Lily Bishop wakes one morning to find a good-bye note and divorce papers from her husband on the kitchen counter. Having moved to Alabama for his job only weeks before, Lily is devastated but forced to contemplate her next steps when she sees a flier at the grocery store for a hair stylist position in a local retirement community.
Rose Carrigan built the small retirement village of Safe Harbor years ago—just before her husband ran off with his assistant. Now she runs a tight ship, making sure the residents follow her strict rules. Rose keeps everyone at arm’s length, including her own family. But when Lily shows up asking for a job and a place to live, Rose’s cold exterior begins to thaw. Lily and Rose form an unlikely friendship, and Lily’s salon soon becomes the place where residents share town gossip, as well as a few secrets of their own. Lily even finds herself drawn to Rose’s nephew, Rawlins—a single dad and shrimper who’s had some practice at starting over, and one of the residents may be carrying a torch for Rose as well.
Neither Lily nor Rose is where they expected to be, but the summer makes them both wonder if there’s more to life and love than what they’ve lived so far. The Summer House weaves Lauren Denton’s inviting Southern charm around a woman’s journey to find herself.
Lily Bishop’s life hasn’t been easy, but she had hoped once she married, her life would at least improve. As it turns out, not only did her life not improve, but her husband turned out to be feckless and left her high and dry with nothing more than a note and a week to move out of their shared home.
With nothing to do but pack her bags and move forward, Lily ponders her options. She’s in a new city, a new state, and knows no one, but that isn’t going to stop her. Though she isn’t as confident as she may appear, Lily takes a chance on a supermarket flier advertising for a hairdresser in a local retirement village. At this point, Lily has nothing to lose and during her interview with the surly Rose Carrigan, she goes for broke with stark honesty.
Rose Carrigan isn’t known for her friendly demeanor and she certainly isn’t known for having a soft spot for anything or anyone. However, her interview with Lily Bishop is private so no one must know she bent just a bit and is giving a young woman in a bad spot a chance to turn it all around. As if to temper her moment of kindness (weakness?), Rose makes sure Lily understands all the cleaning is on her and the job is only a trial run. Yeah, that should be enough to ensure her reputation.
As Lily begins her new (temporary) journey at the retirement village, she has time to reflect on her past and how she ended up where she is now. For Lily, the walk down memory lane takes her back to her own mother’s salon and the fond memories she has of those days. More than anything, Lily wants to create the same environment she once so loved in her mother’s salon. Lily wants to create an atmosphere of friendship, comradery, and safety for the women who come to see her. What’s more, Lily hopes to create a place where she can blossom and flourish just as her clients do. She knows she has big shoes to fill, but Lily is willing to put in the hard work and the effort despite her fears and insecurities.
As Lily is learning to find her own path, Rose Carrigan is discovering her life choices, her general bad attitude, and her standoffishness has kept her from truly enjoying her life. As the owner and manager of the retirement village she also lives in, Rose has had plenty of opportunity to become involved, make great friends, and be a real member of her community. However, her past has mired her in sadness and regret and that has prevented Rose from moving forward. As she watches Lily Bishop begin to rebuild her own life, Rose starts to revaluate her own life and though it is difficult, make small changes that may allow her to have a happy and fulfilled life.
The Bottom Line: Yet again, the wait for a new Lauren K. Denton book has been well worth the wait. Though separated by decades, Rose and Lily are companion souls both searching for a way to improve their lives and no longer live in the darkness. Through Lily’s strides, efforts, and attempts, Rose sees a second chance, a chance to make for all she has voluntarily given up because of her fear and regret. What I love most about this book is the healing environment and acceptance both women find themselves in; the setting is as much a part of this story as the characters and one absolutely enhances the other. Once again, Denton has offered a poignant and compelling story that will resonate with many readers. Ultimately, this is the story of friendship, loyalty, love, and courage and the ability of two women to rise above what they have endured.