The story of the grieving Porter family and their path to a new future is one that tugged at my heart strings and that resonated with me because of the different circumstances of each family member. When Lily Porter dove into the ocean to save two drowning girls, she was doing what came naturally to her, but she gave her life for the little ones. Rosemary, her mom, decided to go ahead with Lily’s plan to start a “glampground” on the headlands of the beach and is determined to make it a success. Lily’s twin sister Violet, a special education teacher in Sacramento, returns home to help her mom with the campers and to find her own peace in the midst of her grieving. Cami, the lawyer like her father Ted, comes home to also help her mom and her sister, but first she has to mend some broken bridges with them. The family has been torn apart by Ted and Rosemary’s divorce years before the story begins, and they have never really healed. Ted and Cami stayed in the city practicing law while Rosemary and the twins moved to Moongate Farm and pursued a rural life. The story is a complicated one, with a sub plot of a neighbor suffering from dementia and the dilemma that he does not recall giving Lily permission to use his land for the campground. When his son Jon returns from Guatemala where he is pursuing his passion as an archeologist, he comes with the idea in his mind that he has to seek justice for his father Frank and get his land back that the Porters have tricked him into leasing. Although there is a lot of backstory to the story, the author did a masterful job of creating the layers so that they flowed seamlessly into each other. Her greatest accomplishment, in my opinion, was the characterization of each person in the story. Even the minor characters took on a life of their own, with flaws and human frailties that were evident and portrayed realistically. I enjoyed the small town feel of the setting, the ups and downs of resolving the conflict and the emotions that were an undercurrent throughout the story. There is romance involved between multiple characters, but I was delighted that it was presented tastefully without the steamy details that make me roll my eyes. This is a good, wholesome and sweet romance with a lot of drama and many characters with whom I could identify with at least part of what was happening to them. The plot was fast-paced and absorbing, so I finished the book in only a few days, wanting to know the resolution as much as the characters did. I would highly recommend this book to any reader who enjoys an intricately woven and character-driven plot with relatable characters.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255, “Guides Concerning the Use of Testimonials and Endorsements in Advertising.”
WILD, FRENZIED BARKING RANG OUT WHEN Violet Porter let herself into the back door of her mother’s comfortable kitchen at Moongate Farm.
Rosemary was nowhere in sight. Instead, a cranky-faced schnauzer–toy poodle mix planted himself in front of the door, telling her in no uncertain terms that she was an intruder who wasn’t welcome here.
“Hi, Baxter,” she said, mouth stretched thin in what she knew was an insincere smile. “How are you, buddy?”
Lily’s dog only growled at her, baring his teeth with his hack-les raised as if he wanted to rip her throat out.
The dog hated her. Violet wasn’t exactly sure why.
She might have thought he would look more fondly toward her, considering she was the identical twin to his late owner. But maybe that was the problem. Maybe the fact that she looked so much like Lily but clearly wasn’t her sister confused the dog and made him view her as a threat.
He had never really warmed to her, even when he lived in her condo with Lily. Since Lily’s death, he had become down-right hostile.
“Stop that. What’s gotten into you? I could hear you clear back in my bedroom.”
Her mother’s voice trailed out from down the hall, becoming louder as she approached the kitchen, still fastening an earring.
She stopped dead when she spotted Violet.
“Oh! Violet! You scared me! What are you doing here?”
“You invited me. Remember? You’ve known for months I was coming to help you out during my summer break.”
“You were coming tomorrow. Not today!”
Okay. That wasn’t exactly the warm welcome she might have expected, Violet thought wryly. Instead, her mother was staring at her with an expression that seemed a curious mix of chagrin and dismay.
She shrugged as Baxter continued to growl. Wasn’t anybody happy to see her?
“I finished cleaning out my classroom and calculating final grades this morning. Since all my things were already packed and loaded into my car, I couldn’t see any reason to wait until the morning to drive up. Is there a problem?”
Rosemary, usually so even-tempered, looked at her, then at the giant wrought iron clock on the wall of the Moongate Farm kitchen with a hint of panic in her eyes.
“No. It’s only…this is, er, a bit of a complication. I’m expecting dinner guests any moment.”
“That must be why it smells so good in here.”
It smelled like roasting vegetables mixed with garlic and cheese. Violet’s stomach rumbled loud enough she was certain her mother had to hear, but Rosemary didn’t seem to notice, looking at the clock again.
Why was she so nervous? Who was coming? If she didn’t know better, Violet might have suspected her mother was expecting a date.
Not impossible, she supposed. Her mother was still a beautiful woman, with high cheekbones, a wide smile and the deep blue eyes she had handed down to Violet and her identical twin.
Rosemary didn’t date much, though she’d had a few relationships since her divorce from Violet’s father.
As far as Violet knew, she had broken up with the most re-cent man she had dated more than a year earlier and Rosemary hadn’t mentioned anyone else.
Then again, just as Violet didn’t tell her mother everything that went on in her life in Sacramento, Rosemary likely had secrets of her own here in Cape Sanctuary.
