- Book info
- Author updates
A widowed artist. An old crush. One summer to get her life back.
A USA Today bestseller. "An enjoyable, lovely read that will lift your spirits." - Silver's Reviews
Ivy Marin’s life implodes after discovering that her late husband had spent their life savings on a beach house. Strapped for cash as an art teacher and with nowhere to go, Ivy and her recently jilted sister head to Summer Beach to recreate their lives. If only renovating a historical home didn’t unveil a host of hidden secrets in the beachside community—and the mayor wasn’t her former high school crush.
Bennett Dylan led a campaign against Ivy’s late husband to block the rezoning of the beach house land for a high-rise resort. Although it’s been ten years since his wife’s death, Bennett is avoiding the pain of loving—and possibly losing—another woman. And then the FBI shows up… Ivy’s demands for a zoning variance for a bed-and-breakfast couldn’t come at a worse time for him.
Despite distractions, Ivy has one summer to sway the town to salvage her livelihood and the new life in Summer Beach she’s come to love. Start your vacation in Summer Beach now with Seabreeze Inn and the Summer Beach series. After that, the Summer Beach fun continues with the new Coral Cottage. Find out why readers say, "Life is better in Summer Beach."
3000+ 5-star reviews!
"An entertaining beach read that offers multi-generational context and humor." - InD'Tale Magazine
"A novel that gives fans of romantic sagas a compelling voice to follow." Booklist
"Sweet romance with a mystery." - Romance in Her Prime
Release date: July 30, 2019
Publisher: Sunny Palms Press
Print pages: 382
Reader says this book is...: classic themes (1) escapist/easy read (1) heart touching (1) heartwarming (1) modern life (1) plot twists (1) rich setting(s) (1) strong heroine (1)
* BingeBooks earns revenue from qualifying purchases as an Amazon Associate as well as from other retail partners.
Listen to a sample
“WHERE IS SHE?” Ivy muttered. Impatient to board the flight to the west coast, she stood by the boarding gate, waiting for her sister, Shelly, who had disappeared in the crowded Boston Logan airport.
A flight attendant in a crisp uniform approached her. “We need to close the gate, ma’am.”
“My sister will be here. Just another minute, please?”
The attendant pressed her perfectly outlined lips together. “One minute. That’s all. She can take a later flight, but we have a plane full of passengers and a schedule to meet.”
“I understand.” Ivy shot her sister a text, and then leaned against a wall, willing her perennially late sister to make it. She didn’t want to take this flight alone. Closing her eyes, Ivy imagined the beachside community of Summer Beach in southern California. She hadn’t been there in several years—and frankly, she hadn’t expected to be visiting now—but she could still conjure the pale gold sand squishing between her toes, the morning sunshine warming her shoulders, and the salty spray misting her face.
Even though she’d been living in Boston for more than two decades, the sound of the waves breaking on Summer Beach was an altogether different pitch to her ears than that of any shoreline along the New England coast. And the sunsets! What she coveted most of all was watching the sun set over the Pacific Ocean.
She recalled gathering on the beach with her friends to watch the sun slip beneath the horizon. Almost every evening was a spectacular show as the sun fanned golden rays into a cerulean sky. To her artist’s eye, blazes of coral and rose and cadmium yellow spilled onto indigo waves like paint across a canvas. Her friends would argue about whether the green flash actually existed. Some swore they saw it when the sun set, while others called it a beach legend.
Ivy glanced at the sweeping minute hand on her wristwatch—a reassuring analog throwback in a digital age where you were only as connected as your phone’s battery life.
To Ivy, no two sunsets were ever alike. Watching majestic swirls forming in the darkening sky was like witnessing an artist’s broad strokes on a masterpiece that all too soon vanished in the mild evening air. The thought of it sent shivers through her, and she remembered photographing sunsets and setting up her easel in the late afternoon.
However, this trip to Summer Beach and San Diego County would be nothing like that. She had her late husband to thank for that surprise. She pressed a finger against her throbbing temple.
Where was she? Standing on tiptoe and craning her neck, Ivy spied Shelly—her sister was racing toward her, dodging travelers and airport trams with the nimbleness of a dancer.
Shelly thrust an arm of colorful bangles into the air. A pink shopping bag dangled from her fingers like a trophy, while her thick mane of chestnut hair looked intent on escaping from a messy bun.
“She’s almost here,” Ivy told the flight attendant, whose frown had deepened into one likely specially reserved for the tardiest of passengers.
