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The Darlings

A Novel



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About The Book

On a secluded stretch of Cape Cod, a wedding is being planned at a beloved beach house—only for a long kept secret to emerge that hurtles both the wedding and the family off course, in this fresh, lyrical new novel from the acclaimed author of the “charming and warmhearted” (PopSugar) The Summer House.

At age ninety-two, Tish Darling is the matriarch and protector of what’s left of the Darling family fortune, including the decades-old beach house, Riptide. Located on the crook of Cape Cod, it’s a place she once loved but has not returned to in decades, since a tragic family accident one perfect summer day. Still, she is determined to keep Riptide in the family. Even if that means going back there on the cusp of her granddaughter’s wedding. Even if it means revealing someone else’s truth.

Her daughter-in-law Cora has her own complicated feelings surrounding Tish’s return as well as doubts about her place within the Darling family. After all, Cora came into the family carrying a secret that her husband promised to keep for her forever. Tish’s sudden return to Riptide may force everything they’ve worked so hard to protect out into the light.

Meanwhile, Cora’s eldest daughter, Andi isn’t exactly looking forward to her little sister’s wedding so soon after her own divorce. To make matters worse, her ex has arrived on the Cape with his insufferable new girlfriend. Andi has no idea how she’ll be able to survive this family reunion…until she bumps into an old friend from the past. A friend who may just offer her a second chance.

As the three distinct generations of Darling women arrive at Riptide, they have no idea that this summer will forever change them. One old secret, kept with the best of intentions, threatens to not only divide the family, but shatter each member’s sense of who they really are. Can the ties that bind survive, when the history you’ve always been told turns out to be untrue?


1. Andi Andi
That was the trouble with family; you could put miles and miles between you, but they always knew your favorite hiding places. No sooner had Andi pulled up to Clem’s Clam Shack at the base of the Mid-Cape Highway, the last stop before crossing the Sagamore Bridge that would officially land her “on Cape,” did her phone ring. It was Hugh. Leave it to her nosy brother, who hadn’t returned her calls in weeks, to buzz her the moment she was about to shove a much-needed buttery bite of lobster roll into her mouth. Andi groaned and let the call go to voicemail. Hugh’s message was impatient. “Where are you?”

To be fair, Andi wasn’t exactly hiding out at the Clam Shack. She just needed a minute. A minute to herself, with her teenage daughter, Molly, who did not care one bit for seafood and was, in fact, still sound asleep in the passenger seat. No matter. Andi would give herself this final family-free moment to savor her hot lobster roll. It was like a skydiver’s last deep breath before jumping out of the plane. Each year Andi pulled over at Clem’s Clam Shack, just as each year the entire family reunited at Riptide, her grandmother’s Cape Cod summer house. Everyone showed up. Her parents, Charley and Cora; her twin brother, Hugh, and his partner, Martin. And their little sister, Sydney, who would be getting married there in just a few short weeks to her fiancé, James, a bright New York commercial Realtor.

The annual Darling gathering wasn’t a standing invitation so much as a requirement. There were no excuses. Exceptions were not granted. Knowing that, each summer the Darling family members shrugged off their usual responsibilities in the various states in which they lived, packed their beach bags, and put on their game faces. You could beg off Thanksgiving; you could even miss an occasional Christmas dinner without raising too many hairs on their mother’s perfectly coiffed head. But no one missed the family vacation at Riptide. It was simply unheard of.

Andi polished off her lobster roll and licked the butter hungrily from her fingertips. Six months after her divorce, she was finally getting her appetite back. But facing the whole family—for a wedding, of all things—was still unnerving. She reached over and tucked a stray wisp of hair behind her still-sleeping daughter’s ear. Molly had inherited that gold-spun head of hair from her father, George. George, who’d promised Andi a family and a future, but had not stuck around to deliver on the last part. Who, after only six months of divorce, was already five months deep in another relationship with a new woman.

When Andi broke the news of her divorce the previous Christmas, her mother had stared wordlessly out the living room window at the snowy yard, fiddling with the bulbous ruby ring Charley had proposed to her with. It was a familiar tic signifying her distress. Andi had held her breath, watching as her mother twisted it back and forth on her slender finger. “The twist of disapproval,” Hugh had deemed it, when they were little.

