Holiday in the Hamptons
By Sarah Morgan
Publisher: Harlequin HQN
Release Date: August 29, 2017
Reviewed by Janga
Reviewed by Janga
Felicity Knight is pleased with the success she and her sister, Harriet, are having with their dog-walking business, the Bark Rangers. Six years into the business, their bottom line looks very good indeed. Fliss has ideas to expand their growing business into pet sitting, grooming, and obedience classes as soon as she talks Harriet into the changes. Her twin sister and their brother, Daniel and his new love are important parts of her life, and a she has a coterie of caring friends. Life in Manhattan is good, or it was. One night three weeks ago, Daniel ran into Seth Carlyle and learned that Seth was in Manhattan filling in at the very vet clinic the Knights patronize. Fliss has spent three weeks trying to avoid Seth, the man to whom she was married for less than three months when they were in their teens and whom she has spent the past decade trying to forget.
When Fliss’s grandmother calls seeking Harriet’s help for several weeks while Gram recovers from a fall, Fliss allows Gram to think she is Harriet and agrees to spend several weeks at Gram’s home in the Hamptons. When she was a child, her grandmother’s home was a sanctuary, a place where Fliss was free of her father’s verbal abuse for the golden summer days she, her siblings, and their mother spent away from the man who was a blight on all their lives. It was during these summers that she met Seth. For ten years, Fliss has returned only for brief visits, but if her grandmother’s house gives her a way to avoid a meeting with Seth, it will prove once again to be a sanctuary.
The death of his father ten months ago led Seth Carlyle to reconsider his own life and how it needed to change. He made a major change when he left California and moved back East. He made another change when he ended a relationship that was going nowhere. Now he is determined that he and Fliss need to have a conversation. Seth needs her to answer some questions to give him closure and allow him to get on with his life. Talking to Fliss was his reason for coming to New York City, but she succeeds in avoiding him. He returns to the Hamptons and to his veterinary practice there and the home near Sag Harbor that he is remodeling.
Fliss and Seth finally meet when Fliss is tricked by Lulu, Seth’s lab-retriever mix. Fliss is horrified because she thinks she struck the dog with her car. Lulu is fine. She was only acting, but Fliss is anything but fine when she faces Lulu’s owner. In the stress of the moment, she tells Seth that she is Harriet. Seth knows the truth in less than two minutes, but he plays along with the lie that will snowball before Fliss admits the truth.
Ten years of unhealed wounds, unanswered questions, and unfulfilled yearning cannot be overcome quickly. Fliss is damaged by years of emotional abuse. She identifies herself as the “bad twin” and feels unworthy of love. Her coping strategy is to deny her feelings and set up barriers that are almost impenetrable even by those who love her most. Seth is still grieving the loss of his father and has his own wounds over the way his marriage to Tess ended. It will take time, a friend’s crisis, and a sister’s intervention before Fliss and Seth find the courage to be honest and vulnerable and open to the risks and wonders of love.
Holiday in the Hamptons is the fifth entry in Morgan’s From Manhattan with Love series. It is vintage Morgan in its blend of the comic and the poignant and in its interweaving of a sigh-worthy romance with defining family issues and their lingering effects. There is no story I love more than a believable, emotion-packed tale of reunited lovers. This one is stellar. Fliss’s past, both her childhood suffering and her history with Seth, are sufficient to explain her behavior. Readers who have always suspected there was more pain behind Fliss’s mask of sometimes flippant toughness than the difficult years she shared with Harriet and Daniel will have their suspicions confirmed. Seth’s relationship with his father, so different from Fliss’s experience with hers, makes it difficult for him to understand Fliss’s emotional reticence and, at the same time, gives him the stability to be sensitive and patient. I was glad to see him reveal some flaws, else he would have seemed too good to be true.
There are some wonderfully funny moments in this book, but there are also moments that moved me to tears—and not all were between Fliss and Seth. The supporting cast, from a newborn to the octogenarian Poker Princesses to the dogs (Charlie, Gram’s beagle, and Hero, Matilda’s Doberman, plus Lulu), are terrific. I especially loved seeing more of Matilda and Chase Adams, the heroine and hero from Midnight at Tiffany’s, the novella that introduced the series. Also, Harriet’s demonstration of strength serves as a significant plot point in this book and as an ideal setup for her book, Moonlight over Manhattan (October 5), which is next.
Morgan’s recent Rita® win for Miracle on 5th Avenue, the third book in this series, should signal anyone still in doubt that she is an author to be reckoned with in contemporary romance. I never miss a Sarah Morgan single-title, and she has another winner in Holiday in the Hamptons. If you love contemporary romance, I highly recommend this book.
I have a print copy of Sarah Morgan's Sleepless in Manhattan for one randomly chosen person who leaves a comment before 11:00 PM, September 6. (U.S. only)