Romance, murder, mystery, history…all happy endings – books fun and fast to read or listen to, but I will soon forget them – unless I write them down. So here they are:
Beatriz Williams’ Summer Wives has all these ingredients as she follows a wealthy family with influence on Long Island. I found myself rereading the first few chapters to identify the characters as they aged – the story jumps a few decades back and forth, and the ending had me do a double take, but it is a happy one, despite all the waves crashing and beautiful people with issues.
The characters and setting reminded me of Julia Roberts’ early film, “Mystic Pizza” – the island has the wealthy 1 percent summer crowd, but the hard working year-round residents, mostly Portuguese Americans, catch the lobsters, work in the country club, and keep the lighthouse glowing. The summer of 1951 ends in death and the conviction of the island hottie, lobsterman Joseph Vargas. When Miranda returns home after 18 years away, with Joseph escaped from prison, the plot reveals a motive for his confession, with twists and turns keeping you guessing until the end.
All We Ever Wanted
Emily Griffin’s All We Ever Wanted has the lies and scandal of a Lianne Moriarty novel (as in Big Little Lies). The picture of a teenage girl’s backside gone viral is the catalyst for opposing reactions from families and community. The ending here is also a little hard to believe – but it is happy. Need to know more? click here
This light romance has a “Room With A View” vibe, with young British Grace meeting her lover, David, for weekend trysts in Paris, but Anstey Harris’ Goodbye, Paris has more about music and betrayal than Paris. An immediate crisis is created when David rescues a pregnant woman who has fallen onto the subway train tracks; he suddenly becomes a reluctant hero. Pictures of him and Grace immediately go viral, but, oh dear, Grace is not his wife.
Although Grace was a promising cellist, her confrontation with her slimy professor left her broken, so now she makes and repairs string instruments – violins, cellos – and sells them in her little music shop, waiting for her married lover to leave his wife and children. David is clearly a smooth talker who will never leave his wife, and, at times, I wanted to smack Grace out of her dazed stupor, but, as I listened on Audible, I hoped for the catharsis that eventually happens. Grace finally finds the courage to resist David’s charms and play her cello again. Lots of romance with a plot worthy of A.J. Fikry.
The Home for Unwanted Girls
Joanna Goodman’s story reminded me of Lisa Wingate’s “Before We Were Yours,” but this time the historical note addresses the Duplessis Orphan Scandal in Canada, with over 20,000 orphans who were falsely labeled as mentally ill when their orphanages were turned into psychiatric hospitals by the Canadian government in the 1950s. Most of these children – who were not mentally ill – were left in the care of the nuns by unwed mothers. The Catholic Church profited by the increase in government subsidies with the order for their “change of vocation” from orphanages into insane asylums – the government paid only $0.75/day for orphans, but $2.35/day for those who were mentally ill.
Goodman creates a fictional story about a fifteen year old girl forced to give up her newborn daughter by her parents. By the time Elodie is five years old, the orphanage has changed to an insane asylum and she is forced into menial labor and caretaker duties for the older insane patients. Challenges to the nuns’ iron-fisted discipline result in horrible torture, isolation, lobotomies – reflecting the reality of those institutions. Life is hell for these children.
The story has the mother Maggie searching for her daughter, and includes romance and intrigue to counter the misery of the historical context. It still always amazes me how this happened not so long ago.