“No problem,” she said, trying for a cheerful tone. “You don’t have to worry about feeding me. If I get hungry later, I’ll make a sandwich or something. I’ll get out of your way.”
“You’re not in the way,” Rosemary protested. “It’s just, well…” She didn’t have time to finish before a knock sounded at the back door. Baxter, annoying little beast, gave one sharp bark, sniffed at the door, then plopped down expectantly.
Violet thought she heard a man’s deep voice say something on the other side of the door and then a child’s laughter in response.
Something about that voice rang a chord. She frowned, suddenly unsettled. “Mom. Who are you expecting?”
“Just some…some friends from town,” Rosemary said vaguely. She heard the man’s voice again and her disquiet turned into full-fledged dismay.
No. Rosemary wouldn’t have. Would she?
“Mom. Who’s here?” Her voice sounded shrill and she was quite sure Rosemary could pick up on it.
“I didn’t know you were coming tonight,” her mom said defensively. “You told me you were coming tomorrow, so I…I invited Alexandro and his daughter for dinner. He’s been such a help to me with Wild Hearts. I could never have set up all those tents or moved in the furniture without him. I’ve been meaning to have him and his daughter over for dinner but the time got away from me, until here we are. I’m sorry. You weren’t supposed to be here until tomorrow and I didn’t think it would be a problem.”
The news hit her like a hatchet to the chest. Alex was here, on the other side of the door. Alex, who had once been her best friend, the man she thought would be her forever.
Alex, who had betrayed her.
She had seen him exactly twice since they broke up a decade ago.
One previous encounter had been a few years after he married Claudia Crane, when she had bumped into him at the grocery store while home from college for a brief visit.
The second time had been four months earlier at Lily’s memorial service.
That was two times too many, really. Three encounters was asking far too much of her.
She wanted to jump back into her car and head back to Sacramento.
No. This was silly. She had known she would see him this summer. How could she avoid it? Cape Sanctuary was a small town. Not only that, but his house and boat charter business were both just down the road from Moongate Farm.
The concept had seemed fine in the abstract. Like algebra and the periodic table.
It had been nearly a decade, after all. She was a completely different person from that besotted girl she had once been.
He meant nothing to her anymore. She should be able to blithely chat with him about what he had been up to the past decade.
Yeah. Not happening.
Maybe she could turn around, climb back into her car and go hang out at The Sea Shanty until he was gone.
No. That was just kicking the can down the road. She had to face him eventually. Why not now?
She could come up with a dozen reasons, but none of them seemed compelling enough for her to flee without at least saying hello.
“I’m sorry,” Rosemary said again, her hand on the doorknob. “It’s fine, Mom. Don’t worry about it. Don’t leave them standing outside. I’ll just say hello and then head over to the bunk-house to settle in. You won’t even know I’m here. It will be fine.”
She didn’t believe that for a minute, but she forced herself to put on a pleasant smile as her mother opened the door.
And there he was.
As gorgeous as ever, with those thick dark eyelashes, strong features, full mouth that could kiss like no one else she had ever met…
Her toes curled at the unwelcome memories and she forced her attention away from Alex to the young girl standing beside him. She had dark hair that swung to her shoulders, bright brown eyes and dimples like her father.
Right now she was staring at Violet like she had just grown a second head.
“Miss Lily?” she whispered, big brown eyes wide and mouth ajar.
Of course. Ariana thought Violet was her sister. It was a natural mistake, as they were identical twins, though as an adult, Vi had mostly seen the differences between them.
She approached the girl with the same patient, reassuring mile she used in her classroom when one of her students was upset about something.
“Hi there,” she said calmly, doing her best to ignore Alex’s intense gaze for now. “You must be Ariana. I’m Violet. Lily was my twin sister.”
“You look just like her,” the girl said breathlessly. Her gaze narrowed. “Except I think maybe your hair is a little shorter than hers was. And she had a tattoo of flowers on her wrist and you don’t.”
When they were in college, Lily had insisted on getting a tiny bouquet of flowers, intertwined lilies and violets and camellias to represent the three Porter sisters.
She had begged Violet and Cami to both get one, too. Cami, older by two years and always far more mature than either Vi or Lily, had politely explained that she didn’t want any tattoos because of the serious nature of the law career she was pursuing. Violet had promised she would but then kept putting it off.
She still could go get a tattoo. After Lily’s death, she had thought more seriously about it, but the loss of her sister was always with her. She didn’t need a mark on her skin to remind her Lily wasn’t here.
She forced a smile for the girl. “Right. No tattoo. That’s one sure way of telling us apart.”
Plus, she was alive and Lily wasn’t. But she wasn’t cruel enough to say that out loud, especially not to this child.
Lily had drowned after rescuing Ariana and a visiting friend when a rogue wave from an offshore winter storm dragged the girls out to sea. Lily had somehow managed to get both girls back to safety, but the Pacific had been relentless that day, and before Lily could climb out herself, another wave had pulled her under.
Violet certainly couldn’t blame this child for a cruel act of nature.
Or for her parentage.
Excerpted from Summer at the Cape by RaeAnne Thayne. Copyright © 2022 by RaeAnne Thayne. Published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.
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