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review 2018-10-26 17:58
The Summer Wives
The Summer Wives - Beatriz Williams

Miranda Schuyler is eighteen years old when she arrives on elite, secretive Winthrop Island in Long Island Sound. Her beautiful mother is about to marry Hugh Fisher whose summer house on the Island overlooks the famous lighthouse. Miranda's new stepsister, Isobel, is eager to draw her into the customs of their society. The Fisher's fall into the wealthy summer families while the other clan on the Island are the working class Portuguese fishermen and domestic workers who earn their living on the water and from those who summer on the Island. Fast forward nearly two decades later to the first time Miranda has returned to the Island since a murder caused her to flee. She wants to clear the name of the man she met and fell in love with as a teenager even if it means uncovering all the messy secrets that bind the families of Winthrop Island together.

I feel like my reviews of Beatriz Williams books are all the same. She's my favourite author and can do no wrong. Everything is perfect in this book - the writing, the characters, the setting. This book has lots of secrets, lies and cocktails. It has murder. Families are torn apart but also families do not rat on fellow Islanders. There are three different timelines - 1930 tells the story of Bianca Medeiro, 1951 tells the story of eighteen year old Miranda Schuyler and 1969 brings Miranda back to the Island. Bianca's chapters were short but vital. Nothing that happened was overly shocking but it was a compelling read. I just love Williams writing, it's so dreamy and vivid and magical *sigh*

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review 2018-07-22 20:47
Summer Wives by Beatriz Williams
The Summer Wives - Beatriz Williams

A special thank you to Edelweiss and William Morrow for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Beatriz Williams' latest novel is mesmerizing.  Set in the 1950s and '60s, it is a tempestuous story of romance, class, power, secrets, and murder set on picturesque Winthrop Island.

It is the the summer of 1951 and Miranda Schuyler arrives on the elite, yet secretive Winthrop Island in Long Island Sound.  She is a naive eighteen year old who is still reeling from the loss of her father in the Second World War.

Miranda is a graduate of the exclusive Foxcroft Academy in Virginia and has always been on the cusp of high society. When her beautiful mother marries the dashing Hugh Fisher at his family summer home, Miranda is thrust deeper into the world of the elite with their pedigrees and cocktail hours.

Isobel Fisher is Miranda’s new stepsister and she takes Miranda under her wing to educate her on the clandestine ways of the Winthrop upper crust.  She is long-legged, blonde, a bit brash, and adored by her fiancé, Clayton Monk.

The other residents of the island are not wealthy summer families; they are the working class made up of Portuguese fisherman and domestic service people who earn an honest days work from the seasonal inhabitants.  Miranda finds herself attracted to  the lighthouse keeper's son, Joseph Vargas, a lobster fisherman.  He is also a childhood friend of Isobel's and attends Brown's in the hopes of bettering himself.

Almost two decades later, Miranda, now a famous actress, finally returns to the Island.  She is nursing a heartbreak and secrets of her own.  On the surface, the Island appears to be the same, but Miranda quickly realizes that things are not as they appear.  For one, the Fisher family no longer wields the same power and prestige it once did and Greyfriars, the Fisher family summer home, is in complete disrepair.  Also, Joseph has escaped from Sing Sing where he has been serving a sentence for the murder of her stepfather eighteen years earlier.  Miranda makes it her quest to bring justice to the man she once loved and still loves.

This was my first Beatriz Williams' book and I was utterly enchanted!  Williams is extremely seasoned with her character development—she lets the plot unfold through these rich, complex characters and her execution of this tumultuous story was flawless.  The setting was gorgeous as is her writing.  Speaking of gorgeous, can we take a moment to appreciate the beautiful cover?  I love the whole vintage aesthetic and it also comes through in Williams' writing.  The story was perfectly paced and just as visually stunning as the cover.  This book will be THE book of the summer.  

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review 2018-07-16 18:35
The Secret Life of Violet Grant - Beatriz Williams

This book was everything I didn't realise I was looking for, and more! Totally blew me away. The style, the plot, the end, everything. I know I'm gushing a bit but I really loved how Vivian's story was told and how Violet's played out beside hers. Can't recommend this enough.

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review 2018-07-15 01:54
Take it on vacation...good beach read.
The Summer Wives - Beatriz Williams

The Summer Wives, Beatriz Williams, author; Kristin Kalbli, narrator

In 1930, on Winthrop Island, off the coast of CT, Bianco Madeiro and Hugh Fisher fall in love and have a secret affair. Both are in their teens. Both swear their eternal love for each other, but there is a catch, Hugh is from the upper class and is about to be married to Abigail, a young woman also from the upper crust. Bianca happens to be an orphan. She is being raised by her working class, shopkeeper aunt and uncle. Their worlds do not intersect. Bianca thinks that Hugh loves her enough to give up Abigail, but when he tells her about his impending marriage, and the way things simply are, she realizes he will jilt her. However, he loves her and wants her to remain his mistress forever. She does not tell him that she is pregnant, and instead, she makes a play for her sister Francesca’s betrothed and steals him away from her. They wed soon after, so her son will be legitimate. When he is born, she gives him her husband’s name, Vargas, not Fisher, which is his father’s name. On the night she delivers her son, her sister Francesca drowns in a tragic accident, on the way to see her. Because of what she has done to her sister, she is blamed and rejected by everyone. She and her husband Pascal Vargas, move into the lighthouse where he is the new light-keeper. He is also a lobsterman. Although she has trapped him, he loves her enough not to care at all about being isolated or rejected. After all, he, too, has betrayed her sister Francesca. He is a homely, but hard-working man. He raises Joseph as his own.

