The Summer Hideaway
The Summer Hideaway is part of Susan Wiggs’ Lakeshore Chronicles series, set at a camp in upstate New York, but it works as a standalone. It combines a contemporary romance with the story of three children growing up during World War II. I enjoyed both stories, but would have liked a bit more of each.
Ross Bellamy comes from a privileged background. After an Ivy League education, he drifted until enlisting in the military. During his last days of service in Afghanistan as a medevac pilot, Ross learns that his grandfather, George Bellamy, is dying of an inoperable brain tumor. Ross plans to spend as much time as possible with him, convincing him to do whatever is necessary to extend his life. His grandfather, however, has other plans.
George has hired private duty nurse Claire Turner, and is headed toward Camp Kioga in upstate New York. He’s rather secretive about his reasons for the trip, other than that it’s a place he visited many times as a child, and that his brother, a man he’s been estranged from for over 50 years, lives nearby.
Claire has her own secrets. Her mother was a teenage runaway who was killed in a drug deal when Claire was 10, leaving her to the foster care system. At 17, Claire witnessed a crime that forced her into a life of hiding under an assumed name.
Ross was changed by the military; he wants to find a life with more meaning, and someone to share it with. But first, he needs to take care of his grandfather. When Ross learns about Claire, he assumes she’s a gold digger. Ross storms up to the camp to rescue his grandfather and put Claire in her place, but quickly learns he’s wrong about her. However, he’s appalled to discover that his grandfather picked Claire not just for himself, but also as a wife for Ross.
As Claire and Ross get to know each other, we learn more about George, through flashbacks to his experiences at Camp Kioga with his brother and the camp owner’s daughter. These flashbacks move from George’s childhood during World War II to his college years in the early 1950s, and provide a wonderful feel for the time period. Right from the beginning we know that things ended badly between the brothers, we just don’t know what happened.
I liked both Claire and Ross. Ross is truly a lovely hero who has matured from a wasted past into a caring adult, but Claire tugged at my heart. We’ve seen it before, with characters who bounced from foster home to foster home, but the author made Claire’s story unique. She’s learned to trust no one, to live with little, and as a result is intensely lonely. Claire has spent her entire adult life trying to be average; the woman no one notices. Ross is everything Claire secretly dreams of – and everything she can’t have.
When the first flashback began, I was irritated, and began flipping through the pages to see when it would end. By the end, I was as absorbed in that story as I was in the modern-day one. However, while I truly enjoyed this book, the wrap-up of Claire and Ross’ story seemed a bit rushed, and left me wanting a bit more for them.