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Bestselling author Holly Chamberlin welcomes readers to the sunny beaches and unspoiled beauty of Maine, in this poignant, thoughtful new novel of a mother and daughter in the midst of profound change. . .
When Louise Bessire was living in Boston, she dreamed of another way of life, far from the phony smiles and small-talk of corporate dinners. Now she's got what she wanted—though not exactly in the way she hoped. Blindsided by her husband's affair, Louise has used her divorce ...
Bestselling author Holly Chamberlin welcomes readers to the sunny beaches and unspoiled beauty of Maine, in this poignant, thoughtful new novel of a mother and daughter in the midst of profound change. . .
When Louise Bessire was living in Boston, she dreamed of another way of life, far from the phony smiles and small-talk of corporate dinners. Now she's got what she wanted—though not exactly in the way she hoped. Blindsided by her husband's affair, Louise has used her divorce settlement to buy Blueberry Bay, a picturesque bed and breakfast in Ogunquit. And with a celebrity wedding taking place on the premises this summer, business is looking up.
While Louise deals with paparazzi and wedding planners, her sixteen-year-old daughter, Isobel, is falling hard for local boy Jeff Otten. Being singled out by Jeff—nineteen, handsome, and from a wealthy family—almost makes up for her father's increasing neglect. Yet even in the glow of golden beach days there are sudden, heart-wrenching revelations for both Louise and Isobel. It will be a summer that tests their strength and courage and proves that through every changing season, nothing is as steadfast as a mother's love. . .
Praise for the novels of Holly Chamberlin
"A thoughtful social commentary and tender narration of friendship and loyalty." —Publishers Weekly on Last Summer
"Nostalgia over real-life friendships lost and regained pulls readers into the story." -USA Today on Summer Friends
It was a typically beautiful afternoon in early June when the call came in.
Afterward, Louise liked to refer to it as "the fateful call." Her daughter, Isobel, chose to refer to it as "the call that changed everything." Either phrase was appropriate, because with absolutely no warning or preparation, Louise Bessire, owner of the Blueberry Bay Inn in Ogunquit, Maine, found herself deep in a mostly one-sided discussion with a wedding planner to the stars.
"Yes, yes," she said. "I see." She did not see, not at all. She could hardly believe what she was hearing from this person calling herself Flora Michaels. "How many guests did you say? That many?"
Louise leaned against the kitchen sink and put her hand to her head, where she suspected there would be a big pain very soon. At forty-two Louise still had the slim, lithe figure she had had at twenty-two. Mostly, that was due to genetics and next, to nervous energy. She was five feet eight inches tall, with thick blond hair, darker now than it had been when she was younger. Usually, she wore it hanging straight to her shoulders or up in a messy bun; today, she had gone for the bun. At the moment she was dressed in one version of what had become her summer uniform—a pair of white jeans, a fitted T-shirt, and comfortable wedge sandals. Another version might have substituted capri pants for the jeans and flat sandals for the wedges. These days, Louise didn't have much time to spend on worrying about her wardrobe.
The inn's kitchen was located at the back of the house, and during the busy season it served as home base for the Bessire women. The walls were painted a cheery yellow. The floors, originally pine, had been replaced with good ceramic tile some years back. Windows all along the back wall, against which stood the sink and a long working counter, let in plenty of natural light. The backsplash tile was a springy green that worked nicely with the yellow of the walls. A big round clock—black-rimmed, white-faced, black-numbered—hung over the kitchen door, which opened out onto a small, semi-enclosed space for storage of gardening equipment, and then onto the backyard.
Though the room was off-limits to guests, it was still a bit of a showcase and, of course, spotlessly clean. The appliances were restaurant grade, as the inn served breakfast from seven until nine o'clock and in mid-afternoon provided tea, coffee, and homemade pastries in the parlor.
The meals were thanks to Bella Frank, a sixty-five-year-old local woman who had trained in her youth as a chef. After a lifetime of supporting her children by doing the books for her husband's hardware store and taking odd jobs when they presented themselves, she welcomed the opportunity to practice her passion. Louise felt beyond lucky to have Bella as an employee. Before buying the inn, she had had absolutely no experience in any area of the hospitality industry; she had never even waited tables, let alone cooked for potentially fussy strangers.
The table in the center of the pleasant room was an old, scrubbed-pine piece; it was the first bit of furniture Louise had bought for the inn. It was here that Louise and her fifteen-year-old daughter, Isobel, ate their meals together. It was where Isobel was sitting at that very moment, watching her mother intently. Louise felt a bit like a slow-moving bird being eyed by a hungry cat. Occasionally, Isobel mouthed a questioning word that Louise thought might be "what" or maybe "who," and her right hand was making a spasmodic gesture Louise interpreted as "hurry!" Isobel wasn't known for her patience. She was the kid who had to give you the birthday present she had bought you as soon as she got it home, even if your birthday was weeks away, just because she couldn't wait to see your pleased reaction. She was also the kid who routinely burned her mouth on cookies fresh out of the oven because she simply couldn't wait until they had cooled off.
