From the New York Times bestselling author of the Beach House series comes a heartwarming and evocative novel about the bonds and new beginnings that are born from natural disasters and how, even during the worst of circumstances—or perhaps because of them—we discover what is most important in life.
Late August is a beautiful time on the Southern coast—the peach trees are ripe, the ocean is warm, and the sweet tea is icy. A perfect time to enjoy the rocking chairs on the porch. But beneath the calm surface bubbles a threat: it’s also peak hurricane season.
When a hurricane threatens the coasts of Florida and South Carolina, an eclectic group of evacuees flees for the farm of their friends Grace and Charles Phillips in North Carolina: the Phillips’s daughter Moira and her rescue dogs, famed equestrian Javier Angel de la Cruz, makeup artist Hannah McLain, horse breeder Gerda Klug and her daughter Elise, and island resident Cara Rutledge. They bring with them only the few treasured possessions they can fit in their vehicles. Strangers to all but the Phillips, they must ride out the storm together.
During the course of one of the most challenging weeks of their lives, relationships are put to the test as the evacuees are forced to confront the unresolved issues they have with themselves and with each other. But as the storm passes, they realize that what really matters isn’t what they brought with them to the mountains. Rather, it’s what they’ll take with them once they leave.
With Mary Alice Monroe’s “usual resplendent storytelling” (Patti Callahan Henry, New York Times bestselling author), The Summer Guests is a poignant and compelling story of self-discovery, love, and redemption.
Tropical Storm Noelle intensifies into a hurricane in the Atlantic Ocean
Cara Rutledge rubbed her arms and looked out over the Atlantic Ocean. The mercurial sea rolled in and out in its metronome fashion, reflecting the blue-gray color of the sky. The beach was nearly empty, the vast expanse of sand scarred only by her footprints. All seemed calm. Even the golden panicles of the sea oats hung still in the pensive air. Yet she sensed a heightened tension coiling under the calm façade of the water, like some great beast rippling, lying in wait to pounce.
Cara shivered, though it wasn’t cold. She was a tall, slender woman accustomed to daily walks along the beach with her daughter, Hope. She’d spent her childhood on this beach, and had returned as an adult to make the quaint beach house, Primrose Cottage, her home. From May until October she was on the Island Turtle Team, like her mother before her. After a lifetime living beside the ocean, she felt attuned to the moods of her old friend. And today, something felt off.
The sun was shining, but thin streaks of clouds stretched from the sea toward land, eerie fingers reaching out from the incoming storm.
Cara inhaled the salty air and placed her hand against her chest. There was an unusual heaviness in the air. A moistness that tasted of rain. She was no stranger to summer storms, or the havoc they could wreak. She also knew that she was unusually skittish when it came to storms. Cara had lived through too many hurricanes not to be on guard. And yet, she didn’t want to panic. There was a wave out in the Atlantic the meteorologists were keeping an eye on, but it was August, the height of the hurricane season. There were a lot of storms that lost steam or changed direction long before they neared landfall.
She was leaving the island this afternoon to visit the mountains of North Carolina with David Wyatt and his family. It would be a welcome change of pace with the lush green foliage, cooler air, and hiking. She might even get some horseback riding in. She exhaled slowly. Yes, she thought with relief. She was working herself up over nothing. Whatever storm was coming would likely blow in and out by the time she returned. And, she thought with a hint of a smile on her face, she was bringing along with her the one thing she treasured most in the world—her daughter, Hope.
Cara turned her back on the ocean and, swinging her arms, began her trek across the beach toward home.
Mary Alice Monroe is the New York Times bestselling author of more than twenty books, including the Beach House series: The Beach House, Beach House Memories, Swimming Lessons, Beach House for Rent, and Beach House Reunion. She is a 2018 Inductee into the South Carolina Academy of Authors’ Hall of Fame, and her books have received numerous awards, including the 2008 South Carolina Center for the Book Award for Writing, the 2014 South Carolina Award for Literary Excellence, the 2015 SW Florida Author of Distinction Award, the RT Lifetime Achievement Award, the International Book Award for Green Fiction, and the 2017 Southern Book Prize for Fiction. Her bestselling novel The Beach House is also a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie. An active conservationist, she lives in the lowcountry of South Carolina. Visit her at MaryAliceMonroe.com and at Facebook.com/MaryAliceMonroe.
“Following the dramatic arc of the hurricane’s progress, from buildup to landfall to dispersal, The Summer Guests escalates to a satisfying resolution. Loyal readers will recognize Monroe’s signature love of animals, while fans of Elin Hilderbrand and Wendy Wax will enjoy the picturesque setting and heartwarmingly intertwined character arcs.”
"Authentic, generous, and heartfelt!"
– New York Times bestselling author Mary Kay Andrews
"Fast-paced and fluid, with heartache as well as joy make this a most enjoyable read."
– New York Journal of Books
"Mary Alice Monroe writes gorgeously, with authority and tenderness, about the natural world and its power to inspire, transport, and to heal."
– #1 New York Times bestselling author Susan Wiggs
“The Summer Guests in an intimate and wise novel about what matters most in our lives. Mary Alice Monroe writes with great wit and wisdom about what happens when both human nature and the natural world collide. A fierce hurricane bears down on the southeastern coast sending five people evacuating to one friend’s farm in the North Carolina mountains. As the storm gathers force so do the emotions, confrontations and decisions of the summer guests. In the end, they will each leave as altered as the coast they escaped. Mary Alice Monroe writes a story that will make you both feel and understand—a rare combination. Transformational and poignant, this page-turner is your summer’s must-read!”
– Patti Callahan Henry, New York Times bestselling author of Becoming Mrs. Lewis
A "favorite beach read of 2019"
– Southern Living Magazine
"You might pick up her books for escapism, but you'll be more environmentally aware by its end."
– Chattanooga Times Free Press
"The Summer Guests is the story of mothers and daughters, a love story or two, and the mystical connection that happens between a rider and a horse."
– Belle Magazine
"A whirlwind of fascinating personal storylines propels soul searching, forgiveness, and second chances."
– Christian Science Monitor
"It's a wonderful book about family and friendship, love of others and learning to love yourself and self-discovery of goals for the future. Mary Alice has done it again and provided her readers with a book full of unforgettable characters and a fantastic storyline."