Fans of bestselling author Jane Green are in for a treat with her newest novel, Summer Secrets. If you’re looking for a riveting beach read consistent with her early work, look no further. Ms. Green excels at looking head on at issues people keep hidden and how keeping those issues hidden messes with our lives. Yet she does it in a way that keeps me turning pages even when I cringe. This is a novel about self discovery and owning our crap so we can move forward in our lives – and we all have crap we’d much rather sweep under the rug and pretend doesn’t exist rather than look it in the face. I’m excited that we’ve got a copy to offer in a giveaway one of you will win, so let’s check it out!
“’Who are you?’ he’d [Cat’s father would] sometimes say, affectionately. ‘Where did you come from?’
‘This is my changeling,’ he’d introduce me to people, which made me feel special until I grew old enough to read fairy tales myself and realized a changeling is a fairy, elf, or goblin baby who’s put in the crib to replace the stolen, perfect baby.
I did cry though, that day in the hospital, holding his hand. Horrible as this is to admit, I think I cried less because my dad was dying than for the dad I never had. I cried for the missed opportunities. I cried for not having a dad who accepted me exactly as I was.”
In 1998, Catherine “Cat” Coombs is a twenty-something journalist in London who not only works hard but also plays hard. Her lunches aren’t complete without wine and she takes full advantage of all the free food and booze at whatever job-connected launch or party she attends at night. It’s just all part of the job. And it’s not like she’s the only one doing it – she’s just doing what’s expected of everyone in her position. The hangovers are just the price she has to pay. That she sometimes drinks to the point that she’s surprised to see who’s in her bed the next morning or what they did the night before is creepy even to her, and she keeps saying she’ll never do that again; however, she knows she’s lying to herself. Even if this happens to everyone, part of her knows it’s not normal.
“I am awash with shame. I may be on my own, but my cheeks are burning…I can’t stand this. I can’t stand waking up every morning feeling like shit. I can’t stand waking up every morning swearing that I will never do this again, that today is the day I stop drinking, and then, at five, or six, or seven o’clock, I tell myself it’s only one glass of wine, or one beer, or a quick drink, which surely won’t hurt, and then, bam! Cut to the next morning, waking up with spotty memories about what happened the night before, and always, always, feeling like shit.
I pick up the phone and call my mom, ‘Can we make it eleven?’ I croak when she picks up the phone. ‘I’m not feeling so good.’
‘Oh God, Cat. Again?’ She’s used to these Saturday morning phone calls.
‘I know. I’m sorry.’ To my amazement, my eyes then well up with tears as my voice starts to crack.
‘Mum? I think I need some help.’”
And then Cat gets a rude awakening call of sorts – let’s just call it the first of many, shall we? After her father passes away, her mom drops the bombshell that her father wasn’t really her father. Instead, her biological father was an artist in Nantucket who her mom fell for – a man with Black Irish heritage who often drank until he blacked out. Her mom says she never told him that she was pregnant, so he has no idea he has a daughter in England. She also admits that she’s worried Cat may have inherited a tendency toward alcoholism from her real father, so she wants Cat to be careful about her drinking – something Cat seems to brush off immediately as ridiculous. She’s not an alcoholic. Still, it scares her so she quits drinking just to prove that she can.
Cat knows she’s not an alcoholic – of course not; however, she is definitely curious about meeting this real father and his family. So, off she goes to Nantucket to get to know her real dad and to meet half-sisters she never knew she had. It turns out even better than she had dreamt it could. One of the sisters is thrilled to meet her and they become instant BFFs. They’re both free spirits and it’s as if they have always known each other. Her real dad is an amazing artist and a kind, wonderful man. Her other sister, however, is a complete iceberg who wants nothing to do with her. That’s okay with Cat since that sister is a complete control freak and no fun at all anyway.
Cat is so relaxed that she joins in the wine served at dinner and, before long, she’s drinking as much as her new family clan. Big mistake, which leads to an even bigger mistake one night when her new BFF sister’s fiancé encourages her to drink even more than usual. Let’s just say that what happened next cost her not just her BFF sister but any contact with her new family…and that she scurried back to London in shame and humiliation. Sigh.
