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The Summer Wives by Beatriz Williams
Historical fiction

The Summer Wives

by Beatriz Williams

Excellent choice

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Quick take

This 1950s New England tale of desire and power is about a fisherman’s son and the woman who loves him.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Romance


  • Illustrated icon, Icon_MultipleNarrators

    Multiple viewpoints

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_ForbiddenLove

    Forbidden love

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Movieish



In the summer of 1951, Miranda Schuyler arrives on elite, secretive Winthrop Island as a schoolgirl from the margins of high society, still reeling from the loss of her father in the Second World War. When her beautiful mother marries Hugh Fisher, whose summer house on Winthrop overlooks the famous lighthouse, Miranda’s catapulted into a heady new world of pedigrees and cocktails, status and swimming pools. Isobel Fisher, Miranda’s new stepsister—all long legs and world-weary bravado, engaged to a wealthy Island scion—is eager to draw Miranda into the arcane customs of Winthrop society.

But beneath the island’s patrician surface, there are really two clans: the summer families with their steadfast ways and quiet obsessions, and the working class of Portuguese fishermen and domestic workers who earn their living on the water and in the laundries of the summer houses. Uneasy among Isobel’s privileged friends, Miranda finds herself drawn to Joseph Vargas, whose father keeps the lighthouse with his mysterious wife. In summer, Joseph helps his father in the lobster boats, but in the autumn he returns to Brown University, where he’s determined to make something of himself. Since childhood, Joseph’s enjoyed an intense, complex friendship with Isobel Fisher, and as the summer winds to its end, Miranda’s caught in a catastrophe that will shatter Winthrop’s hard-won tranquility and banish Miranda from the island for nearly two decades.

Now, in the landmark summer of 1969, Miranda returns at last, as a renowned Shakespearean actress hiding a terrible heartbreak. On its surface, the Island remains the same—determined to keep the outside world from its shores, fiercely loyal to those who belong. But the formerly powerful Fisher family is a shadow of itself, and Joseph Vargas has recently escaped the prison where he was incarcerated for the murder of Miranda’s stepfather 18 years earlier. What’s more, Miranda herself is no longer a naïve teenager, and she begins a fierce, inexorable quest for justice for the man she once loved ... even if it means uncovering every last one of the secrets that bind together the families of Winthrop Island.

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Free sample

He is the most beautiful boy she's ever seen...
The Summer Wives

1930 (Bianca Medeiro)


He is the most beautiful boy she's ever seen, more beautiful than Valentino or Errol Flynn or Lindbergh. She crosses herself when she sees him sailing his slim racing yacht up and down the Fleet Rock channel with Peter Dumont, because of the danger and because of the way the sun glints on his blond hair, an effect so brilliant she observes it all the way from the little bluff at the top of West Cliff Road, where she goes to watch them in the afternoon. In her imagination, the sun is anointing Mr. Fisher as its own, and only the devil himself could plant such a blasphemous thought in her head. So she crosses herself.

Today Tia Maria needs her in the store, however, so there is no need for guarding oneself against the devil. The Families have been arriving on Winthrop Island for the summer, one by one, by ferry and by private yacht, and so Bianca and her cousins must fill the shelves with the goods Tio Manuelo has ordered from the mainland: canned peas and canned peaches and canned sardines in olive oil, saltine crackers and Campbell's tomato soup, Ivory soap and Clorox bleach, Ovaltine and Quaker oats and cornflakes, cantaloupe and pippin apples and bananas, Morton salt and Ceylon cinnamon, bags of flour and sugar and Calumet baking powder, Pond's cold cream and Listerine and aspirin (lots of aspirin), gardening gloves and razor blades, distilled white vinegar that is really vinegar, distilled white vinegar that is not really vinegar but kept on a shelf behind the wooden counter for particular customers, whom Tio Manuelo serves himself.

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Why I love it

There’s no time like the present to sink into an enchanting historical novel. I present to you The Summer Wives, a fantastic page-turner set on a New England island where the very privileged live and play. There’s mystery! There’s romance! There are waves crashing and hearts pounding! It’s perfect.

It’s 1951 on Winthrop Island and Miranda Schulyer has returned from boarding school to spend the summer at her new stepfather’s home. Here she will meet Joseph, a friend of her icy new stepsister, and attempt to navigate the complicated politics of privilege and status that separate the wealthy “summer people” from the islanders. Dining at the elite country club one moment and cruising in a fisherman’s boat the next, Miranda finds herself caught between two worlds—especially after tragedy strikes. Eighteen years later, now a star of stage and screen, Miranda returns to the island to face the truth of what happened all those years ago.

The story is engrossing and Williams’ writing is luxurious. And there’s something delightful about reading a book set in a time when all the answers can’t immediately be found on someone’s phone. This was the perfect read for lounging in a hammock and escaping the world. Get yours today! (Hammock not included.)

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Member ratings (7,378)

  • Rebekah B.

    Arlington, TX

    This book is immaculate from beginning to end. It grabs your interest right from the beginning and makes you feel completely engulfed in these characters’ world. It’s humanity at its worst and best.

  • Amy P.

    Kingwood, TX

    I really enjoyed this book! The story being told from different perspectives wasn’t new, but seemed so the way this author writes. Beautifully descriptive about socioeconomic differences at this time.

  • Megan D.

    Belmont, ME

    A perfect summer read, like Great Gatsby on an island in New England. I couldn’t put it down! The overlapping plot lines, the well drawn characters and the world they inhabited - I loved every minute.

  • Anita B.

    Cleveland, OH

    I’m not usually one for love stories but this one I could not put down. The twist and turns throughout the whole book and the fight for true love left me in tears by then end. Wonderful wonderful book

  • Marissa K.

    Saint Augustine, FL

    I fell in love with the book and it’s characters; I wanted to know everything about them. The way Beatriz Williams wrote was so masterful and intentional. It was thrilling, beautiful, and refreshing.

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