices she made, but either way, she was always entertaining.  Her love triangle between Sullivan and Ash was a bit too much at times, but then once that sub plot progresses, it will make a little more sense. Lastly, I appreciated her relationship with Gigi, the movie star. She was extremely entertaining and it was easy to imagine her as a cross between Elizabeth Taylor and Ava Gardner.

My only issue with Summer Darlings was the major turn the plot took. I thought that this was going to be a breezy historical beach read, but it definitely took a dark turn. I didn't see it coming and it went from having a Mad Men vibe to something like a film noir.  I had to suspend my disbelief a little towards the end, but nevertheless, it worked for me and overall, I enjoyed the ride.

Martha's Vineyard in the 1960s truly comes to life in Summer Darlings. I appreciated the glimpse into the fancy social circles. Ultimately, Heddy realizes that it doesn't matter how much money you have, you can't escape your problems. In fact, the problems of the wealthy may be way worse than Heddy thought, especially as Ted and Jean-Rose's complicated relationship starts to fizzle out.  If you like novels that take you to glamorous locations like 1960s Martha's Vineyard, look no further. 


  1. I have this one on my TBR, and now I'm really looking forward to it! You can't beat that setting for summer reading!

    1. Right? I loved the setting/time period. So perfect! I look forward to your thoughts on the book. Thanks for visiting, Angela!


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