Summer is the perfect season to lay outside (with plenty of sunscreen!) and read a book. Summer reading used to be a drag, but now it can be the best part of the dog days. In no particular order, here are a few of my favorite lighter reads that go perfectly with lemonade or iced tea!
The Dollhouse by Fiona Davis
“Fiona Davis’s stunning debut novel pulls readers into the lush world of New York City’s glamorous Barbizon Hotel for Women, where in the 1950s a generation of aspiring models, secretaries, and editors lived side by side while attempting to claw their way to fairy-tale success, and where a present-day journalist becomes consumed with uncovering a dark secret buried deep within the Barbizon’s glitzy past.
When she arrives at the famed Barbizon Hotel in 1952, secretarial school enrollment in hand, Darby McLaughlin is everything her modeling agency hall mates aren’t: plain, self-conscious, homesick, and utterly convinced she doesn’t belong—a notion the models do nothing to disabuse. Yet when Darby befriends Esme, a Barbizon maid, she’s introduced to an entirely new side of New York City: seedy downtown jazz clubs where the music is as addictive as the heroin that’s used there, the startling sounds of bebop, and even the possibility of romance.
Over half a century later, the Barbizon’s gone condo and most of its long-ago guests are forgotten. But rumors of Darby’s involvement in a deadly skirmish with a hotel maid back in 1952 haunt the halls of the building as surely as the melancholy music that floats from the elderly woman’s rent-controlled apartment. It’s a combination too intoxicating for journalist Rose Lewin, Darby’s upstairs neighbor, to resist—not to mention the perfect distraction from her own imploding personal life. Yet as Rose’s obsession deepens, the ethics of her investigation become increasingly murky, and neither woman will remain unchanged when the shocking truth is finally revealed.” –Goodreads
As many of my repeat readers know, I’m a huge Fiona Davis fan. Any of her books are great reads for the summer, or anytime really. While they do contain conflict and tension, it’s done in a way that’s far from anxiety-inducing, and I think the female-lead historical mysteries are a must-read.
The Right Sort of Man by Allison Montclair
“In a London slowly recovering from World War II, two very different women join forces to launch a business venture in the heart of Mayfair–The Right Sort Marriage Bureau. Miss Iris Sparks, quick-witted and impulsive, and Mrs. Gwendolyn Bainbridge, practical and widowed with a young son, are determined to achieve some independence and do some good in a rapidly changing world.
But the promising start to their marriage bureau is threatened when their newest client, Tillie La Salle, is found murdered and the man arrested for the crime is the prospective husband they matched her with. While the police are convinced they have their man, Miss Sparks and Mrs. Bainbridge are not. To clear his name–and to rescue their fledging operation’s reputation–Sparks and Bainbridge decide to investigate on their own, using the skills and contacts they’ve each acquired through life and their individual adventures during the recent war.
Little do they know that this will put their very lives at risk.” –Goodreads
Everything about this title is amazing! From the characters to the surprise ending of the mystery, to the marriage bureau, everything is well-thought-out and brilliantly executed. The main characters have a wonderful relationship and lots of agency despite the time period. If you like mysteries, stories of friendship, or quirky characters, this is the perfect beach read for you.
The Bookshop of Yesterdays by Amy Meyerson
“A woman inherits a beloved bookstore and sets forth on a journey of self-discovery in this poignant debut about family, forgiveness and a love of reading.
Miranda Brooks grew up in the stacks of her eccentric Uncle Billy’s bookstore, solving the inventive scavenger hunts he created just for her. But on Miranda’s twelfth birthday, Billy has a mysterious falling-out with her mother and suddenly disappears from Miranda’s life. She doesn’t hear from him again until sixteen years later when she receives unexpected news: Billy has died and left her Prospero Books, which is teetering on bankruptcy—and one final scavenger hunt.” –Goodreads
Another mystery that puts family relationships in the forefront, this book is a wonderful way to escape the drag of time at the beach. Its conclusion is surprising and hopeful, and it’s set in a book store—what more could you ask for? If it’s compelling characters you’re looking for, you’re also in the right place. At Prospero books, you can’t lose!
Have a wonderful summer of reading!