Ivy caught a reflection of herself in the glass expanse overlooking Boston’s Logan airport. Just when had her style become so outdated? Sometime between raising two children, planning college tours and family vacations, and caring for assorted dogs and cats and hamsters, she had disappeared into the safety of comfortable clothes—dark, stretchy bottoms with flowing, muffin-top coverage blouses, or trousers and untucked Oxford shirts, like today. She straightened, tightening her stomach muscles. If the forties were the new thirties, she had some work to do.
It didn’t help that the mouth-watering, sweet cinnamon scent of her devilish downfall, Cinnabon, wafted through the airport terminal, tickling her nose.
Ivy had been putting off this visit for months. Her real estate agent in Summer Beach had been insisting that she needed to inspect the house left to her after Jeremy’s death—the only asset in his debt-ridden estate. Between private college tuition and board for their daughters and Jeremy’s love of lavish travel, they hadn’t saved much except for funding his retirement account at work. Still, she missed her husband so much—the way he’d tuck her loose hair behind her ear or wake her with coffee on the weekends. His faint French accent imbued even ordinary words with such a musical tone. When she’d complain about a birthday, he’d tell her fine wine only improved with age.
All those years, and now she wondered if she’d ever really known him.
But she couldn’t think about Jeremy, not now. She had too much to organize on this trip, and now she had to add shopping to her I Don’t Want To Do list. Ivy recalled the seashell embossed invitation her mother had sent them, along with a note, which had ultimately spurred this visit.
Just in case I don’t make it to 70, I’m throwing myself a 68th birthday bash. I want you to come. There’s something I need to share with you, but only in person, my darling. Do come. I won’t take no for an answer this time.
Her mother, Carlotta Reina Bay, had invited the extended Bay family, as well as her coterie of friends, to a party at their home, which was about half an hour south of Summer Beach. Ivy’s parents were avid globe trotters who scoured the world to import the work of undiscovered artisans—sweaters from Peru and Greece, embroidered silk from India, silver jewelry from Mexico—and share profits in an equitable manner. Ivy’s niece, Poppy, had created a website for them to sell directly to consumers.
Just in case I don’t make it to 70…Was her mother ill? Carlotta wouldn’t say, so Ivy had booked tickets immediately.
Ten seconds. The flight attendant unlatched the door, preparing to close it.
Ivy grinned as Shelly’s long legs carried her closer. Her sister exuded a bohemian New York vibe and kept her figure yoga-sleek, which meant she would fit right in with the summer crowd. What a party that will be, Ivy thought.
Maybe Shelly could help her find a party outfit at one of the ritzy boutiques in La Jolla or Del Mar, sun-drenched villages that hugged the coastline of North San Diego County.
Eight years younger and still single, Shelly was always on trend or creating the next one. Most of her friends were young hipsters, and although Shelly had a degree in horticulture, in New York she worked in a florist shop creating exotic arrangements for extravagant weddings, bar mitzvahs, charity balls, and Christmas parties. She also wrote a blog and filmed a vlog—a video blog—that together had garnered thousands of fans. What had started as a blog for gardening and floral arrangements had morphed into an emerging lifestyle brand.
Ivy’s phoned buzzed with a text from her real estate agent confirming their meeting today. The sun’s out—see you soon in Summer Beach.
She blew wisps of hair from her face in exasperation. What’s taking him so long to sell a beach house? Her real estate agent in Boston had two cash offers on her Back Bay brownstone condominium the same day it was listed. The probate attorney in Boston had referred Claire Sidwell, saying she was one of the best real estate agents in the area.
Just sell it, Ivy had texted her. She didn’t want to hear the details. Claire had obliged, until a couple of months later when she’d retired due to health problems and turned her real estate office over to Bennett Dylan.
Of all people.
Ivy knew she should have changed real estate agents right then, but at the time, she could hardly bring herself to get out of bed, let alone interview real estate agents thousands of miles away.
On our way, she texted back to him. Meet you there.
The summer before Ivy had left southern California for college, she’d had a huge crush on Bennett. They hadn’t attended the same school, but she’d seen him on the beach with friends. He wouldn’t know her by her married name, but still, she wasn’t pleased about having him represent Jeremy’s—no, her—house.
And now, thanks to her social media-happy siblings and their children, she could no longer hide on the east coast. The ever-connected Bennett had heard about the pending party and called to set up an appointment. Since you’re going to be in town anyway…
There was no way out. Ivy pursed her lips, determined to take care of business. She had to face the situation that she’d tried to ignore for months.
Breathless, Shelly arrived by her side and hugged her.
“Must you always make me late?” Ivy asked, perturbed.
“I’m right on time. The plane is still here,” Shelly said, laughing.
The flight attendant was sweeping the door closed behind their heels and executing the most spectacular eye roll Ivy had ever seen.
“I knew I shouldn’t have let you out of my sight. What was so urgent that you had to get?”
