Mary Alice Monroe’s newest novel The Summer Guests (Gallery) provides a heart-warming tale about friends and family who gather together on a North Carolina farm to flee a late summer hurricane headed to the southern Atlantic coast. A chilling one-page prologue outlines in scientific detail the makings of an extremely powerful Cape Verde storm that is plowing with intensity across the Atlantic. Monroe employs this all-too-familiar environmental catastrophe as context for an array of crises that the characters must face, from protecting invaluable racing horses to saving a passel of rescue dogs to preserving a beloved Florida bungalow that sits in harm’s way as the storm arrives.

The vivacious and elegant Grace Phillips and her former equestrian husband Charles own Freehold Farm, a sweeping seventy-five-acre property in the mountains of North Carolina, complete with well-appointed guesthouses and a spacious kitchen where Grace loves to cook. When the storm threatens, Grace reaches out to their daughter Moira and close friends whose Florida and South Carolina residences sit in the storm’s path and invites them all to stay safe at the farm.

Twenty-something Moira comes with her tri-color Cavalier King Charles spaniel Gigi and a truck full of rescue dogs. Grace’s long-time friend and makeup artist Hannah McLain arrives with her boyfriend, the famed equestrian Javier Angel de la Cruz. Grace’s other longtime friend and horse breeder Gerda Klug brings her twenty-something daughter Elise and her dressage trainer Karl Reiter. Cara Rutledge, who is not only a friend to Grace and Charles but also a heroine of Monroe’s The Beach House series, opens the story with her own impending crisis as the storm threatens her grandmother’s bungalow on Florida’s Isle of Palms.

If this doesn’t already feel like Noah’s ark, the list continues. Hannah and Angel bring a beloved horse, the golden Palomino named Butterhead. Gerda, Elise and Karl bring a nine-year-old Trakehner stallion named Whirlwind, who stands seventeen hands in height with a velvety coat as black as night. Angel brings his dog Max, a giant black schnauzer, and Grace and Charles have their terrier Bunny.

Most of us understand and experience the strong ties between dogs and their owners, but Monroe also makes us mindful of the powerful connections between humans and horses, especially racing horses. Angel, Charles, and Eloise each have different relationships with the tempestuous Whirlwind, while Butterhead wins everyone’s heart. And the newly arrived dogs pack the stables at Freehold Farm because dogs and horses have strong connections too.

In the context of a looming natural disaster, Monroe uses this rich cast to deepen the emotions and up the tension. Mother-daughter relations are shown at their best and their worst. A long-time marriage that has been tested is still not back to normal and a new one seems fragile. Equestrian competitors from millennial to octogenarian assess their willingness to accomplish their most cherished dreams. All of the above provide juicy complications that are not readily resolved but provide for fun reading.

Monroe’s latest story provokes thinking, imparts inspiration and fosters hope. People want to take care of each other. No matter what material things you lose in life, the things that truly matter along the way are not things. No matter how much hurt there might be between two people, there is always room for new beginnings and for forgiveness. And perhaps the most important of all, success comes in baby steps, working together. What seems impossible becomes doable. In this imperfect world of ours, we should embrace such uplifting news and an evocative read.

The Summer Guests is now available for purchase.

ABOUT MARY ALICE MONROE:

New York Times bestselling author Mary Alice Monroe found her true calling in environmental fiction when she moved to coastal South Carolina. Already a successful author, she was captivated by the beauty and fragility of her new home. Her experiences living in the midst of a habitat that was quickly changing gave her a strong and important focus for her novels.
Mary Alice Monroe writes richly textured books that delve into the complexities of interpersonal relationships and the parallels between the land and life. Monroe’s novels are published worldwide. With the same heart of conservation, Monroe has written two children’s picture books as well.
Her novels have achieved many lists, including the New York Times, USA Today and SIBA. She has received numerous awards, including several Readers’ Choice Awards; the 2014 SC Book Festival Award for Excellence in Writing; the 2015 SW Florida Book Festival Distinguished Author Award; RT Lifetime Achievement Award; and the 2008 South Carolina Center for the Book Award for Writing. Most recently, Monroe was named by the South Carolina Academy of Authors as a 2018 inductee of the Literary Hall of Fame.