In 1951, Miranda Schuyler travels to Winthrop Island for her mother’s marriage to Hugh Fisher, at his estate called Greyfriars. He and his first wife Abigail have divorced. Miranda’s father died during WWII. He was motivated to volunteer to serve because of what was happening to works of art under Hitler’s rule, and was killed at sea. When Miranda arrives at the island, she meets her stepsister, Isobel, and they bond immediately, although Isobel is a bit of a snob who is very comfortable with her wealth and very aware of the differences between the classes. She schools Miranda in all the ways the rich are different.  

One morning, while looking out the window, Miranda witnesses a near drowning. A young man jumps into the water and saves an old man. That young man was Bianca’s son, Joseph Vargas. Miranda does not know Joseph’s history, nor does she know that her mother was about to be married to the man who fathered Joseph. It has been a well kept secret. She does not know that Isobel, her stepsister, is also Joseph’s half sister.

Suddenly, after her mother returns from her honeymoon, death comes to Greyfriars. Miranda’s involvement in the tragedy causes her to be rejected by her family and the community. The people on Winthrop Island are very insular, and they close ranks against her. Isobel’s mother Abigail, however, takes Miranda to Europe to escape, where she remains for almost two decades.

In 1969, Miranda, now Miranda Thomas and a famous actress, leaves Europe and her husband. With nowhere else to hide, she returns to Winthrop Island. She had been in a terrible accident, and she was pregnant at the time. She was severely injured and lost the child in her womb. She blames her husband who was angry that night and was driving although he was quite drunk. He was abusive when his “demons” possessed him. When the reader learns that Joseph has been in prison for murder for the past 18 years and has recently escaped; the coincidence of Miranda’s return at the same time will not be lost. It seems that Joseph’s mother, is quite alone and very ill. She refuses medical treatment and also refuses to cooperate with the authorities who are searching for Joseph. None of the islanders will help them either, in fact. As Isobel states, they protect their own. They all have their secrets and have all made foolish choices for which they must repent. In this, the classes unite.

If you are looking for a beach read that is a bit mindless, a bit repetitive, but also fast moving, this is a good choice, although the dialogue can be trite sometimes, and the choices many of the characters make seem so foolish, they even defy reality. The action takes place on an island off the coast of CT, loosely based on Fishers Island, New York. It reads, kind of like a fairytale, especially at the end. Most of the characters are flawed and fairly unhappy with their lives, regardless of whether they are upper or lower class. The choices they have made have caused terrible conflicts, some of which can never be resolved happily. The rich seem to lounge around a lot, drink alcohol, and make statements as facts about the way they live that have very little moral value, but explain their shallow beliefs; meanwhile the townspeople labor on and hustle, without the luxury of leisure. They live in separate bubbles.

The times are different and sexual activity of any kind, even kissing, is viewed as forward. Morality has an entirely different meaning than it does today, when it seems like anything goes. Their secrets were well hidden without the gossipy social media informing the world about their behavior. The story jumps from 1930 to 1951 to 1969, and finally to 1970. It is sometimes difficult to tell immediately that the tale has moved on or back. Perhaps a print book would make it more obvious than the audio.

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review 2018-05-25 12:45
Cocoa Beach
Cocoa Beach: A Novel - Beatriz Williams

Virginia Fortescue bravely maneuvered her Red Cross ambulance through artillery fire and nighttime rescues during World War I. While transporting patients, Virginia meets British army surgeon, Captain Simon Fitzwilliam. Virginia is enchanted, but hears rumors that he is already married. However, Captain Fitzwilliam is enchanted and promises Virginia a divorce from the wife he was forced to marry for family money. The two are married in secret, but Virginia hears of more devastating rumors about her husband and decided to return to her father's home after the War. Virginia soon gives birth to a wonderful baby daughter, Evelyn and continues to receive letters from Simon who is renovating a family orchard and running a shipping company in Cocoa Beach, Florida. It isn't until a letter arrives that informs Virginia of Simon's death that she travels to Cocoa Beach to take over the business that she discovers the true nature of the lies and deceptions of the Fitzwilliam family. Cocoa Beach proved to be irresistible as soon as I dug in; combining the elements of danger in the prohibition age with romance and a menacing mystery. I have read Beatriz Williams' other books with some of the same characters, including Virginia and was glad to pick up her story again. While I loved The Wicked City and A Certain Age, it is not necessary to read those first. Virginia enters the scene in Cocoa Beach like a fighter; as a woman in 1922 and now a widow, Simon's lawyer figures she will be uninterested in the business that Simon carried out. Virginia makes it known that "...my wishes are your business now..." and I knew that Virginia would be a formidable character. I enjoyed that the writing switched back and forth between Virginia and Simon's time during World War I and 1922 in Cocoa Beach. Through these scenes I was able to know Virginia as a hero and an independent woman, I was also able to form an opinion about Simon. I was amazed at Virginia's fortitude as an ambulance driver and appreciated the compassionate love story despite the many times others attempted to derail it. The mystery is written with many layers and twists, I thought I knew where it was heading, and yet other elements kept getting thrown in for surprise after surprise. I was also pleased to see that the story will most likely continue as there is a cliffhanger at the end. This book was received for free in return for an honest review.

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