“Some cosmetics. I left most of my stuff in the city at Ezzra’s apartment. And this.” She patted the pink bag, which emitted sweet, calorie-laden aromas. “Break-up goodies. Once we’re airborne.”
Last week, Shelly had taken the train to Boston. She’d broken up with her on-again, off-again boyfriend—Ezzra, a hipster podcaster with a double Z name—and needed to talk.
The flight attendant herded them into the boarding bridge tunnel. “Ladies, your flight is ready to leave now.”
“See? Perfect timing.” Shelly rushed in. “And I got us upgraded to first class.”
“Great. First class into the abyss.” Ivy followed her onto the plane, shaking her head, but grateful that Shelly had made it—and for the extra comfort and legroom on the flight. Her sister had the kind of personality that people gravitated toward. When you were in her sphere, the world bloomed in vivid Technicolor, which was just what she needed right now.
As Ivy trailed Shelly to the last row of the first-class section, she smiled as heads turned toward her younger sister. Ivy had once been considered attractive, too. Not glossy magazine cover gorgeous, but certainly pleasant enough.
“May we have champagne?” Shelly asked before she slid into her seat.
“Once we’re airborne,” a new flight attendant answered. Another one rushed to close the aircraft’s fuselage door.
“And we’re off,” Shelly said, her glossy lips twisting into a cute grin. “Let’s get this beach party started.”
Ivy stowed her carry-on bag and sank into her seat, thinking about their parents. She couldn’t wait to see them again, and she regretted having stayed away for so long. Between her husband and her daughters, life had been so full and busy.
Occasionally her parents had passed through Boston on their travels—or rather, they would take the train from New York if they had an international flight routed through the east coast. Her parents, Carlotta and Sterling Bay, were two of the hardiest souls she knew, yet she couldn’t ignore her mother’s request. Even her older sister, Honey, and her husband Gabe were flying in for the party from their home in Sydney, Australia. Ivy’s twin brothers and their wives and tribe of nine children would also be there, along with other family friends.
Too many Bays on that shore, Gabe often joked, but it was true. Their family was multiplying. Her brothers Flint and Forrest had continued her parents’ humorous affection for names. So had she, although her daughters were actually named Mistral and Soleil, on her husband’s insistence. His surname, Marin, wasn’t too far from Bay, and they’d even laughed about it on their first date. He was from Cannes, and a love of the ocean ran through them like blood in their veins.
The only people missing from the party would be Ivy’s two daughters, nicknamed Misty and Sunny. Misty had studied voice and acting, and she had a critical understudy role in a new theater production in Boston, while Sunny was backpacking across Europe after taking a year off from college after Jeremy’s death. The last postcard had arrived with a Venice postmark, so she was probably in Rome by now.
Once they were airborne, a flight attendant delivered two sparkling flutes of champagne. Lifting the glass, Ivy scrunched her nose to the bubbles. Was it too early to imbibe? She hadn’t done this since a vacation with Jeremy, long before the children were born.
“You’re going to love these.” Shelly’s green eyes that mirrored her own danced as she opened the pink bag and withdrew an assortment of cake pops. One was covered with swirls of white and dark chocolate and studded with slivers of peppermint. Another one sported gold sprinkles and tiny lavender fondant roses, while yet another featured a pink high heel.
Instantly, Ivy’s spirits lifted. “These are miniature works of art.”
“I knew you’d love them. And I couldn’t resist.” Shelly slid out one that sparkled with rock sugar along a flat rim and was topped with a yellow fondant straw. “And this one is a pistachio margarita.”
Shelly picked up her glass. “To our new lives,” she said, clinking Ivy’s glass. “Now, choose one.”
“A new life?”
“If only it were that easy. No, one of these dangerous little goodies.”
“Hmm. The pink high heels.” Ivy admired it before she took a bite. “These are delicious,” she said, savoring the sweet confection and sipping her champagne. “Completely decadent.”
Shelly chose a lavender rose cake pop. “And totally deserved,” she said between bites.
Ivy sighed. “I’ll say.”
While they indulged, Ivy’s thoughts returned to the house. “I told the real estate agent I’d meet him at the house in Summer Beach before we go home. I want to get this over with first.” With Shelly along for emotional support, she could face this situation now.
“Sure. We can call a ride-share service from the airport when we land,” Shelly said.
Ivy squeezed her hand, grateful that her sister understood.
For weeks after Jeremy’s death, Ivy had sequestered herself in their brownstone condo, trying to process her husband’s sudden death and the trail he’d left, which raised so many questions. Why had he drained his retirement account to buy a dilapidated house in Summer Beach without discussing it with her? Was the house to have been a surprise? An investment? Jeremy had always been impulsive and given to grand gestures, but this was far beyond his usual behavior.
