One of the reasons I like reading romances is because of how they focus on problem solving. Characters may run away in the short term, but ultimately they have to knuckle down and do the hard work. People talk about the romancing and courting in these novels, but that’s not what’s important to me. Whether it’s a billionaire who never had to fight for anything or a single mom trying to do right by everyone but herself, or any number of other traditional romance plots, most romances look at what tears us apart, and what we need to do to pull together and stay that way. It’s never simple, and it could be internal and/or external forces opposing, but it’s always worth the effort.
Why is that important? Well, Holiday in the Hamptons might have an innocuous title, but it’s knee deep in the big problems. The book description barely hints at what’s going on, but you learn Felicity, or Fliss as she’s called, is a mental abuse survivor from the prologue (which you really should not skip over). Maybe half her side of the problems between her and Seth are a result of survival training in childhood. This is a second chances story, and both of them had to grow up a bit from their first whirlwind relationship and quick marriage with even quicker divorce. Fliss is not there at the beginning, but Seth has realized what he lost all those years ago and is willing to stick it out until she is ready. Even so, he doesn’t understand the depths of how this has affected her, or how much his own childhood is coloring his perceptions about what she’s doing and feeling.
I loved the many themes mixed into the story. The strongest were tied between perceptions versus reality, and how perfect is subjective and involves much more than looks.
The first theme opened up all sorts of amusing moments because Fliss is a twin, but the two of them have very different personalities. At the same time, underlying Fliss’s attempts to pretend to be her sister are complicated fears and deep-seated beliefs hammered into her through a lifetime of shielding her sister from harm. I can’t speak to Seth’s side without spoiling some stuff, but I’ll say at least that his feelings are based on more than just outward appearance, and always had been.
Seth being a veterinarian and Fliss working with dogs offers opportunities to open up, and many lessons in how to help someone suffering from PTSD. Usually PTSD stories are of soldiers, so I appreciated the look at how abuse victims are impacted even long after the abuse has stopped.
The delayed reveal of the details of their past relationship only annoyed me up to the point where we start to get Seth’s opinion. It becomes clear what happened then is both very tied to the present and part of what Fliss has to come to a new understanding about. This is also true of the time jumps and summaries throughout the story that allow it to take place over an extended period with enough time for Fliss to begin to heal realistically.
There were many wonderful supporting characters, including a romance author and a bunch of dogs, that were fully fleshed and not always supportive. There was one disappointing moment for me with a secondary character, but it was well within that person’s nature. I just hope she grows out of it. That disappointment is a big part of the theme of perfect being different for each person. No one else can recognize your perfect, so should not interfere when you’ve found it.
This is a complex story, and I could go on about it longer, but I’ll stop here with the following: Fliss and Seth are on a difficult journey. The characters, lead and supporting, are very real, and because of that, they can be frustrating. There are on-screen sex scenes, but both necessary to the plot and not described in significant detail. True to the romance promise, the book ends in a happily ever after, but it’s a hard road to get there with a lot to think about on the way. A strong tale well worth the read.
P.S. I received this title from the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest review.