You might just remember my excitement at discovering Adrienne Vaughan’s gorgeous writing last year, when I read and reviewed The Hollow Heart, the first of her Heartfelt three book series (read the review here). Well that pales into insignificance compared with the excitement of having the privilege of being an early reader of an e-copy of her new book, That Summer at the Seahorse Hotel, published on Thursday 8th February by The Paris Press (and available for pre-order) – thank you so much, Adrienne! I’ve been so looking forward to this one – Adrienne mentioned it when she was my guest on the blog way back in November 2016 (catch up here), and my goodness, it was well worth waiting for…
One family, one secret – that changes everything forever.
Mia Flanagan has never been told who her father is and aged ten, stopped asking.
Haunted by this, she remains a dutiful daughter who would never do anything to bring scandal or shame on her beautiful and famously single mother.
So when Archie Fitzgerald, one of Hollywood’s favourite actors, decides to leave Mia his Irish estate, she asks herself – is he her father after all?
That Summer at the Seahorse Hotel is a tale of passion, jealousy and betrayal – and the ghost of a secret love that binds this colourful cast yet still threatens, after all these years, to tear each of them apart.
This book really was everything I wanted it to be, written with all the style and panache I’d hoped for – a wonderful sweeping story, with tragedy and secrets, passion and heartbreak, a hidden history to be uncovered, more than a touch of glitz and glamour, the world of the silver screen combined with a wonderful cast of (mostly) loveable eccentric characters in a perfectly drawn Irish setting. My word, I so enjoyed this book… and if you don’t mind, I think I might just gush a little!
At its heart is Mia – immediately likeable, with her career in film wardrobe (simply fascinating!), her questionable taste in men, trying to escape the shadow of her film star mother, surrounded by people who love her, but always with that uncomfortable question mark over the identity of her father. I loved seeing her story unspool, watching her relationships develop, seeing her find her own path into the future. But while I might have loved Mia, the undoubted star of the book – with all apologies to Mia’s mother Fenella – is the larger-than-life Archie, nearing his inevitable end but the mesmerising centre of every scene in which he appears. This book isn’t a star vehicle though, it’s a wonderful ensemble piece – it’s a joy to cast and picture every character, each of whom takes their turn centre stage. Yes, even young Pearl – and you’ll know what I’m usually like about children in books. And the setting is almost a character in itself – the state-of-the-art hotel complex and the dilapidated Irish estate sitting uncomfortably side by side, the forbidding island in the bay a focus for much of the story.
It’s not all about the story and the setting – this is a book that gives you a good work-out on the emotional front too. There are some wonderful “moments” that make you feel absurdly tearful – like the sparring between Archie and Fenella, light banter but with a deep love and sense of impending loss underlying it and tearing at your heart. And there are wide-screen full technicolour dramatic moments too, moments that make your heart beat rather faster, that have you turning the pages faster as you want to discover what happens – but, at the same time, you really don’t want to find out.
There are so many threads to this book that I don’t know where to start telling you about it – from corporate shenanigans to long-buried personal secrets of the past, dramatic scenes amid dramatic scenery, a current day love story and another (mmm, maybe more than one) giving depth to the background. There are villains and there are heroes, and there are some that you’re never entirely sure about until they show themselves – some driven by greed and jealousy, some with other motivations.
In the hands of a less able author, this book might have been just too much – the large cast of characters, the different threads of current and background story, the mixing of different worlds and settings. But Adrienne Vaughan is in absolute and total control of her material, stirring everything up every now and then but holding your hand and leading you firmly through any possible confusion. Don’t miss this book, whatever you do… did I forget to mention that I really loved it?
About the author
Adrienne Vaughan has been making up stories since she could speak; primarily to entertain her sister Reta, who from a very early age never allowed a plot or character to be repeated – tough gig!
As soon as she could pick up a pen, she started writing them down. No surprise she wanted to be a journalist; ideally the editor of a glossy music and fashion magazine, so she could meet and marry a rock star – some of that came true! And in common with so many, she still holds the burning ambition to be a ‘Bond Girl’.