Boardwalk Summer by Meredith Jaeger (2018)
In 1940, housewife Violet Harcourt is named Miss California, but her life isn't as perfect as it seems. In 2007, single mother Marisol Cruz wants to preserve a historic landmark in her Santa Cruz community, and in her research she comes across Violet's story.
I love dual timeline stories - wondering how they will come together is one of my favorite parts. Almost right from the start, we know the stories are tied together through Mari's grandfather, but as the story goes on, more links show up. I admired Violet's courage, and I really identified with Mari's love of history. She had so many ideas to help bring awareness to her community.
Although I thought there were too many coincidences and predictable storylines, I enjoyed this one. Part of Violet's story takes place in Hollywood, and I felt all the old glamour as well as the seediness. In Mari's story, I felt immersed in the setting of Santa Cruz, with its history and charm. The writing was engaging, and the dialogue was much-improved from Jaeger's previous book, The Dressmaker's Dowry. 3.5 stars
The Summer Wives by Beatriz Williams (2018)
Miranda Schuyler returns to Winthrop Island, where 18 years earlier she spent a summer marked by tragedy with the murder of her stepfather.
I love Beatriz Williams' books - I feel like I read them more slowly than other books because the writing is just so lush and immersive that I don't want to miss a single word. In her newest book, Williams explores the life of Miranda Schuyler in the 1950s and 1960s as she visits Winthrop Island, a haven for the wealthy in New York. I actually enjoyed both timelines equally. In 1951, Miranda doesn't quite fit in on Winthrop Island; although her mother is marrying one of the island's elite, Miranda feels more drawn to the working class people. When she returns in 1969, she is basically an outcast. I figured out the truth to the murder mystery quite early on in the book, but that didn't hamper my experience.
I think Williams relied a bit too much on cliché tropes in this one and the ending dragged a bit, but I enjoyed her exploration of class dynamics and as always, I felt completely swept up in the setting and time period. 4 stars