It’s now 2014. Cat’s life has been one hell of a roller coaster. She met a wonderful man in AA and, once she got sober and he grew to trust that she would stay that way, they got married. Soon they had a little daughter. Sounds like things worked out well for Cat in the end, right? Not so fast. You see Cat has had a secret for quite some time. She began secretly drinking again and it got progressively worse over time, to the point that her husband finally couldn’t take it anymore. Now she’s lost the man she loves more than life, all because of her drinking.
This time Cat is determined to get clean and sober for the last time – for good. She drags herself to AA meetings and starts to actually work the program. It’s a struggle but she’s determined so she keeps working. And then she hits a snag – that step where you have to make amends to all the people you’ve wronged. Oops. Talk about squirming at the very thought of doing something. She swallows her pride and makes amends to everyone in England…but…what about America?
Losing a family she loved being part of, even for such a short time, has tortured her ever since. But how the hell is she going to make amends for what happened in Nantucket? Those people haven’t spoken to her in years and probably still hate her guts. How can she face them? What if they spit in her face? How can she get them to listen? Is there any way to repair what she did? Can they even begin to find it in their hearts to forgive her or will they be more interested in payback?
Cat’s secretly addicted life runs her whole life, and at some point it only feels like a secret to her because everyone else is all too aware that she’s an alcoholic. Now you might think that an alcoholic doesn’t make for a very sympathetic character but in this case you’d be wrong. Jane Green doesn’t pull any punches about Cat’s addiction, including the bargaining and lies, and at the same time she makes clear just how much Cat struggles with it. This is a well-balanced portrayal of addiction, including the havoc it wrecks on someone’s life. We also get to see who Cat is underneath all of the chaos, and that’s worth the read. I’m not going to say anything about the people surrounding Cat; her mom, husband, U.S. family. I want you to discover them for yourselves and I don’t want to provide any more spoilers.
I hate to admit it but I thought Summer Secrets was just going to be a piece of fluff. Boy, was I wrong. I applaud Jane Green for this no-holds barred portrayal of a woman caught in a web she can’t seem to get out of. It may sound like a downward spiral but it is in fact a story of hope and redemption – of the enormous determination it takes to break out of the kinds of messes people often create in their lives when they aren’t paying attention. Life is messy and it can easily get out of control, even with the best of intentions, and yet there’s always hope. I read deep into the night because I couldn’t leave Cat hanging out there. I had to find out what happened to her. I think Summer Secrets is the perfect women’s fiction vacation read, filled with tension, drama, and some amazing characters you’ll love or hate or both.
Can’t wait to read it?
Summer Secrets was published on June 23, 2015, so it’s available in all formats from your favorite online bookseller below (or in the right column for iBooks). If you download it as an ebook, you’ll have it to read in minutes!
I’d love to get your comments on Summer Secrets, Jane Green or her other work, and/or this review.
If you like this review, please contribute to our Reviewers’ Caffeine Fund in the left column. Just a cup a day, that’s all we ask.
One lucky reader will win a finished hardcover copy of Summer Secrets by Jane Green!
1) The deadline for entries is Saturday night, 7/25/2015, at 11:59pm EDST. No entries after that date/time will be eligible.
2) This giveaway is open to entries with U.S. mailing addresses only because we do not ship books outside of the U.S.
3) You must be at least 15 years old to enter this giveaway.
4) You must use the Rafflecopter form. Even if leaving a comment is part of the giveaway, you must use the form in addition to leaving the comment for the comment to count as an entry.
5) If you already follow PopcornReads on Twitter or Linky, you must still complete that part of the Rafflecopter form for your follow to count as an entry.
6) If you do not provide a complete mailing address in the Rafflecopter form, your entry will not be eligible. We will use your mailing address to ship your book to you. Please allow 2-3 weeks for book delivery.
7) That’s it – it’s a very easy giveaway, so have fun and best of luck!
Click here to go to the home page, where you’ll find more book giveaways you’ll want to enter!