By Meredith Jaeger
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Daniele
In this new novel from the author of The Dressmaker’s Dowry, two young women two generations apart discover the joy and heartbreak of following their dreams. Aspiring Hollywood actress Violet makes a shocking choice in 1940, and seventy years later, Mari sets out to discover what happened on that long ago summer.
Santa Cruz, Summer 1940: When auburn-haired Violet Harcourt is crowned Miss California on the boardwalk of her hometown, she knows she is one step closer to her cherished dream: a Hollywood screen test. But Violet’s victory comes with a price—discord in her seemingly perfect marriage—and she grapples with how much more she is willing to pay.
Summer 2007: Single mother Marisol Cruz lives with her parents in the charming beach cottage that belonged to her grandfather, Ricardo, once a famed performer on the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Drawn to the town’s local history and the quaint gazebo where her grandparents danced beneath the stars, Mari sells raffle tickets at the Beach Boardwalk Centennial Celebration, and meets Jason, a California transplant from Chicago.
When Mari discovers the obituary of Violet Harcourt, a beauty queen who died too young, she and Jason are sent on a journey together that will uncover her grandfather’s lifelong secret—his connection to Violet—a story of tragedy and courage that will forever transform them. (Goodreads)
Boardwalk Summer is an excellent summer vacation read suitable for fans of dual timeline stories, historical and contemporary romance, and family sagas.
I enjoyed this tale of two independent women whose stories intersect in unexpected ways. In 1940, Violet Harcourt is a beautiful young bride with stars in her eyes and dreams of going to Hollywood. Despite her controlling husband Charles, she makes a brief go at stardom but finds the Hollywood culture is not what she thought it would be. In 2007, Marisol “Mari” Cruz is an historian at heart, but one poor choice during college has given her the single mother life she never thought she would live. While working at the historical society’s booth on the Santa Cruz boardwalk, an old newspaper article about Violet Harcourt catches her eye. For some reason, she cannot shake thoughts of Violet and her reported suicide. She also cannot help thinking about Jason, whom she met on the boardwalk. Mari soon finds a connection between Violet and her beloved grandfather Ricky, and the more she investigates, the more threads there are that entwine Violet to Ricky to Mari to Jason.
Boardwalk Summer is, at its heart, a love letter to Santa Cruz and its historical boardwalk. It was nice to learn about this area of California that I have not visited. Since I am a big fan of historical fiction, I was surprised to find myself more interested in the contemporary sections of Boardwalk Summer. Violet seems flighty and naive, though she had to be strong to overcome her abusive home life. Her naivety got on my nerves. Of course, I did not like the abusive, controlling Charles. My stomach dropped and I felt stressed every time he appeared in a scene. Even though Ricky was not featured much, I adore him. Perhaps Mari’s feelings about her Abuelo colored my own opinion, but I would have dearly liked to get to know Ricky and his bride. Mari is a strong, well defined character with her own dreams, faults, and innate goodness. She is smart, and I think she and I could be friends. My favorite character is Mari’s love interest Jason. He is honestly a good person, and, truth be told, I might have a bit of a crush on him myself.
Author Jaeger does an excellent job of weaving the two storylines together. At first, I found it all predictable, but as the tale unfolded, it became more complex and engaging. By the end, it was a truly satisfying read. Recommended to fans of chick lit and historical fiction.