“Living alone will be hard,” Cora had said, finally.

How would she know? Andi had wondered. Her mother had been happily married to her father, Charley, a man of great patience and affection, for over forty-five years.

“Mom, living together is harder. This wasn’t a decision made in haste.”

Cora’s gaze had remained fixed on the snow. “Still.”

“She will be fine,” Charley Darling said, stepping forward to lay a hand on Andi’s shoulder. “Andi always finds her way.”

Thankfully, that had been the same Christmas that Sydney and James announced the news of their engagement, giving the family something else to sink their teeth into. It left Andi with some breathing room as everyone rearranged their stricken expressions into smiles and turned their attention to the happy couple.

“You owe Syd,” Hugh had mused, holding out a tall snifter of Bailey’s by the fire while the rest huddled around the dining room table talking reception sites. “Gives you a chance to step out of the spotlight and lick your wounds.”

“I don’t have wounds to lick,” she’d insisted, snatching the snifter glass and taking a deep sip.

But she had. Even though the decision to divorce had been mutual, it was still heartbreaking. In the span of one year Andi lost her marriage, her home, and her bearings. George had insisted they sell the house, which was yet another blow. Sure, Andi knew she couldn’t afford to hang on to it alone, and friends suggested a fresh start might be best. But it was her home, and if ever Andi needed a refuge to heal it was now. Their house was the place Molly had come home to from the hospital. The house where Andi had learned to get her hands dirty and design outdoor living spaces and, after thirteen years, finally established a thriving perennial garden teeming with butterfly bushes and Shasta daisies and hydrangeas. Where she’d painstakingly selected and then painted the soothing earth tones of every room herself and still had the paint-splattered cutoff shorts to prove it. The idea of leaving all of that, of boxing up all the memories of Molly’s childhood and taking them somewhere else, was almost more gut-wrenching than leaving her marriage. Another loss to grieve.

It took her months to find their new place: a little two-bedroom cottage in the center of town with a large maple tree in the front yard. They moved in during winter break, when Andi had a week off from teaching at the middle school and Molly was home from high school. The house was modest and historic, which meant it needed a whole lot of work, but it was theirs. And it was where they would start over. For the last six months she’d pulled out her paint rollers again. Hung her favorite artwork from the old house on the new walls. Purchased shiny new appliances during the Memorial Day sales. Andi knew it would be years before the new place felt like home. But little by little it was starting to.

Since then, she’d avoided traveling to family gatherings for holidays and, instead, holed up at the cottage under the guise of moving, unpacking, and settling in. Skipping Sydney’s engagement party in February, then Easter Sunday, and her parents’ anniversary dinner in May. By then she was as moved into the new cottage as possible, but still she used it as an excuse for staying away. She was too raw. Too tired. She was reinventing herself, according to her girlfriends, whatever that meant. Despite her happiness for Sydney’s upcoming nuptials, Andi just didn’t have the stomach to pour over bridesmaid dress designs or feign joy over reception color themes.

Still, she felt guilty. Her father called weekly to check in. Her mother sent texts asking why her voicemail box was full. She knew she wasn’t being a good daughter or a good sister, but the only thing she had energy to muster for was being a good mother to Molly. And she’d make no apologies for that.

Despite her best efforts, she had not entirely escaped the bustle of the upcoming wedding, even from the safe distance of her Connecticut cottage. From the champagne-infused announcement by Sydney and James that past Christmas (which everyone had made it to that year), right up to this morning when Cora called with a blustery smattering of directives: don’t forget to bring your bridesmaid gown; make sure Molly has her dress shoes; do you recall the last place you saw my antique French hand linens? Cora had to find them for the bridal breakfast!

Andi hadn’t even known her mother possessed antique French hand linens. No one had thought to mention them when she got married.

As she pointed her car toward the Sagamore Bridge, she glanced at the sleeping figure of her fourteen-year-old daughter in the passenger seat. Molly’s expression was especially sweet in slumber, and Andi resisted the urge to reach over.

Her phone buzzed again, and this time Andi picked it up. “What is it, Hugh?”

