BOOK REVIEW: ‘The Lost Summers of Newport’ by Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig and Karen White

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The summer mansions of Newport, Rhode Island, are the setting for this book, which is about three women in three different eras written by three different authors. Money, old and new, and secrets held in the boathouse dominate the story.

The first storyline is set in present-day Newport with Andie Figuero, who has just gotten her dream job in reality TV show as producer of “Makeover Mansions.” The latest house up for renovation is Sprague Hall.  Andie realizes that this mansion has been neglected for years. Also, the owners are difficult with many restrictions for the project. The Sprague family insists the film crew be off the property by 4:30, no one is allowed the speak to the heiress, Lucia (Lucky) Sprague, and no one is allowed near the boathouse.

In 1899, Ellen Daniels arrives at Sprague Manor to give singing lessons to Maybelle Sprague so she can make a good impression on a visiting Italian prince. Maybelle is a young woman who has inherited money form a relative’s copper mines in Colorado. Her stepbrother John Sprague has spent part of Maybelle’s fortune buying a house  in Newport. John is hoping to arrange a marriage for Maybelle to the money-hunting prince. Ellen is supposed to improve Maybelle’s singing for her launch into society.  But Ellen has secrets of her own. She is hiding at Sprague Hall to escape her past.

Lucky and her grandmother, an American-born princess, have fled Mussolini’s Italy. They decide to go back to the house in Newport that she owns but has not seen since she left in 1899. By 1958, Lucky has made a place for herself in Newport society by marrying Stuyvesant Sprague. Unfortunately, Stuyvesant is an alcoholic and very unpleasant. Soon the boathouse’s secrets cannot be kept much longer.

“The Lost Summers of Newport” was written by Team W, a group of three authors – Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig and Karen White – who were friends before they started writing together. They have had several bestsellers, including “The Forgotten Room,” “The Glass Ocean” and “All the Ways We Said Goodbye.” This is their first book I have read. While I did want to find out what happened, I did not think that the characters were likable and some of the plot was not fully explained. Many readers have found this a good “beach read,” and I did keep reading to learn the secrets of the family and the boathouse.

Cathy Lay Mayor grew up in Cullman and graduated from Cullman High School in 1976. She says when she writes book reviews, she tries to remember what Mrs. Gilbert taught her in 11th-grade English. She lived in Dothan for more than 30 years and is married with three adult children and six grandchildren. She retired to Panama City, but still calls Alabama home.