She wouldn’t have known about the house at all except for their accountant, who’d asked her why funds had been removed from Jeremy’s retirement account. The taxes due on that transaction had forced her to sell the condo.
She took another sip of champagne. Evidently, the beach house was such an old monstrosity that it had lingered on the market without any takers.
Ivy also wrestled with suspicions that plagued her restless nights. She’d spent days in bed, reeling back scenes in her mind like an old movie and wondering what had changed in their last year. If anything, he’d become even more attentive toward her.
She’d gone through his phone looking for clues to his actions, but the mundane emails were conspicuous because of what she didn’t find—nothing about the house. Nothing. As though he had been extra careful not to leave a trail. Wouldn’t he have emailed a real estate agent, a closing officer, an attorney, an inspector, a banker—anyone? As an experienced technology security consultant, Jeremy was well versed in such tactics. He was always cautious about what he sent online, but in this case, he’d been too careful.
She was not just imagining this. And who could she confide in, aside from her sister? All of their friends and family were mourning Jeremy, too. Besides, one didn’t speak ill of the dead—wasn’t that the old cliché? She had to get these thoughts out of her mind—and that house out of her life.
Shelly loosened her seat belt and leaned over. “Any offers on the house?”
Ivy bit her lip and stared past her out the window. The fluffy clouds beneath them masked so many problems on the ground. “Not a solitary one.”
Shelly inclined her head. “It’s a shame you have to sell it. Have you thought of living in it?”
She met her sister’s question with a firm gaze. “Absolutely not.”
“You really don’t know what Jeremy intended to do with it.”
“I can’t even afford the property taxes.” Ivy had already made the toughest decision in selling the beloved home she’d lived in for most of her adult life. This decision was easy.
Shelly stroked her hand. “I’m sorry. I know you thought your condo was your forever home, and you loved the neighborhood. Maybe there’s something else in store for you. Another life than the one you’d planned.”
“But I loved my old life.” Ivy knew that sounded whiny, but it was the truth. She blinked back tears that still sprang, unbidden, to her eyes, even after almost a year. How long would it be until she woke in the morning without thinking of Jeremy?
“I know,” Shelly said with compassion.
Over the last year, Ivy had learned to be practical. Without Jeremy’s income as a technology consultant, what Ivy made from her work as a freelance art teacher barely covered her expenses, even after she’d sold their Back Bay condo—heavily mortgaged, another surprise—and rented a room in a professor’s home. She’d sold what she could and put the rest in storage, consoling herself with the idea that she was downsizing for more freedom.
Instead, she felt rudderless and inconsequential. A middle-aged woman—although she didn’t feel like it inside. Most of her adult life, she had been something to other people and always in demand. Wife, mother, teacher. Yet since her daughters had left for college, they didn’t need her much anymore. So where did she fit in now?
At the moment, nowhere.
Rediscovering herself now was frightening at times. And as much as she loved Shelly, her sister couldn’t truly understand how she felt. Shelly had been accustomed to being on her own.
Yet in her heart, Ivy knew this is not who she was. She had once been a fearless woman, unafraid of seizing the life she wanted. That was when she had moved from San Diego, gone to school in a new state with no friends, and met Jeremy.
Ivy turned to Shelly. “Eleanor Roosevelt once said, ‘Do one thing every day that scares you.’ From now on, that’s what we have to do.”
Shelly touched her glass. “Deal.”
First, sell that house. Ivy had to be careful with what little money she had left. At least she knew where Jeremy’s retirement fund had gone. The nerve of him. When had he planned to tell her?
“We’ll start over together,” Shelly said. “Maybe I’ll move to Boston.”
“Ha. You would never do that. You love New York.” Ivy sipped her champagne and eased her seat back.
Shelly reclined her seat, too. “I might be having an early midlife crisis.”
“Some of my friends’ husbands went through middle age crises,” Ivy said. “They bought trendy clothes, Harley-Davidson motorcycles, or went sky-diving. That would’ve been okay. My husband just spent our entire retirement on a beach tear-down on the other side of the country.” She pinched the bridge of her nose.
“Don’t go there. It only leads to pity parties.”
“And costly therapy.” Despite her complaints, Ivy had loved Jeremy. Surely they could have worked out their problems; they always had. If she had only known they’d had a problem.
Ivy had once been so secure in her life, and it still astounded her how quickly a seemingly happy, stable life could have crashed around her shoulders like a crumbling relic. She recalled the night it happened. Jeremy always took her out on her birthday, but a disgruntled client in Florida had demanded an urgent trip.
We hope you are enjoying the book so far. To continue reading...