Isobel, on the cusp of sixteen, was tiny, about five feet two inches tall, and her complexion was much darker than her mother's, closer to that of her father's side of the family. Her hair, too, was darker than Louise's, more of a golden brown than blond. Her eyes were a very deep blue—in contrast to her mother's light blue eyes—but like the Jones side of the family, she was very slim. At the moment she was dressed in—well, not a version of a uniform, because every day Isobel emerged from her bedroom in an entirely new and unpredictable outfit. Today that outfit consisted of a pair of bright green Converse sneakers; a tan crocheted skirt (with a silk lining) that came to mid-calf; and a man's blue oxford button-down shirt tied up at the waist. In her ears she wore hoops studded with turquoise stones; both wrists sported an assortment of bangles and rope bracelets; on her right hand she wore a massive faux gold ring set with a triangular bit of pyrite; and on her left hand she wore a Lucite ring in pink and orange. The Lucite ring had belonged to Louise when she was a child.
"But I don't—" Louise was interrupted, again, by Flora Michaels. "Well, yes, that's possible, I guess, but—" And again.
Isobel rolled her eyes, and her leg bounced with curiosity.
Louise turned away. Isobel's excitement was making her nervous. Well, more nervous than she already was and had been since buying Blueberry Bay Inn a little over two years earlier, just after her divorce from Isobel's father had been finalized. The purchase had been partly whim, and partly dream; she had presented a tiny bit of a plan, and had taken a hell of a lot of a risk. Louise still wondered if she had been entirely in her right mind when she signed all those papers at the closing.
Still, there were aspects of her life as an innkeeper she enjoyed, and she downright loved the inn itself. The house had been built around 1880 and had remained in the possession of the Burke family for generations. Around 1993 the last of the Burkes sold it for far less than it might have been worth if failing fortunes hadn't rendered it almost uninhabitable. The new owners restored it from the near wreck it had become over time and converted it to an inn they called Blueberry Hill. Somewhere in the early 2000s the name was changed to Blueberry Bay. Louise wondered if the association with the famous 1950s Chuck Berry song had occasioned too many annoying questions like, "So, did Chuck Berry ever stay here, or what?"
The last owner had painted the big old building white, and the doors and window shutters a dark green. On the first floor, to the left of the entrance, was a parlor for the convenience of guests on a rainy afternoon or evening. It had a working fireplace, several large and comfortable high-backed armchairs, a couch that was just the right degree of saggy (that, according to Isobel), and a scattering of small antique occasional tables.
A smaller room across from the parlor, now called the library, housed the reception desk, a rack of tourist guides, stacks of local magazines and newspapers, and a collection of books amassed haphazardly over the years by the various owners of the inn. There was also a big supply of paperbacks abandoned by summer visitors. Those with steamy covers Louise had stuck up on the higher shelves. The inn did not allow children, but still, Blueberry Bay did have a certain reputation to maintain. That, or Louise was becoming prudish in her early middle age.
The breakfast room was beyond the parlor. There was a private table for every guest room, each one set with an eclectic assortment of old crockery, china, and silverware Louise and Isobel had scavenged from antique shops and flea markets. Each morning, Louise refreshed the tiny vase at the center of each table with offerings from the garden, a bit of Queen Anne's lace or a single peony or, later in the season, a bloom of hydrangea.
A small powder room was tucked in under the stairs. It had been installed fairly recently, within the last ten or twelve years, and like all of the other bathrooms at the inn, it boasted modern facilities along with touches of New England charm, like the basket of whitened seashells that sat on a shelf over the toilet, and a print showing the crew of a lobster boat hauling in their catch. (Louise had to replenish the contents of the basket on a regular basis; guests seemed to feel a compulsive need to steal the shells.)
On the second floor, at the back of the house, were Louise's bedroom, Isobel's bedroom, and the bathroom they shared. At the front of the house, there was a large guest room with an alcove big enough to serve as a sitting area; this room offered a private bathroom. From the window you could see a bit of Perkins Cove—at least, you could make out a few roofs and beyond them, on a clear day, a bit of horizon.
There were three medium-sized guest rooms on the third floor. From the front room you could see a wide strip of the energetic Atlantic, silvery blue in a certain light, bright teal in another, and deep navy in yet another. There was one shared bathroom in the hall.
