Thursday, July 13, 2023

Book Review: The Beach at Summerly by Beatriz Williams

Pages: 368
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: June 27, 2023
Publisher: William Morrow
Source: Personal Copy
Other Books By Author: Our Woman in Moscow, A Certain Age 
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "New York Times bestseller Beatriz Williams returns with a ravishing summer read, taking readers back to a mid-century New England rich with secrets and Cold War intrigue. June 1946. As the residents of Winthrop Island prepare for the first summer season after the sacrifice of war, a glamorous new figure moves into the guest cottage at Summerly, the idyllic seaside estate of the wealthy Peabody family. To Emilia Winthrop, daughter of Summerly’s year-round caretaker and a descendant of the island’s settlers, Olive Rainsford opens a window into a world of shining possibility. While Emilia spent the war years caring for her incapacitated mother, Olive traveled the world, married fascinating men, and involved herself in political causes. She’s also the beloved aunt of the two surviving Peabody sons, Amory and Shep, with whom Emilia has a tangled romantic history. As the summer wears on, Emilia develops a deep rapport with Olive, who urges her to leave the island for a life of adventure, while romance blossoms with the sturdy and honorable Shep. But the heady promise of Peabody patronage is blown apart by the arrival of Sumner Fox, an FBI agent who demands Emilia’s help to capture a Soviet agent who’s transmitting vital intelligence on the West’s atomic weapon program from somewhere inside the Summerly estate. April 1954. Eight years later, Summerly is boarded up and Emilia has rebuilt her shattered life as a professor at Wellesley College, when shocking news arrives from Washington—the traitor she helped convict is about to be swapped for an American spy imprisoned in the Soviet Union, but with a mysterious condition only Emilia can fulfill. A reluctant Emilia is summoned to CIA headquarters, where she’s forced to confront the harrowing consequences of her actions that fateful summer, and a choice that could destroy the Peabody family—and Emilia’s chance for redemption—all over again."

Emilia Winthrop lives on a New England island named Winthrop Island, after her ancestors; however, instead of being a wealthy islander, her family has sold all their land and now helps the seasonal beach-going families that return to their beautiful homes every summer. Emilia, commonly known as Cricket, lives on the Peabody's land as her father is the caretaker of their house. She has grown up with the Peabody sons, Amory and Shep. Shep has always been her best friend, adventure buddy, and more. As they got older, the war began, and both boys returned home with new perspectives. On the other hand, Cricket never left the island to go to college, because her mother had a stroke and due to this, she has to hang around to help her family. The summer of '46 starts like any summer, but it's post-war and everyone is ready to celebrate. Shep came home a hero and Amory is ready to settle down. Then there's the return of Aunt Olive, Shep and Amory's aunt, who is worldly, fabulous, and has spent a ton of time in Europe. She returns to the island with her three children, but there are so many rumors swirling around about her return. She has taken a liking to Cricket though and has encouraged her to leave the island, go to college, and start her life. To complicate matters further, there's the entrance of Sumner Fox on the island and the information he digs up will change their lives forever. The Beach at Summerly by Beatriz Williams is a fantastic historical beach read filled with summer romance, a gorgeous coastal setting, lots of beach town politics, and even espionage.


Cricket is a delightful character in The Beach at Summerly. She's smart, unconventional, and spunky, which is everything I could want in a protagonist. Her relationship with the Peabodys is more than just someone who lives on their land; in fact, she is very close with both Peabody brothers and are like family despite the differences in background. Cricket always watched Amory from afar and Shep was her best friend, but as she got older and Shep returned from the war, she started to have feelings for him. Could their different backgrounds deter a future together though? Cricket can't even get off the island and attend school even though she is extremely smart, because someone has to take care of her mom. That is until the summer of '46, then things start to change. 


The arrival of Shep and Amory's Aunt Olive on the island is when things start to change for Cricket in The Beach at Summerly. Olive challenges her to do more and be more. Olive has lived such a big life, which raise many suspicions, especially her time in Europe and her ties to the Soviet Union. Then enter Sumner Fox, who is there to write a book, but is he? Cue all the drama! There's espionage, Cold War intrigue, and more. Cricket finds herself in the middle of it all.

Williams creates such atmosphere in her novels and does a wonderful job bringing The Beach at Summerly to life. I felt like I was living on a remote New England island in post-war America. The cocktail parties, the family secrets, the gorgeous beaches, and the island life politics definitely kept me flipping the pages. So, let me know if The Beach at Summerly is on your TBR list this summer. It would make for a great addition to your beach bag, especially for those who love historical reads.



  1. This one is definitely on my TBR. I love the way she creates such immersive settings and her female protagonists are often lively and spunky and ahead of their time!

    1. Yes! I love that, too. I especially liked this setting. Thanks for visiting, Angela!


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