Barefoot Girls by Tara McTiernan

Usually during this time of year I get a little melancholy about the end of summer. I already miss those lazy afternoons tubing down the river, and those weekend escapes to the Texas coast. So when I want to evoke those sweet sun-kissed memories, I envelop myself in a good beach read filled with sun, fun and a dash of mystery. I couldn’t have picked a better end-of-summer beach read than Tara McTiernan’s Barefoot Girls!

The story centers on Captains Island, a charming little East Coast hamlet where a quartet of best friends reunite each summer at their sacred clubhouse known as the “Barefooters Shack.” Throughout the decades, the girls remained thick as thieves. When the ringleader of the group has an unexpected pregnancy, the women swoop in and raise their “barefoot baby” together as if it was their own.

Surrounded by a circle of fun-loving mothers, little Hannah spent many fun-filled summers on the island. On the surface, she had the perfect childhood. But her debut “novel” says otherwise.

Written with such passion and depth, Hannah’s book touches on some heavy duty childhood abandonment issues. It certainly doesn’t seem like something a 21-year-old could write… unless if she’s drawing from her own personal experiences. When a snarky book reviewer insinuates that the novel is a disguised memoir, Hannah’s melodramatic mother, Keeley, completely shuts down. How could she fabricate such hurtful lies?

Even Hannah questions the motivation behind the poison-penned novel. Her mother gave her everything she needed, so where is all the anger and resentment coming from?

To get some answers, she quits her waitressing job and heads out to the place where it all began, the sacred Barefooters clubhouse. Filled with so many happy

Here’s my Indian summer getaway: Rockport, TX.

memories and dusty photo albums, the shack is her only sanctuary from the storm. But when she arrives to Captains Island during the gloomy off season, the atmosphere feels more like a baron ghost town than a seaside getaway. And for the first time, Hannah doesn’t feel comfort in solitude.

The only way to understand the root of her complex emotions is to dig into her mother’s past. Why did her mother always seem so emotionally detached? And why did she always feel so alone – even in the presence of her doting Barefooters?

She better find answers quick – before she sabotages all chances for happiness, including her engagement with Daniel, the one man who managed to find his way into her heart.

Told through multiple narratives, the author expertly intertwines several plot threads: Past memories of the Barefooters’ childhood adventures, Keeley’s current struggle with alcoholism and life on the Upper East Side, and Daniel’s frustrations with Hannah’s walled-up emotions. And if that’s not enough drama, she also throws in the Barefooters’ childhood bully,  a deranged beauty queen with fading looks and a serious vendetta.

As Hannah delves deeper into her mother’s unbreakable bond with the Barefooters, she begins to realize why she has always gone through life feeling like an outsider. When shocking family secrets are revealed and pent-up emotions come to a head, Hannah must learn how to move forward by letting go of her past.

Overall Barefoot Girls is a captivating story about forgiveness, new beginnings and the everlasting bond between women. At 400+ pages it’s a little on the long side, but once you get into it you won’t want to leave the idyllic little summer getaway. Through the author’s prose, you can practically smell the salty air and feel the sand beneath your toes. If you’re looking for a sweet escape, this book will do the trick!

Short & Sweet Sundays: Monarch Beach by Anita Hughes

In honor of Sunday – a day I reserve for reading and lollygagging – I bring you a short and sweet book review! 

The gist: Amanda Blick leads a charmed life. She’s got a gorgeous French chef husband, a perfect little house in a high-class neighborhood, and a cute little rosy- cheeked boy.  But underneath the glossy surface, trouble is a’ brewing. Her husband seems to be working more late nights at the restaurant, and the female kitchen help can’t seem to look her in the eyes. Hmm….something smells fishy around here and I don’t’ think it’s the catch of the day!

It all comes to a head when she finds her husband and his sous chef in a rather…shall we say compromising position in the kitchen. Rather than sticking around to let him weasel his way back into her heart, she takes her rich mom up on her offer to spend the summer at the deliciously decadent St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort.

Distraught over her husband’s betrayal, not even the plentiful umbrella drinks and cute cabana boys can put her mind at ease. That is until she bumps into Edward Jonas, a restaurateur with kind eyes and a sexy smile. Although her instincts tell her to steer clear of handsome culinary artists, there’s something about this low key silver fox that sets her heart aflutter! Is it wise to take a chance on another man before signing the divorce papers? Why does she still lust after her philandering husband? And most importantly – why must she continue to put her life on hold in the name of love?  

Why I chose this book: It’s summertime, so what could be better than soaking up the rays on my hot-pink beach towel with a romantic beach read?  I really enjoyed living vicariously in the St. Regis presidential suite, drinking the fruity cocktails, digging my toes in the soft sand, and riding along the Pacific Coast Highway in a sweet Bentley!

What I liked most: The ending. I was preparing myself for a predictable conclusion, but the author threw a major curve ball. Amanda’s got another big journey ahead of her – and I’m hoping there’s going to be a sequel!

Why it’s unique:  Come to think of it, most of the books I read don’t involve obscenely rich protagonists. Mostly, they’re career girls, struggling journalists and amateur sleuths.  So this book was kind of a departure from the norm.  Some may say that it’s too vapid and decadent, but I say lighten up people!  I enjoyed reading about Amanda’s fairytale life with two glamorous parents in a posh San Francisco mansion. I certainly am not a “lifestyle of the rich and famous” kind of girl, but I do think it’s amusing to read about that world.  

What irked me: I needed more action. It seemed that fine dining and cocktail hours dominated Amanda’s summertime activities. Don’t get me wrong, I love reading about cozy restaurant scenes, but she needed to get out and have some fun! I want to immerse myself in the icy Pacific Ocean, ride with the dolphins, and zip over the waves in a jet ski! It’s a fabulous beach resort, so why not take advantage of all the amenities?  

This book is best paired with: A Bob Marley playlist, a pina colada and a comfy deck chair.

Would I read another book by this author? Most definitely! She certainly has a knack for character development and sharp dialogue.

If you like this book, you’ll also enjoy titles by: Jane Green, Kristin Hannah, Susan Mallory and Beatriz Williams.