We all have secrets, but the secrets in “A Summer to Remember” by Erika Montgomery are secrets that will rock two families to the core. At the center of the story are Frankie Simon and Louise Chandler, who live on opposite coasts. Frankie is 30 years old and lives in Los Angeles. She runs the memorabilia store her mother started, and she loves the memories that the items she sells evoke from the movies she loved watching with her mother. In Harpswich, Massachusetts, Louise Chandler lives with her physician husband and runs the Stardust Film Festival, one that she had started decades previously with movie star Glory Cartwright. She and her husband, Russ, were Glory’s friends, and her husband grew up in Harpswich with Glory’s movie star husband, Mitch Beckett.
Frankie’s mother has died accidentally, and she now runs the shop. When she gets an envelope from her mother’s last boyfriend, and inside it is a photograph and two sealed envelopes, a series of events begins that will uncover long-buried secrets about Frankie’s mother and surprisingly, the two movie stars who moved to Massachusetts at the height of their careers. The narrative alternates between the present and the past, so we get to “meet” Louise when she first met Glory and as their relationship developed. At the same time, we have present-day Frankie and present-day Louise’s narration as Montgomery develops those two stories side by side.
The photograph that Frankie sees for the first time shows her mother with Mitch Beckett at the film festival. Frankie is shocked because her mother has never mentioned going to the film festival or knowing Mitch. The letters that accompanied the photograph are addressed to “My Dearest Mitch” and “My Beloved Gabe.” Gabe is the adopted son of Glory and Mitch. One of her mother’s firm rules was about not opening sealed envelopes, so Frankie isn’t even tempted to open them. But seeing the photo of her mother with Mitch makes Frankie wonder about who her father is. And that is perhaps the greatest mystery of Frankie’s life. Her mother would never tell her, and the wondering is like an itch that won’t go away.
Frankie’s first step is to email Gabe Beckett to offer him the letters. His rude refusal angers Frankie but also makes her determined to find out what connection her mother had to his family and to the Stardust Film Festival. So Frankie decides to attend the film festival. Her goal is twofold: To deliver the letters to their recipients and to try to find out who her father is. But what Frankie doesn’t expect is that her visit will bring her home to a place she never expected, and that she’ll find a family she never knew existed.
Louise Chandler runs the Stardust Film Festival. But it wasn’t her idea; it was Glory’s idea. She and Glory were best friends, but as we find out, even best friends have secrets. When Louise meets Frankie, she’s conflicted. But what Louise didn’t know was how many secrets were waiting to be uncovered in Harpswich. Secrets hidden by those she has held most dear. Secrets that will change the lives of Louise, her husband, Frankie, and Gabe.
Is Frankie’s mother a villain or a hero? Why did she abandon her friends? What was she hiding? There are betrayals, there are secrets galore, and there are many movie references. If you haven’t seen “The Way We Were,” be prepared to watch it, along with the other classic romances that are mentioned in the novel. And this novel, too, in its own way, is a book version of a classic movie. We can picture the fabulous scenes and the lovely beaches, and we can all-but smell the salty ocean breeze. While we can’t empathize with all the characters and their decisions, we can enjoy reading their story. Summer isn’t over yet! Make this your next beach read.
Please note: This review is based on the hardcover book provided by St. Martin’s Press, the publisher, for review purposes.