There was a dramatic pause. “Well, that’s no way to greet your favorite brother.”

“Only brother.”

“Don’t forget Martin.”

Andi smiled wryly. “Martin is my brother-in-law and why he puts up with you, I’ll never know.”

Hugh chuckled. “Uh-huh. So… where the hell are you?”

She glanced at the first exit sign off the bridge: Sandwich. Still a solid hour from the family house in Chatham. “Almost there,” Andi lied. “What’s wrong?”

“What’s wrong? Shall I start with the look on our mother’s face? Or the ten thousand wedding deliveries piled to the ceiling in each room? The damn wedding is still three weeks away and it’s already unadulterated chaos here. I need you.”

As much as she dreaded the sympathetic looks and tiptoeing she was sure she’d get as the recent divorcée at her little sister’s wedding, Andi had to admit it—she had missed her family. She pictured her father in his fishing hat and smiled. Her mother’s clam chowder simmering on the stove for the traditional first night supper. “It all sounds nice, actually.”

“Well, it’s not. But none of that is why I called.” Hugh paused. “You may want to adjust your seat belt.”

“Why?” Hugh was a rabid complainer and dramatist. But this sounded concerningly different. “Did something happen?”

“Oh, it’s about to. Tish is coming.”

Tish, their paternal grandmother. Who pretty much never made an appearance unless someone died or was born. Who owned the summer house, but hated vacations. And the beach. And often, it seemed, her own family.

“No way!” Then, “How’s Mom?”

Hugh let out his breath. “Three gin and tonics in.”

“Oh, God.” Their mother did not drink.

“So we’ll see you soon?”

Andi groaned. The call ended. She merged into the fast lane.

Hugh wasn’t wrong. This was big news.

Their father’s mother, Tish, was no grandmother beyond her calligraphed branch on the Darling family tree. For a short time she had permitted the children to call her “Grand-Mère,” with the appropriate French accent, but even that could not stick. Standing at all of four foot eleven and weighing no more than ninety pounds (as Hugh liked to say, including all her diamonds), Tish was a life force. Despite the scarcity of her involvement in her grandchildren’s lives, she maintained a chilling air of import and ability to inflict trepidation, especially when it came to their otherwise unflappable mother, Cora. The two women had never warmed to each other. It was just how it was.

As such, the Darling grandchildren had rather untraditional memories of their grandmother. She drank dirty martinis. She did not bake cookies, nor did she wipe noses. According to her, birthday parties were savage events best reserved for those under the requisite height to ride a roller coaster, and come Christmas her only nod to family festivities was a card from faraway places like St. Barts or the Maldives. In their father’s own words, Tish was an accomplished and cultured woman who’d provided everything her only son could ever need. Except hugs.

In that vein, Tish had not been to the beach house in decades. Though she’d been invited to the wedding, the family wasn’t holding out much hope. At best, those who welcomed the idea, notwithstanding Cora, expected a brief appearance followed by a lavish gift and swift departure. What she was doing there, three weeks in advance of the big day, was an outright mystery.

As she tried to pass cars on the narrow two-lane highway, Andi glanced down. She was not dressed for Tish. Though no one in the family ever really was, except maybe Hugh and Martin. A quick look at the passenger seat confirmed that Molly was still sleeping. Should she rouse her? Molly had only met Tish twice in her life, but had somehow been left with a rather favorable opinion of her great-grandmother. And the feeling seemed mutual. While Tish had never approved of her ex-husband, George (“a simpleton”), she had looked favorably upon infant Molly at her first meeting. When Andi had carried Molly into the living room, Tish had inspected the baby from the safe distance of a wingback chair. Then, after tossing a withering look at their mother, Cora, she remarked, “See that glint in her eye? Finally, some hope.”

Andi groaned. She hadn’t even told Tish about her divorce.

