The Summer Wives by Beatriz Williams

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Miranda Schuyler has just arrived back home to Winthrop Island to hide away from her life just a bit.  She just wants some quiet, to try to repair her relationship with her mother and her half-sister – if possible – and to heal, both physically and emotionally.  What she doesn’t expect is that on arriving back here, all of her memories and the emotions tied to them would come flooding back as well.  And with them, much of her understanding of her world might just be turned upside-down.

Beatriz Williams creates the most wonderful female characters – they are strong, smart, witty, and often rebellious without ever losing their femininity or grace.  They are characters who drive the plot, who outwit the demons, and who, while we guess will be victorious in the end, we never know exactly how.  There are always clever plot twists and there are sometimes dark details, but there is always a lightness and humor in the telling.  And Miranda, with her story, certainly falls in line with this pattern.

Williams also utilizes the shifting of voices and of time to build the story from various vantage points. I love this technique.  I find this builds suspense and keeps the motion of the story moving forward, even when we’re essentially hearing backstory.  It enriches both the story and the people in it and deepens our understanding of both.  Because sometimes it isn’t the “what” that is the mystery of the story but the “why” – and here is a good example of that.

I really enjoyed this book – and am hoping to read all of her books at some point!

A Certain Age by Beatriz Williams

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OK, I’ll admit I’m a little obsessed with the writing of Beatriz Williams at the moment.  But it’s justified!  In this novel, she has managed, once again, to create characters that I’d love to go out and have a drink with.

This story, which takes place in New York just as the world is reeling from the effects of the first World War, weaves together the lives of Sophie, a reclusive innocent who secretly tinkers with “machines”, Octavian, a WWI air force veteran/hero, and Theresa, a middle aged NYC socialite.  As their lives become entangled, we gradually learn why Sophie’s life has been so sheltered by her father and how complications of love can bring out both evil and good.

Williams’ use of different voices enables her to truly uncover the personalities of her colorful and complex characters.  We hear from Theresa in first person – and her aggressive but coy and sardonic humor shines through.  On the other hand, we learn about Sophie in third person, but this is fitting as she actually knows little about herself, having been sheltered by her father and trying to break out.  And with each change of perspective comes a different tint in language and feeling.

What is also amusing is that all of Williams’ books either centrally or peripherally involve the Schuyler family of Manhattan, her fabricated, very large and very intriguing  family of characters.  In this book we get to know Julie Schuyler, who is rich and confident and worldly, but also admittedly dependent on her family for her fun – a woman typical of her wealthy 1920’s era.  She is a side character here, but serves as the vehicle that brings Sophie into the limelight of the story.

I can’t wait to read my next Beatriz Williams book!

Along the Infinite Sea by Beatriz Williams

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Another absolute winner by this gifted writer!

Pepper Schuyler certainly has her reasons for selling the 1936 Special Roadster Mercedes Benz she’s been working on restoring, but she can’t imagine why the mysterious Annabelle Dommerich was so intent on buying it, and for such a small fortune.  To learn why, the author takes us back and forth between the relative “present” (1966) and the past (1935-) in the telling of the story.  We learn that Annabelle has had to navigate a passionate love for a Jewish German man at the start of the Nazi uprising.  Her complicated history has lead her inextricably back to this car and to Pepper, with whom she will share more in common than Pepper would have ever predicted.

 

Beatriz Williams has a way of creating characters whom you just want to invite over for a drink and conversation.  Her female characters are smart and sharp-witted and yet hopeful and strong.  In addition, she crafts her plots with twists and turns and actually keeps the suspense maintained throughout the pages.  This is a book that you can’t stop but yet don’t want to finish reading, because you just want to stay in the world of these real-life, endearing characters.

Highly recommend this and can’t wait to read other books by her!  (This is my 3rd by her,  I believe.)

The Secret Life of Violet Grant by Beatriz Williams

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This was my favorite book of the summer!

Vivian has stumbled on the makings of a news story from her own family, when she receives a suitcase from an aunt she’s never heard about before, who is rumored to have killed her husband and run off with her lover.  In tracking down the details of her aunt’s romantic history, she also becomes embroiled in a romantic “situation” of her own.  And what starts as a simple tale of the heart actually broadens to a historical fiction saga of more worldly proportions.

I’m being vague about the description here because I don’t want to give anything of this twisting and turning novel away.  The author throws curve balls when the reader least expects them and I don’t want to ruin it for anyone lucky enough to read this book.

The writing of this book is exquisite!  The voice of Vivian is delightful – with a playful and biting edge and air of self-deprecation.   And the voices switch from Vivian to her aunt Violet, as the time switches back and forth as well.  I found myself giggling throughout, even as the plot thickens and becomes quite suspenseful, there is always humor to lighten the tone.

Between the writing, the gorgeous characters, and the story itself, this is a great read for all.  A definite “Must read!”