Over the past two weeks, this column has offered a sampling of new fiction and nonfiction titles to help you along the road to summertime reading.
Today we add the beach-read category to that library. The model is light fiction written mostly by female authors for female readers with elements of romance, risk, mystery and adventure, with plenty of family dynamics, problem-solving and hidden secrets to be revealed. They’re an amuse-bouche, ideal while relaxing by the ocean or the lake.
This sampling is arranged alphabetically by author. Publishing dates are noted for those not on sale now.
“The Weekenders” by Mary Kay Andrews (St. Martin’s, $28, 464 pages): Riley Griggs is on a resort island off the North Carolina coast, waiting for her husband to join her for a leisurely summer. Instead, she’s served with divorce papers. Turning to her girlfriends for support, she discovers some shocking secrets that simply must be investigated.
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“June” by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore (Crown, $26, 400 pages): The time-shifting format is used well in a tale about a tormented woman living in her late grandmother’s decrepit mansion who suddenly becomes the sole heir of a stranger – a one-time “matinee idol.” When his daughters come calling, looking for pieces of the inheritance, it’s time for Cassie to figure out what happened 25 years ago in a story of “murder, blackmail and betrayal.”
“Girl in the Shadows” by Gwenda Bond (Skyscape, $10, 380 pages; July 5): Moira loves magic, but her magician father – a Las Vegas mainstay – discourages her from pursuing it. She purloins an invitation to join Cirque American and arrives there with high hopes. One small problem: The other magicians’ illusions look shockingly like real magic.
“Enchanted August” by Brenda Bowen (Penguin, $16, 320 pages; July 5): Four women with very different backgrounds rent Hopewell Cottage on a Maine island for the month of August. They form unexpected friendships that lead to major life changes in good ways.
“Eight Hundred Grapes” by Laura Dave (Simon & Schuster, $15, 288 pages): When Georgia uncovers a devastating secret her fiancé has kept from her – a week before their wedding – she flees to the family vineyard in Sonoma for some comfort. But what’s this? Nothing seems recognizable and her parents and brothers are acting like strangers. It was named a Best Book of the Summer by Glamour, Cosmopolitan and Us Weekly.
“All Summer Long” by Dorothea Benton Frank (William Morrow, $27, 384 pages): This is another of Frank’s witty, character-driven novels set in the Low Country of South Carolina. Interior designer Olivia and her English professor husband Nicholas are preparing to move from the bustle of New York City to the Southern rhythms of Sullivan’s Island, but Olivia is having second thoughts – and there are a few things Nicholas doesn’t know. Frank has appeared for The Bee Book Club.
“Monterey Bay” by Lindsay Hatton (Penguin, $27, 320 pages; July 19): In 1940 Monterey, at the height of the sardine-canning industry, young Margot meets John Steinbeck and goes to work for his pal, biologist Ed Ricketts. Then something forever changes the town – a development that, in reality, still dominates Monterey to this day. The story alternates between present and past.
“The Girls In the Garden” by Lisa Jewell (Atria, $25, 320 pages): Happy families live in nice houses in a gated community in London. They’ve known each other for years and their mutual trust is unshakable. Until the night of a neighborhood party when one of their children is found bloody and unconscious.
“The Couple Next Door” by Shari Lapena (Pamela Dorman Books, $26, 320 pages; Aug. 23): The first mistake the young married couple made was accepting a dinner party invitation from the friendly couple next door. Their second mistake: When the sitter for their baby is a no-show, mother Anne devises to leave the infant home alone and bring the baby monitor, and return home every half-hour to check for herself. Then baby Cora vanishes, and the suspicions begin.
“300 Days of Sun” by Deborah Lawrenson (Harper, $16, 384 pages): Joanna is a journalist seeking a fresh start in a remote village in Portugal, where the rumors of a child kidnapping 20 years earlier leads her to a trail of danger.
“Happy People Read and Drink Coffee” by Agnes Martin-Lugand (Weinstein, $23, 256 pages): When the owner of a cafe-bookstore in Paris loses her family, she seeks solitude in a cottage on the Irish coast. There, she finds what could blossom into love, but is she capable of making such a choice?
“The Space Between Sisters” by Mary McNear (William Morrow, $16, 336 pages): In the fourth “Butternut Lake” novel, two sisters who couldn’t be more different help each other recover from a tragedy by taking refuge at Butternut Lake. They rediscover the childhood memories it offers but are faced with conflicts they never imagined.
“Forever Beach” by Shelley Noble (William Morrow, $16, 416 pages): Two young girls swear to be best friends forever, but troubling circumstances separate them until adulthood. Then, still resentful of each other, they join forces to help save a foster child from a life devoid of love.
“The Secrets She Kept” by Brenda Novak (Mira, $16, 400 pages; July 26): Someone has murdered the matriarch of Fairham Island, and now her estranged son returns to pick up the pieces of the family dynasty and track down the killer. But waiting there is the bitter woman he left behind. If anyone had motive for murder, it’s her. Romantic-suspense writer Novak lives in Carmichael.
“Summer Days and Summer Nights,” edited by Stephanie Perkins (St. Martin’s Griffin, $20, 400 pages): A dozen YA authors offer 12 stories of young love, set in the idyllic days of summer.
“The Vacationers” by Emma Straub (Riverhead, $16, 320 pages): Everything looks sunny when an American family from Manhattan arrives in Mallorca, Spain, for a two-week respite. Then, gradually, old resentments are reignited, secrets come to light and no one goes unchanged. Emma Straub is the daughter of literary horror novelist Peter Straub.
“The Island House” by Nancy Thayer (Ballantine, $27, 304 pages): The summer colony of Nantucket island off Cape Cod, Mass., is a common setting for romantic summer reads. Thayer, a master of the form, sends her English professor heroine, Courtney, there to find out once and for all if James – part of an old island family – could possibly have the same feelings for her that she had for him when they were young.