For the core of her third novel, Barbara Davis takes a staple of historical women’s fiction – the discovery of an old diary – and grafts around it an engrossing story about sibling jealousy, the difficult path to self-discovery, and the importance of understanding the past and taking chances on the future.
Beginning in 1953, Lily-Mae’s journal reveals the story of her difficult adolescence and the adult decisions that led to her renown as a cover model and, much later, her dying alone in her bed at Hideaway Key. With a heartfelt tone revealed through her rural Tennessee twang, Lily-Mae tells how her Mama abandoned her and Caroline at a poor farm after their money ran out. Lily-Mae’s resolve to do whatever it takes to protect her younger sister, even to her own detriment, instills in Caroline a resentment that festers throughout their lives.
Both tales are flawlessly interwoven, each enhancing the plot and themes revealed in the other, and they exert a similar emotional pull. The ending is perfect – have some tissues ready – and the glorious depictions of the Florida beaches will satisfy anyone who’s ever dreamed of an idyllic tropical haven.
Summer at Hideaway Key was published by NAL Accent in August ($16.00/C$20.00, trade pb, 386pp). This review first appeared in November's Historical Novels Review.