The attic, off-limits to guests as was the kitchen, might have been a treasure hunter's paradise except that by the time Louise bought the Blueberry Bay Inn, all of the attic's antique and vintage contents had long ago been dispersed. Now, the room contained remnants of her own past, including boxes of her childhood toys and report cards and even the dried and crumpled corsage she had worn to her high school junior prom; mementos of Isobel's not-so-distant childhood; and things from the Massachusetts house Louise couldn't bear to part with but couldn't quite live with, either. Like the hideous oil painting her mother had given her one Christmas. It was one of those awful landscapes bought at a "starving artist sale" in some run-down office park. The trees didn't look like any trees Louise had ever seen, and the lake resembled a pit of boiling oil. Still, her mother had meant well ...
The basement, ugly, large, and utilitarian, was also off-limits to guests. It was home to the industrial-grade washing machine and dryer (Louise did the inn's laundry herself, though Isobel thought she was nuts for bothering when there was an affordable local service that could handle the washing, drying, folding, and delivery), the boiler, and all those other loud and nasty-looking machines necessary for operating a building.
The inn's front porch was, in Louise's opinion, the building's best feature—long, deep, and charming. There, one could practice the fine and almost lost art of "porch sitting." A guest could daydream, doze, wave to people driving by in cars or cycling by on bikes or strolling by on foot, read, or sip a cool drink.
The front yard sloped gently from the base of the porch, and the landscaping was simple but pretty—no opulent water features or ugly garden gnomes or reproduction "wishing wells" for Louise Bessire.
The backyard was about half an acre of perfectly manicured grass, with a gazebo sprouting smack-dab in the center. No doubt the gazebo was a bit of an eyesore to those who didn't care for excessive Victorian detailing such as its ornate tracery and vaguely grotesque sprouts of curlicues. Isobel thought it gorgeous; Louise tolerated its presence because guests seemed to find it something to ooh and aah over.
Overall, the Blueberry Bay Inn was the epitome of New England picturesque. If it lacked that "wishing well," complete with pail and crank, you could find one down the road on the property of one of the kitsch-loving summer residents.
"Yes, that sounds—" Again, Flora Michaels interrupted.
"Okay, I'll expect—"
Louise finally managed to end the call with a series of thanks and assurances, neither of which she felt were particularly genuine. She put the phone beside the sink and turned back to her daughter.
"Violet," Isobel said.
"Your face is violet. No, wait"—Isobel squinted critically at her mother—"maybe lavender. Yeah, that's more accurate. So, I'm dying already. What was that all about? Who's getting married? Someone we know? Do I have an excuse to buy a new dress? Something awesome and vintage and maybe covered in lace? I don't have anything covered in lace. Pink might be good, if it's not too bubblegum. A pretty dusty rose might be a nice change for me. Or maybe buttercup yellow."
"Uh, in a sense it's someone we know," Louise replied, as she sank into a chair at the table. "I don't know if the occasion justifies a new dress, though ..."
"Mom, come on! Tell me!"
"You know that television show, Tell Me You Didn't Just Say That?"
Isobel shook her head. "No. I mean, I've heard of it—it's a sitcom, right? But I've never watched it."
"Well," Louise went on, "that was a wedding planner. It seems that two of the stars, someone named Ashley Brooklyn or something like that, and a Jake or a Blake, I can't remember exactly, want to get married at a traditional, charming New England inn. In short, they want to get married at the Blueberry Bay Inn."
Isobel jumped from her seat. Louise was surprised she had kept still this long.
"Mom, this is amazing," she cried, pacing excitedly. "This could really be fantastic for us. For the inn, I mean. Imagine the publicity!"
"Yeah. Fantastic, if I don't totally mess up and wind up losing the business." How Andrew would gloat, she thought, if I had to declare bankruptcy. But maybe that was being unfair to her ex-husband. He wasn't a gloater. He would simply shake his head, lips compressed, and say something on the order of: "I told you a country inn was a bad idea." In Andrew's opinion, Andrew was always right. Annoyingly, as the opinion of much of the world proved, he was, indeed, most often right.
"Mom, come on," Isobel was saying, her hands on her hips, "how hard can it be to throw a wedding? You've been to dozens of weddings, I'm sure. So buy a few magazines, get some cute ideas, and voilà."
Louise stared. Isobel's general optimism and enthusiasm really could be viewed as an astounding naïveté. She decided not to comment on her daughter's personality quirks. "We're not throwing anything," she corrected. "We're—hosting, I guess would be the right word. We're hosting a wedding for a minor celebrity couple. Oh, it sounds awful! What am I thinking? I can't pull this off!"
"Mom, don't be a Gloomy Gus. How did they find out about us, anyway?"
"Online. Where everyone finds out about everything. Oh Lord, I must be out of my mind. I'll call the wedding planner right back and say that something came up and—"
Louise made to rise, but Isobel gently pushed her mother back into the seat. "Mom," she said, leaning down and looking her squarely in the eye, "you'll do no such thing. Come on, where's that fighting spirit, that gung ho attitude? Where's that devil-may-care woman I know so well?"