Indeed, the divorce had not been decided upon in haste. If anything, Andi and George had clung to the frayed edges of their marriage too long. They’d tried therapy; for two years they went. They’d committed to weekly date nights, even though the sitter cost a fortune and it was hard to muster forced smiles and small talk over linguine at La Fortuna. At her best friend’s suggestion, Andi tried going back to church. She’d always been what her mother called a Christmas Catholic. But even though she found some comfort in those Sunday mornings, George had not, and Andi felt like impostors standing among the other seemingly united families at coffee hour. As a final attempt to reconnect, they’d left Molly with friends one long autumn weekend and driven the winding leafy roads to Lake Champlain, Vermont. The foliage had given its all that year; the mountains were resplendent in bright shades of coral and red and yellow. But after three days in the most picturesque inn, even the perfect weather and pumpkin-laden streets of Burlington couldn’t save them. Outside of Molly, there was nothing to talk about. They’d decided on the drive home to call it quits. Despite knowing they’d tried, it still felt as endings do: sad and uncertain. Andi was still trying to figure out a new beginning.

But that was for another day. Today she was going to the summer house to celebrate her sister, Sydney. With one hundred and fifty guests heading up the Mid-Cape Highway in the next few weeks, Sydney’s new beginning was just about to unfold. Whether Andi was ready for it or not.

By the time Andi swung her old Volvo into the driveway, everyone had arrived and taken the good spots. She was hot and tired from the traffic-filled drive. And she could really use a shower. As she unfolded herself from the front seat the front door flew open.

“Here they are!” Her father stepped out on the front porch looking at them like they were the best things he’d seen all day. He threw open his arms just as Molly hurried into them. “Who is this beautiful young lady?” Charley Darling was a people person and, while it was a line any other person might use, Andi knew he meant it. He held Molly at arm’s length as she bashfully allowed herself to be looked at. Andi made a happy mental note of this fact: at the perilous age of fourteen, Molly didn’t like anyone looking at her. She didn’t even like Andi to breathe in her presence.

Now Andi watched in awe as Molly allowed herself to be pulled in for a second hug. “So glad you’re here, sweetheart! Now the real fun can begin.” He beamed as Andi walked up to him.

“Hey, Dad.” Andi inhaled her father’s familiar and comforting scent and a wave of nostalgia washed over her. She was five years old again and he was soothing a skinned knee. If only it were true, that her father could make it all better.

“How are we doing?” he asked, looking over his glasses at her in earnest. Since the divorce he’d worried about her, she knew. It was another fallout of divorce; feeling like those you loved also shared the burden.

“I’m fine, Dad.”

“Good. There’s a whole lot of wedding hoopla going on in there,” he said, nodding toward the front door. “I was thinking it might be a good time to head down to the pier.”

Andi laughed. “Fishing? Is that the new cure-all for single divorcées at family weddings? Or is that the cure for a son avoiding the arrival of his mother?”

Her father shrugged. “Tomato, to-mah-to.” He forced a smile but Andi felt bad for him; he’d had too many years of trying to balance the force field between his mother and his wife. The man was tired. “Come inside and say hi to your mother! Let’s get you girls settled.”

The second she opened the door, almost four decades of memories swept over her. Riptide had the scent of her childhood: the not-unpleasant smell of a closed-up cottage about to be aired out for another summer, the scent of sunscreens spilled, and the faint whiff of salt air that had worked its way through every crack in every wooden surface, couch cushion, and old book contained within the walls. Simply put, Riptide smelled like summer. Andi dropped her bags and looked around. Nothing changed here. The chintz curtains in the kitchen. The sun-bleached chestnut floorboards. The bookcases lined with dog-eared paperbacks and dotted with driftwood and sea glass.

“You’re here!” Her mother, Cora, hurried from the kitchen and pulled them both into deep hugs. As always, she smelled like a mix of the French lavender soap she favored and whatever delicious buttery confection she was cooking. Cora was an incredible cook, and despite the lobster roll she’d just had, Andi found her mouth was watering.

“Is that…?”

Cora glanced over her shoulder at the red Dutch oven simmering on the stove. “Yes. Your favorite.”

It was the traditional first meal of every family vacation at Riptide, where steaming bowls of chowder would be passed, wine would be uncorked, and the dinner table conversations would run long into the night as everyone talked over top of one another, giddy with arrival energy and promise of three weeks at the shore.

“Molly, why don’t you bring our bags upstairs and I’ll help Grandma.” She turned to her mother whose smile went tight.

