Way out at the end of Long Island lies the summer home of the rich and famous. Historically, the Hamptons have hosted summer residents with names like Ford, DuPont, Eisenhower, and more. With the average price of homes at around 8.5 million, Katie Doyle is surprised to find herself suddenly a resident of a small, seaside cottage in Southampton.
A native to the Pacific Northwest, Katie is orderly and specific in her actions, yet, It Happens in the Hamptons begins with her decision to move east after a month-long, sizzling affair with Hampton resident, George Porter. Having recently lost her mother to illness, Katie finds herself in need of a change for her and her 8-year old son, Huck. When George sweeps her off her feet and asks her to give their relationship a chance, she does just that, sending her down a path that is unlike any she’s ever been on.
I felt much like Katie as I immersed myself in It Happens in the Hamptons. She quickly encounters the residents of Southampton: the nouveau riche who don’t hesitate to drop tens of thousands of dollars on matching bikes for their houseguests, the old-moneyed residents who hide in their “WASP-ish” country club, or the middle class locals who keep the town running. Not quite knowing where she belongs and with George mysteriously absent most of the time, Katie finds herself mixing and matching her time with everyone in Southampton.
I liked how author Holly Peterson allowed readers to see both the good and bad of the Hamptons. As the book progresses, we’re invited along as Katie learns that everyone isn’t as they seem. Prejudice runs rampant and she finds that it’s the person that matters and not the label. Trust and friendship become the foundation for Katie as she finds the life she thought she was moving towards is veiled with suspicion, mystery, and romance where she least expects it.
The characters are odd, though likable. Luke Forrester is a water safety instructor/marine biology teacher that falls for Katie. He and his friends, Kenny and Kona, run a summer camp that is threatened by Bucky Porter, a representative for the Seabrook Country Club and one of the old-moneyed residents of Southampton. Though 31, Luke felt much younger, as did his friends. Their conversations had a teenage boy feel to them, especially when they worried as a group about who would pay for their shared PornHub subscription if Bucky successfully shut down their camp. George’s mother, Poppy, is by far my favorite character of the book. The matriarch of Seabrook, the reader expects her to be overbearing and superior, but instead she’s perhaps the best of the lot. We also meet the Chase family, one of the newly rich that occupy the grandiose estates along the coast. Julia matches her jewelry to her beach towel and flirts excessively, an apparent trophy wife. Her husband, Jake, is loud and obnoxious, trying hard to be cool, yet anything but. While ostensibly part of the clichéd summer dwellers that throw money around like confetti, Julia and Jake show their humanity all the while owning who they are.
While I enjoyed reading about the class dynamics, the book overall was a bit of an enigma. It’s labeled on Amazon as “social satire” and, admittedly, there are many moments of irony and numerous opportunities for laughing at others’ expense. Yet, at the same time, the book seems to take itself seriously. There’s romance with awkward sex scenes and hints at mystery that I figured out about a third of the way through, clues not as subtle as I would have hoped. There’s the narrative that switches POV like a race car driver switches lanes. Though Katie’s story is at the heart of It Happens in the Hamptons, we never really learn why she’s there. Once George gets her out to Long Island, he’s mostly inattentive. I was left wondering why he asked her to move across the country, especially as his life in Southampton is revealed. The book also jumps from plotline to plotline that eventually coalesce at the end, but ends up feeling like anticlimactic.
Perhaps the best part of the book is the Hamptons itself. Peterson does a wonderful job bringing the region to life, waxing poetic about the ocean, the salty air, and cool breezes. If nothing else, I felt as though I was standing on the tip of Long Island, sticking my toes in the cool water followed by waves rushing over my feet.
3 stars for It Happens in the Hamptons. Heat level: 3
I received this book from the publisher in exchange for honest feedback.
It Happens in the Hamptons was published in May 2017 by William Morrow.