I love books set in the ‘40s-60s. I prefer Hollywood for the setting, but I’m not too picky. I just love stories set in that era. I lucked out with Brooke Lea Foster’s debut novel, Summer Darlings. It takes place during the summer of ’62 on Martha’s Vineyard. Summer Darlings offers a peek into the lifestyles of the wealthy who summer on the island through the eyes of one wealthy family’s babysitter, Heddy.
Heddy has certain goals for herself and for the summer – mainly to figure out how to pay for college in the fall and how to incorporate herself into this glamorous world by finding a husband. But we all know how the old saying goes about the best laid plans. Heddy soon finds herself thrust into a world of wealth, privilege, movie stars, gossip, love, lust, backstabbing, and scandal.
I was drawn into this story right away. I enjoyed discovering the island with Heddy and getting caught up in her new life. Even though Heddy is “the help,” she still gets to enjoy many of the luxuries of her wealthy employers, like a private beach for her morning swims, driving their fancy cars, and mixing and mingling with their wealthy and famous neighbors. She also becomes good friends with Ruth, her employer’s housekeeper.
Heddy is from humble circumstances. She attends Wellesley, but has recently lost her scholarship and is desperate to earn enough money to pay for her fall semester. She’s also desperate to learn how to get a “good” (i.e. successful) man to marry her. She longs for the happy, financially secure family life she never had – the husband, the house, and two adorable children. But I think she also longs for a relationship with a man/ father figure since her own father rejected her and her mother. In addition to her matrimonial aspirations, Heddy also wants to be a writer – pretty unheard of for women back then. Enter Gigi McCabe.
Gigi McCabe is a Hollywood movie star and an old frenemy of Heddy’s employer, Jean-Rose. Whether it’s out of the goodness of her heart or just to irritate Jean-Rose, Gigi decides to take Heddy under her wing. I loved Gigi’s character! She added the perfect amount of underlying tension to the existing gossip and scandals of the island. By the end of the summer, Heddy has learned a lot about herself, the “glamorous” lifestyles of the wealthy, and life. I can’t say more without giving away any spoilers.
But I will say this – I really loved this book. I honestly thought it would be really cliché at first with a lot of rich people gossiping and having affairs. But it surprisingly had a lot of depth to it. The characters were really well-developed, and I found myself excited to keep reading. There is a little bit of everything in this book – family drama, relationship drama, love, lust, mystery, and scandal. I loved it! I think this would be a great summer read or a good book club pick!
Summer Darlings is set to release on June 1st!