“You heard. She’s coming.”

Andi felt for Cora. Her grandmother, Tish, reserved a special brand of ire for her mother. “What can I do to help?”

“Nothing! There’s nothing anyone can do. That woman is impossible. And now I have to host her as well as help your sister host a wedding.”

“Vacation is ruined.” Hugh dashed down the stairs and hopped off the last step, throwing his arms up in a dramatic imitation of their mother. “Ruined!” Then, he closed the space between them and picked up his twin sister and spun her around. Martin and Sydney were right behind.

That was one good thing about arriving last: the greeting was a big one.

“You’re here!” Sydney squealed. “How was the trip? Did you remember Molly’s bridesmaid dress? And yours?” Sydney put her hands to her flushed cheeks and exhaled. Her enormous solitaire diamond ring caught the light, firing off a million tiny sparkles in the air between them.

“Good, yes, and yes!” Andi assured her.

“I’m sorry,” Sydney gushed. “This wedding has sort of taken over, but I promise it won’t take over the family vacation.”

“It better not,” Hugh said. “It’s not all about you.” Despite the smile, Andi knew that he more than halfway meant it. And despite the fact that they were twins, Andi had long felt like the middle child of the three of them, since Hugh and Sydney had a bit of a long-established rivalry for their parents’ attentions. Adulthood hadn’t improved it.

“She’s overwhelmed with wedding plans. Hasn’t slept in weeks,” Martin reported, with far more empathy.

“It’s true. I’m going to look like a zombie bride.”

Andi shook her head. “Stop. You look great, and whatever needs doing we’ll get it done together.” That was the thing about Sydney; no matter what was going down, she always looked dewy and beautiful. Unlike her sister’s and brother’s dark hair and fair, freckled skin that blotched easily or looked downright sallow in the wrong light, Sydney had been born the perfect color of a peach: tawny skin and blonde hair. Now she flashed Andi her signature smile. “Really? Oh, I’m so glad you’re here. Let me go find my wedding folder, and I’ll show you what’s left.” Before Andi could reply, Sydney was dashing back up the stairs to find the folder.

Andi and Martin exchanged looks. “And I thought I needed a glass of wine.”

Martin wagged his finger. “In the last hour I think your mother has taken first place in that department.”

“Yeah, keep the gin away.”

“I can hear you!” Cora sang out from the kitchen. She’d returned to her post at the stovetop.

Andi went to the kitchen in search of wine. “Did we not know she was coming?” she asked, referring to Tish.

Cora grimaced. “She wasn’t due to arrive until the evening before the wedding. She’s three weeks early! It’s high season here. The only place she’ll stay is Chatham Bars Inn, but God knows if they’ll have an opening this last minute.”

It was unlike Tish. Riptide was hers only in name. On the rare occasion she came to the Cape, she always reserved her own room at the Bars. They dressed up and met her there in the Star dining room for a formal dinner. And that would be the beginning and end of the visit. Never did she come to Riptide. In fact, Andi couldn’t recall a time she’d ever seen her grandmother set foot in its living room.

“Did she say why she’s coming early?”

Cora pressed her fingers to her forehead. “You know your father. He doesn’t ask questions. God forbid we offend the queen.”

Andi felt genuinely bad for her mother. Tish’s visits were trying for her.

There was a bottle of chilled Riesling in the fridge and Andi made quick work of opening it.

Hugh joined them. “Is there no vodka?” He rummaged through the fridge.

Andi poured herself a glass and took a long swallow. She’d just arrived and was already drained. But there would be no relaxing yet. She could feel Cora eyeing her. “Yes?”

Her mother made a face. “I need some more littlenecks. Would you make a run to the fish market?”

“Right now?”

Hugh slammed the fridge. “The fish market it is.” He winked at his twin. “After the liquor store.”

Andi groaned inwardly. The last thing she wanted to do was get back in the car right away. “Isn’t this supposed to be the start of my vacation?”

Hugh was already in the driveway starting his Jeep. Sydney trotted down the stairs and held out a bright pink binder, the word “Wedding” written across its burgeoning cover in silvery script. “Found it!” she announced.

Outside in the driveway came the honk of a horn.

