Summer on the Island: A Novel
Divorce attorney Marlow Madsen is fed up by the hostile couples wanting to part. She closes her California family law practice and returns to Teach, Florida, a tiny, seven-square-miles island off the coast. The only child of Tiller, a US Senator, and Eileen, who has been suffering from MS for years, Marlow never wanted for anything. When Tiller passes away suddenly, Marlow heads home to be with her mom and brings her two friends, Claire and Aida, planning to spend the summer months in the guest house on the family property.
All three women need to reflect on their lives and decide their futures. Aida is heartbroken by her recent and unexpected divorce from her husband, Dutton, who has been having an affair. Claire recently lost her home and yoga shop to a fire and is left with nothing. It turns out she is the woman Dutton is seeing, but she didn't know he was married. Otherwise, she never would have taken up with him, but she is under his spell and in love with him. The younger women hope to find peace and get back on the right track while enjoying a leisurely vacation. As Marlow plans the rest of her life, she will help Eileen sell the two additional family homes, for both she and her mom enjoy the island property the most.
Rosemary, the Madsen's long-time housekeeper and all-around companion to Eileen, pampers the young women, happy to have liveliness on the premises. As the three settle in, Eileen is thrilled to have her daughter and friends there. Rosemary's youngest son, Reese, resides in the apartment above the garage, and Walker, her oldest, lives in town. Marlow, shocked at seeing Walker as a handsome man, feels a stirring—both of desire and guilt.
"Marlow got the feeling she'd be the last person he'd [Walker] call for any reason. He still held the past against her. He'd probably been going through a lot when she rejected him. As an adult, she understood that his life hadn't been easy and wished she's been kinder. Maybe he was right about her—she'd been rich and spoiled and immature, and he'd been the housekeeper's son. That type of bias wasn't easy to admit, but it was probably the truth."
Now, all Marlow can see in Walker's eyes is disgust when she speaks to him. Can she blame him? She was very cruel to him when they were young, but now she must make a wrong right. Marlow goes out of her way to apologize—maybe to the point of overkill, but guilt is eating her up, mainly when she develops feelings for him, not knowing he has loved her forever. But he's not about to allow himself to be burned again.
Aida and Reese hook up as time progresses, even though he is much younger than she. She believes she deserves a fling after being hurt by Dutton. Dutton isn't giving up on Claire, for he constantly texts her declaring his love. However, Claire has become close to Aida, valuing their new friendship. She understands Dutton is controlling and selfish, and though she still is fond of him, she does not want to lose the bond she has developed with Aida.
Due to Eileen's illness, Marlow's father's lawyer summons her to Atlanta to read his will. She also decides to check out their other house to ascertain how difficult it will be to sell, considering what to dispose of or keep. The contents of the will come as a shock to Marlow. The disclosure has her questioning her father—the man she always placed high on a pedestal. Is any household exempt from skeletons in the closet—but will this skeleton tear them apart?
The premise of Summer on the Island is stirring and plausible, offering a fun beach read with mystery and romance. The only negative factor is the over-emphasis on guilt and apologies as it slows down the prose, making the flow somewhat redundant and tiring.