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> The Listicles

Beach Reads: 10 Breezy Summer Books

Slap on some SPF, because you'll lose track of your time in the sun with these mysteries, romances and literary fiction set at the shore / BY Kim Honey / July 11th, 2023


Pull up a lounge chair and check out our pick of the best books to find their place in the sun, from Muskoka to Maine, Connecticut to Cape Cod, with several detours to Long Island. 

Obsessive Book Buyers: Zoomer editors have carefully curated our book coverage to ensure you find the perfect read. We may earn a commission on books you buy by clicking on the cover image. 

1The Beach at Summerly by Beatriz Williams

The American author of Our Woman in Moscow is back with more Cold War intrigue, featuring an innocent heroine drawn into a web of spies on a small island off the Connecticut coast. Emilia, the sheltered caretaker’s daughter at Summerly, the estate of the wealthy Peabody family, is enlisted by an FBI agent in 1946 to ensnare a traitor sending information about the American atomic program to the Soviets. Williams’ gift for writing taut historical fiction with a side of romance and mystery is on display as, eight years later, Emilia is summoned by the CIA to face the fallout from that summer, which could ruin the Peabodys. 


2Happy Place by Emily Henry

The flamingo-pink cover, with people wearing sunnies and frolicking in the water, sets the scene for another rom-com from the bestselling American author of Beach Read and People We Meet on Vacation. College sweethearts Harriet and Wyn broke up five months ago, but they don’t want to ruin the annual trip to a Maine cottage with their best friends, so they pretend they’re still a couple. Sparks fly as the exes face a second-chance romance. 


3The Girls of Summer by Katie Bishop

This debut novel by a British journalist contains two versions of the story about the summer a 17-year-old backpacker lands on a Greek island and has a passionate affair with a rich and mysterious older man. Sixteen years later, Rachel meets a girlfriend who paints a different, and much darker, picture of her former lover and their fling. The story flips between the past and the present, when the grown protagonist sees the affair through adult eyes and the contemporary lens of the #MeToo movement. That sun- and alcohol-drenched sojourn was not the idyllic time Rachel remembered it to be, and
she wrestles with suppressed memories, the meaning of consent and trauma. 


4Meet Me at the Lake by Carley Fortune

The Canadian journalist’s debut novel, Every Summer After, was an instant bestseller last year. In Meet Me at the Lake, Fortune stays in Ontario cottage country, but moves the action from her hometown of Barry’s Bay to Muskoka, with a tale about two strangers who spend a magical 24 hours in Toronto and part with a promise to meet a year later. Nine years after Will doesn’t show up, Fern, 32, is running her mother’s lakeside resort and loathing it. Will arrives in an expensive suit, suitcase in hand, and offers to help, but Fern doesn’t want to be burned again by the devastatingly handsome man she has never forgotten.


5The Five-Star Weekend by Elin Hilderbrand

After 30 novels, many of them set on the small Massachusetts island of Nantucket where Hildebrand has lived since 1994, the author is beach-read royalty. This story promises “a weekend like no other,” after grieving widow Hollis Shaw invites “star” friends from different decades of her life to Nantucket. The rejuvenating getaway is thwarted by the baggage — and we’re not talking valises — lugged into her grand foyer by four female guests. Expect a fun, gossipy story about female friendships, love and introspection.


6Same Time Next Summer by Annabel Monaghan

Straight-laced Sam is engaged to a routine-loving doctor and has a great job in Manhattan, but when she returns to her family’s summer home in a Long Island beach town, she comes face to face with Whyatt, who broke her heart after a summer romance when she was 17. Can they resist the gravitational pull that brought them together, and come to terms with the reason for their split? Monaghan, the author of 2022’s Nora Goes Off Script, will make you feel the sand sticking to your skin and the salty sting of the water as the plot carries Sam along on a tide of emotions.


7Summer on Sag Harbor by Sunny Hostin

Sunny Hostin, the Emmy-winning co-host of The View, follows up Summer on the Bluffs with this instant New York Times bestseller set in Sag Harbor, a real summer enclave on Long Island, N.Y., where African Americans started buying plots of land in the 1930s. In Hostin’s hands, this under-the-radar idyll is threatened when real estate developers discover its charms, and, as the residents fight to protect their Black utopia, protagonist Olivia Jones searches for the truth about her biological father in this story about friendship, community and family.


8Bad Summer People by Emma Rosenblum

We’re back on Long Island with a debut novel set on the south shore in another monied summer community called Fire Island, which is known in real life for its thriving gay scene, but is also home to white hetero couples. That’s where Rosenblum, the chief content officer for Bustle magazine, comes to play, with a cast of rich people behaving badly. The murder mystery, partly inspired by HBO series The White Lotus, starts off with a body face down beside the boardwalk, but no one believes what looks like a bicycle crash was an accident. Who died and how they met their end propels the plot, but the long list of possible suspects includes some horrible people. The question is, who is capable of committing and covering up a murder in a town where everyone has something to hide?


9Save What’s Left by Elizabeth Castellano

This novel, one of People magazine’s best books of the summer, is being touted as the un-beach read. Yes, we’re on Long Island again and, yes, it’s somewhat of a real-estate story that unfurls after Kathleen’s husband of 30 years decamps from their Kansas home to find himself, and she buys a quaint cottage in the fictional town of Whitbey. Overshadowing her little abode is a monster home, dubbed the Sugar Cube, under construction next door. Kathleen’s other neighbour is less than friendly and, as she goes into full NIMBY mode, she alienates the town supervisor. This loopy look at small town beach life approaches a farce as good intentions go awry and Kathleen learns the true cost of a piece of paradise.


10The Cafe at Beach End by RaeAnne Thayne

After Meredith’s low-life ex-husband scams investors out of millions, she runs to Cape Sanctuary, the beachside cottage her grandmother left to her, along with half-ownership of a café. The other half is owned by her estranged cousin, and Tori is none too thrilled to see her, so Kathleen’s plan to work there and make a little money is in jeopardy. Cue the swelling violins, because her mysterious neighbour, a kindly writer named Liam, is there to lend a helping hand. Kathleen worries he may not like her if he knew about her ex’s crimes, even though she had no knowledge of the scam. But Liam is hiding a secret — and a mission — that may help Kathleen resolve her past and live in the present in this romance from the Utah author of several series about “heart, healing and hope.”

 


THE SCROLL

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