“I need those clams,” her mother said again.

Only Martin eyed her with sympathy.

Andi tipped her glass back and grabbed her purse. Who was she kidding? This was family vacation.

The Chatham Fish Market was a regular stop for vacation dinners. Now in the passenger seat of Hugh’s Jeep, Andi stretched her legs out and tipped her head back, letting the wind whip her hair about. The wine was working its happy magic, settling into her limbs. For once, it was nice to have someone else figure out dinner. Do the driving. Maybe this wasn’t so bad.

“So how the hell are you?” Hugh shouted over the wind.

Andi smiled. “Better, now. It’s good to see you.”

Hugh reached over and smacked her knee as they turned down the main drag into the village center. “You, too. You look good, kid.”

The fish market lot was packed, and they had to stand in a long, hot line outside. Every now and then a flush-faced woman wearing an apron and a severe expression swung the screen door ajar to shout “Next!” Andi couldn’t wait to be allowed into the air-conditioned recess of the store. They were positively melting on the sidewalk.

“So how have you guys been? Martin looks happy to be back on the Cape. The guy’s a saint.”

It was hard to read his expression behind his Ray-Bans, but Hugh’s mouth tightened. “It’s good we have a vacation.”

“Everything okay?”

The line started to move, and Hugh didn’t answer right away. When they got to the door, he took his time reading the blackboard specials. Andi wondered if he’d heard her question when he finally turned to her. His voice was so low she had to lean in to be sure she’d heard correctly. “Martin wants a baby.”

“Oh.” Such big news.

For all the endless chatter they engaged in, the Darlings had always been tight-lipped when it came to personal matters. It was one of the reasons Andi had taken so long to tell any of them about her divorce last year. They just weren’t good with vulnerability. She studied her brother. “And you don’t?”

Hugh shrugged. “I used to think I did. But here I am in my midforties. I like to travel. To entertain. To go to a late show in the city and sleep in. I worry at this age I’m too set in my ways. That I won’t be good at it.”

“How so?”

“Kids seem so specific. Cut the crust off the sandwich. Peel the skin off the apple. The chicken has to be shaped into dinosaur nuggets. It’s exhausting.”

Andi raised her eyebrows. “Wow. Have you been babysitting on the side?”

“Friends of ours have kids. It seems like most of them do, lately.”

“Ah. So you’ve had a chance to get a good look.”

Hugh narrowed his eyes. “It’s not pretty.”

She smiled. “Sure as hell isn’t.” And one thing was certain about Hugh: he liked pretty things.

Hugh and Martin lived well and lived out loud; picturing them with juice boxes strewn about the floor of the Range Rover or their cashmere sweaters covered in spit-up was not easy to do. “It’s a big deal,” she allowed. “Didn’t you guys talk about this before you got married?”

“Sure. It was something we both left up in the air, a maybe someday. Neither of us was dying to open the door. Neither wanted to close it.”

“And now Martin wants to open that door.”

Hugh looked at his flip-flops. “Wide open.”

At that moment the screen door swung ajar. The woman in the apron glared at them. “Hurry up, we’re not getting any younger.”

Andi tried to hold her laughter in, but could not.

“Yeah, yeah. Serendipity.”

Inside they got their clams and got out of there. “C’mon. Cora is going to lose it if Tish beats us to the house.”

On the drive back, Andi thought about what Hugh had shared. A baby. She just could not picture her twin as a father. Sarcastic, opinionated Hugh taking care of something besides himself? But as they drew closer to Riptide, other thoughts occurred to her. Hugh begrudgingly playing dolls with Sydney when she was a toddler, to keep her busy while Cora and their father made dinner. Hugh spinning Molly through the waves when she was younger; reading bedtime stories to her upstairs at Riptide. The way he took care of Martin, always pouring him the first cup of coffee and taking it upstairs to their room before he had his own. In spite of his best efforts at being a pain in the ass, Hugh had a profound knack for caring for those he loved. Maybe this fatherhood thing would be something he was very good at, after all.

To their combined relief, there was no sign of their grandmother Tish’s town car in the driveway. Hugh grabbed the paper bag of littlenecks and Andi grabbed the bottle of vodka they’d stopped for.