"Gung ho?" Louise couldn't help but smile. "Devil-may-care? Are you feeling all right?"
"Of course. I'm just trying to encourage you. And I'll be here to help every step of the way, don't forget that."
And she would, Louise thought. Isobel was a person of her word. "Are you sure I turned lavender? Not sickly mint or icky puce? Not disgusting pea soup?"
"You like pea soup," Isobel pointed out. "Especially when it has ham in it."
"Answer the question."
"Periwinkle!" Isobel cried. "That's the word I was looking for. You turned periwinkle."
"Periwinkle?" Louise felt her stomach drop heavily into her lower intestines. "Crap," she said. "What disaster did I get us into?"
Isobel squeezed her mother's shoulders. "It'll all be okay, Mom. I have a feeling our lives are about to change in ways we never even dreamed possible. Isn't it exciting!"
Louise managed a pathetic smile. "That's one word for it," she said.
Greetings, Dear Readers!
Gwen, my sidekick extraordinaire, my partner in daily adventure of the most varied kind, was extra Gwentastic yesterday when she unearthed a treasure beyond compare at the very bottom of a lopsided cardboard box stuffed under a shelf at Say It Again, one of our favorite hunting grounds, on Route 1 in Wells. With her usual (careful) vigor she rooted through layers of old and delicate lace, some of which threatened to fall apart in her hands, to finally uncover a sterling silver, monogrammed calling card case!! It's even got a silver mesh chain on one end so you could carry it around your wrist when you went a-calling.
Excerpted from The Summer Everything Changed by Holly Chamberlin. Copyright © 2013 by Elise Smith. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted July 28, 2013
Posted June 25, 2013
The Summer everything changed by Holly Chamberlin
Have read most of the authors book in the past and enjoyed them as they are mostly about areas I am familiar with-Northeast coast.
This book is about Isobel and she's just turning 16 this summer. Her mother Louise runs the Blueberry Bay Inn at Maine with help from others.
She's agreed to hostess a wedding during the summer for a celebrity. She does not realize that it means a lot more than just having the event at the inn.
At times the wedding planner calls and tells her she must do things like have the right deodorant there for the bride, have a lobster boat on the lawn, etc.
Isobel's best friend Gwen takes her shopping to different places and she meets Jeff-one of the high class soceity boys who is home for the summer to help his father with the business.
She dates him and sometimes Gwen accompanies them to the movies or to a farmer's market where there are also crafts and vintage jewelry. Izzy has her own blog to stay in touch with others in her past from MA
where she lived before the divorce happened. Her father has let her down by not spending any time during the summer with her when she was to visit his new family in Newport, RI.
Jeff at times, acts weird and it's almost like he's forcing Izzy to do something she doesn't want to do. It causes a rift with Gwen. Other date Izzy sees how he treats others and it's nothing she likes to even be part of.
She talks with her mom about dating him and they talk about sex and birth control, etc. She has a lot of adult choices to make and hope she's had enough guidance along the way to make the right ones...
Love how she realizes there is a problem and how she researches at the library and we hope it's not too late to take action...
I received this book from Library Thing via Kensington Books in exchange for my honest review.
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Posted November 13, 2013
I enjoy Holly Chamberlain’s books and this one was appealing to me as I work in the hospitality business in marketing so there is always drama running a hotel or bed and breakfast. Love the New England area, so the reader can imagine themselves in the setting.
I have firsthand experience with abusive ex-spouses and their controlling nature – as when you find this out – you need to hit the road immediately.
The Blueberry Bay Inn was an ideal place for Louise after her divorce raising her daughter Isobel (having been in an abusive relationship earlier as well). Not wild about the wedding planner portions; however, unfortunately you do meet all kinds of crazies running an inn.
I loved the character Isobel and her blogging. She loved her sense of style, fashion, vintage clothing and shopping love-a creative mind, sassy, witty, smart beyond her years, and a winning personality –and a great friendship with Gwen. Also enjoyed the close friendships of Louise/Catherine.
When Jeff came along he immediately began his control over her, and began chipping away at her independence and bubbling personality. Abuse can be delivered mentally, psychologically and emotionally, as well as violence. I feel this would be a good read for younger girls to make them aware of signs to look for when dating and choosing their friends.
Abusive and controlling guys are out there and can be disguised as charming, good looking, rich so you think they are loving until you began seeing the signs- take heed – these are warning signs.
Agree with some of the other reviewers-would have liked to see more introduction of this topic in order for the book to be read by those in abusive relationships--on the cover and summary; otherwise it may not be read by those who desperately need it.
I would recommend to teens and mothers of teens and adults as very realistic, compelling, and enlightening.