This one edged into my library by a nose.
First of all, based on the title and cover, I jumped to the wrong conclusion of what The Summer Guests would be about. I anticipated a summer-long relationship with new friends, then realized they would only be with me for a few days in August. And the cover art shows a beach towel and bag, which would put this story at the beach, right? But a closer look reveals there are also shiny black boots stashed under the beach towel.
As in, shiny black horseback riding boots.
Wait a minute … What?
It turns out that Mary Alice Monroe, the author we love for having written about loggerhead sea turtles in the Beach House series (start here to read my reviews), has also written this standalone novel that takes place on a horse farm. When a hurricane threatens the coasts of Florida and South Carolina, main characters Grace and Charles Phillips open their North Carolina horse farm to evacuating family and friends. There is a connection to the Beach House series: a few of our friends from Isle of Palms are friends of Grace and Charles.
Reader, did you love reading horse books as a young girl? The Summer Guests is your favorite childhood genre in adult form.
But truthfully, I almost didn’t review this book.
The entire first half is heavy on what the many characters are doing to prepare for the coming hurricane. While that’s fascinating stuff, devoting half of a book to it felt a bit long. In the second half of the book, we finally get to see the relationships becoming more complicated, especially under the pressure of the hurricane. (And a couple of unexpected romantic connections are made, but I’ll just leave it at that).
A couple more observations … The majority of the people in this story seemed unnaturally affluent. While that may be true in the world of showing horses, I would have liked to see more of a balance among the book’s characters. And there’s a supernatural element, which was interesting, but felt a bit at odds with the rest of the story. There’s a bit of language sprinkled throughout, also.
However … there’s a lot to love about this story! If you like reading a book with lots of characters, this one is for you! Even better, some of the most important characters are horses! There is also a bunch of homeless dogs who all end up with happily-ever-after endings. (It’s not a spoiler. You already know that Mary Alice Monroe won’t leave those doggies neglected!) I loved all the feel-good moments coming out of the many relationships between humans and animals.
So pick this book up if you love reading about horses, doggies, or hurricanes. And definitely pick it up if you’re a devoted Mary Alice Monroe fan, like I am! And then please send me a note to let me know what you thought of our summer guests!
Here with you,