“Wait,” she said, handing him the bottle. “Bring these in. I’m going to cut some hydrangeas for the table. Mom will like that.” The blue hydrangea bushes were synonymous with Riptide and they grew all around the property, bordering the seashell driveway, the front door, and stretching all the way around the house to the backyard patio that overlooked the water. It was the only decoration Riptide needed in summer.

Andi retrieved shears from the small shed and went to the fence where the shrub was most dense. She was clipping the heavy blue flowers when she heard a noise on the other side. She stood on tiptoe.

The neighbors’ house, which she still fondly called the Beckers’, was completely changed. Gone was the cute little gray-shingled cottage that had been next door every summer she could remember. In its place was a dark, sleek, modern take on coastal living. Andi scowled. The house had been listed for sale the previous year; it came as little surprise, since the Beckers had retired to Florida and hadn’t been back to the Cape in years. But it made Andi sad to see how much the new owner had changed it. She glanced at the Ford Bronco in the driveway: New York plates. Figured.

She was just about to go inside when she saw someone walk out onto the side porch. Even though she was on her own side of the fence, she felt like ducking. But she didn’t. The man on the porch made it impossible. Andi lowered her sunglasses. He looked to be about her age, maybe younger. Sandy-brown hair highlighted by the sun. And an athletic physique she couldn’t help but notice as he was dressed only in red board shorts.

Andi sucked in her breath. However ugly his house was, he most certainly was not. She’d have to find out if her parents knew him.

“Mom?” She spun around to find Molly on the porch. “What’re you doing in the bushes?”

“Shhh!” Andi put a finger to her lips. “I’m not in the bushes.”

Molly frowned. “Yes, you are.”

Andi looked down. She was completely in the bushes and her sneakers were dirty. “I’m just collecting some flowers.” She prayed the guy next door couldn’t see them. She prayed he didn’t hear her either.

“Grandma wants you to come in. She said a big storm is coming.” Molly glanced skyward as Andi untangled herself from the hydrangea bushes.

“Yeah, well, your grandma is quite the forecaster.” Andi glanced at her watch. Damn—Tish was on her way and she wasn’t changed for dinner. And when in Tish’s presence, everyone changed for dinner.

“What’s Grandma talking about?” Molly stared up at the bright sky. “There’s like zero sign of any storm.”

Andi scurried up the porch steps and handed Molly the bunch of hydrangeas. She glanced again at her watch. “Stick around. The worst ones blow in fast.”

About The Author

Photograph by TK

Hannah McKinnon is the author of several novels, including The Lake SeasonMystic SummerThe Summer HouseSailing LessonsThe View from HereMessage in the Sand, and The Darlings. She graduated from Connecticut College and the University of South Australia. She lives in Connecticut, with her family, a flock of chickens, and two raggedy rescue dogs.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books (May 2, 2023)
  • Length: 320 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781982195533

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Raves and Reviews

"Readers of Susan Mallery will thoroughly enjoy this family drama."

– Library Journal

“Beach Reads Perfect for Summer 2023”

– Southern Living

“In the vein of J. Courtney Sullivan, Erin Hilderbrand, and Jennifer Close, and contrasting picturesque coastal perfection with the messiness of real life, this multigenerational saga sets familial obligations against the freedom of new opportunities, all wrapped up in a heartwarming bow.”

– Booklist

"Part delectable family drama, part testament to the various ways in which love blooms, Hannah McKinnon’s THE DARLINGS is an absolute treasure of a novel . . . Slip this one in your beach bag and share a copy with a friend."

– Kristy Woodson Harvey, New York Times bestselling author of THE WEDDING VEIL

"A perfect beach read! I loved it"

– Pamela Kelley, USA Today bestselling author of THE RESTAURANT

"Vivid and transporting—THE DARLINGS will sweep you off to Cape Cod, where an explosive secret threatens to fracture a close-knit family . . . Fans of Elin Hilderbrand will find a new favorite author in Hannah McKinnon. Compulsively readable and infused with warmth, THE DARLINGS is a perfect summer read."

– Kerry Kletter, author of EAST COAST GIRLS

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