Summer Darlings, by Brooke Lea Foster, opens with our protagonist, Heddy, musing about Jackie Kennedy. As Heddy looks out at the waters of Martha's Vineyard, she thinks to herself that the first lady is probably looking out at the same sea. Heddy feels exceedingly lucky to have gotten a summer job as a nanny, working for a wealthy family who seem the epitome of glamour and privilege. Yet, this a novel, so of course nothing is as it appears in the new world Heddy has come to inhabit, and literally everyone she meets has a secret. That includes the couple who hired her, Jean-Rose and Ted, their young son, Teddy, the cook, Ruth, the movie star who lives next door, Gigi, and Heddy's two love interests, Ash and Sullivan.
But Heddy is no different, for she's hiding something as well. She doesn't want anyone to know that she has lost her scholarship to Wellesley, and if she doesn't come up with a couple of thousand dollars, then her future is in peril. In addition, Heddy's single mother has been laid off and forced to live in a boarding house. As Heddy feels obligated to care for her mother and to figure out a financial solution for them both, Heddy grows tempted to "catch" a wealthy husband who could give her financial security.
One of the biggest themes of the novel is privilege, and whether or not being privileged makes you hard-hearted and judgmental. Race is not really brought up, save mention of a Cuban man whom Jean-Rose had been in love with when she was young. However, there is a subplot involving Teddy, the boy whom Heddy nannies, and his attachment to a baby doll named Miss Pinky. Jean-Rose tries to get rid of the doll, out of fear that Teddy's attachment to it means he's gay. There are other plot elements that have to do with people's attitudes toward homosexuality at the time the novel takes place, but ultimately, the message is that anyone who doesn't subscribe to the strict social & moral standards of the era is judged and cast out, even though, most likely, the "deviants" are going to be kinder, better people than the ones who've been given every advantage in life.
The other big theme of the novel is about women's roles, and Heddy's journey is one of self-discovery, finding her own strength, rejecting the notion of a "MRS degree" and marrying for love rather than need. Along the way, there are descriptions of learning to surf, riding boats, and walking along moonlit beaches. There are love scenes, glamorous Hollywood parties, and exotic 1960s fashion. Oh, and I got really hungry for lobster rolls while reading this book.
All in all, it's a great beach read, with juicy plot twists and some social commentary thrown in. Summer Darlings was definitely worth my time and I recommend it!
My Book Reviews
I love novels! My favorite genres are high-end women's fiction, suspense, and psychological thrillers, but occasionally I'll also pick up some chick lit or YA. I mostly read books on my kindle, and I also listen to audio books every morning when I go for my run.