It seems that many of the books with Summer in the title that I am reading for my 20 Books of Summer Challenge deal with secrets. I have just finished #5 & #6 for this challenge. That is right on schedule for me as July is Christmas in July, so I won’t get too many summery books read during that month. Both of these books were provided to me by the publisher at some point, upon my request. The ratings and opinions shared are my own.

The Secrets of Summer House by Rachel Burton 

Published April 21, 2022 by Head of Zeus: Aria

4.5 Stars:

The Secrets of Summer is told in two timelines, but the majority is the 2018 setting. In 1976, we meet Alice Kenzie and Tristan Somers. They bump into each other, physically, on the university campus and it is love at first sight. After a whirlwind courtship, they marry, against the wishes of his family and live happily in their small apartment while they both finish school. Alice gets pregnant and they are happy, especially with their daughter, Olivia. It is only four months later when, Tristan is killed in a car accident. Having nowhere to turn, she goes to Tristan’s parents who are thrilled to have Olivia with them. Summer House is a beautiful estate, and she realizes that Olivia will be better off with her grandparents, so leaves her there and disappears. In 2018, Olivia’s grandmother has died and she is grief stricken. Although she is married with a grown son, her grandmother was the family she had left that raised her. While going through her grandmother’s things, she discovers old letters and photos that reveal she has been lied to all her life. Her mother did not die in the same accident as her father, but survived and abandoned her. Is her mother still alive? Can she find her?

This dual timeline story that alternates between 1976 and 2018, and is told from the point of view of Olivia and Alice. I liked both of these women whose lives were determined by their different upbringing. Alice and Tristan were a great couple who were so in love. I would have liked meeting them with their upbeat attitude. We learn about Alice’s grief and decisions as Olivia discovers who she is and what happened 40 years earlier. Olivia has a lot to deal with as she, Jacob and Nicholas discover the secrets that have been kept from Olivia by the people she loved. As a parent I can’t imagine how a mother could leave her baby with someone else, but I know it is a decision many have to make. I am glad mental health diagnosis have come so far and people in Alice’s situation would be helped and dealt with very differently now, but in 1978, there was not a lot of help available for what was often just called the “baby blues”. This was a beautifully written story with themes of living up to your parent’s expectations, postnatal depression, friendship, loyalty, death, estrangement and second chances. Although the word summer in this title is not an indication of a summery, beachy read, I very much enjoyed this story that I read for my 20 Books of Summer Challenge.

A Summer of Surprises (Seashell Cottage) by Judith S. Keim, Angela Dawe (Narrator)

Published June 2nd 2020 by Wild Quail Publishing

5 Stars: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Jill Conroy thinks she is having a vacation in a cottage in Florida where she has been asked by her sister to housesit for her roommate. When she arrives she finds out she is supposed to be a housekeeper and cook for the summer at Seashell Cottage while it is being renovated by Greg Campbell. One man is okay, but his nephew Brody and his spoiled 8 year old daughter might be more than she bargained for. As she spends more time at the beach and gets to know Greg, Brody and Kacy, she begins to feel peace, something she hasn’t had in a long time living with her recently deceased, emotionally abusive husband. This is a summer of finding herself, standing up for herself, shedding some baggage and secrets as well as new beginnings for herself, her sister, Cristal as well as Brody and Kacy.

I really enjoyed this wonderful summer story. It has so much that I love. The characters were well developed, relatable and people I would like to know. Jill has been bullied most of her life, first by her mother, then her sister and finally her husband. She knows what it feels like, so when she sees that Kacy is suffering from bullying and emotional abuse from her mother, she quietly, and carefully supports the young girl and helps her to recognize that she is a wonderful young girl. Finding a BFF also helps Kacy and has she becomes happier, her whole outlook changes. This made my heart happy. I also loved seeing Jill stand up for herself and make plans for a new life that would make her happy. Her intention was not to have a man in her life, but Brody is such a sweetie and a wonderful dad, he is hard to resist. Throw in Cristal and a sister relationship that is on rocky ground, and I was thrilled to see some healing between the two of them as they shared emotions and feelings they had throughout their lives. Of course, communication would have solved and maybe even prevented some of the issues, but it is easier said than done. This is my first book by Judith Keim and with her extensive backlist, I know I will be enjoying more of her books in the future. Angela Dawe narrated the audiobook and I enjoyed her performance. I have listened to many books she has narrated and I enjoy her voices, expression and tone and what they add to the story.