“For readers who appreciate modern and sensitively written stories about family, especially sisters.” –Library Journal

“Marren’s follow-up to A Palm Beach Wife is fun and flirty, alluding to all the Palm Beach landmarks we know and love: The Breakers, Worth Avenue and grandiose mansions are the perfect backdrop for the book’s plot.” –The Palm Beach Post

Parents, children and their buried secrets lie at the heart of Susannah Marren’s new novel, A Palm Beach Scandal (St. Martin’s Griffin). The second installment in her “Palm Beach” series, it is set in the Florida paradise of wealth and elegance where families are under particular pressure to present perfection, keep the masks on (no pun intended), and polish their own veneer.

Elodie and her younger sister Aubrey are eight years apart, the daughters of Simon, who made his fortune in real estate, and Veronica, who schooled them in high fashion, posture and inscrutability. Elodie, the Princeton-educated director of events for the Palm Beach Literary Society where she is trying to entice younger members with up-and-coming authors, poets and playwrights, has been married to James, CEO of a start-up, for 13 years. James is obsessed with the 11,000 square foot beach mansion that the couple is building. He blends perfectly with Elodie’s family: the club, the rituals, every aspect of the life they lead.   

Aubrey rents an apartment in South Beach in an effort to maintain distance from her mother’s social scene but remains devoted to Elodie, her childhood protector. While Aubrey has struck out in various professions, frustrating her indulgent parents, happiness has finally found her. Not only is she madly in love with Tyler, who is the antithesis of Palm Beach although hardly a rebel, but they have become partners in the music business, scouting and booking talent.  


Susannah Marren (writing under Susan Shapiro Barash) has previously plumbed the depths of women’s relationships in 13 nonfiction books about friends, mothers and daughters, mothers-in-law, sisters, marriage and remarriage. She is a masterful detective and interpreter of hidden feelings and intent and the ramifications of keeping secrets. In A Palm Beach Scandal, she puts that talent to work, digging deep into the sisters’ relationships with each other, their parents, a husband and a lover. Marren further explores the sisters’ affinity with Palm Beach: despite the layers of artifice, there is beauty and truth, sunrise and sunset, and always, running through their days, the Intracoastal Waterway glinting in the light and reflecting the sky. 

A crisis ensues when 40-year old Elodie learns that after several miscarriages the clock has run out and she cannot bear a child. She and Jim weigh their options and decide to ask Aubrey, young, hip and unbound, if she will act as a surrogate mother for a baby conceived with her own egg and James’s sperm. In this way, the baby would be as biologically close as possible to Elodie although not her own, of course. 


In emotional turmoil, Elodie approaches Aubrey. She knows that the “ask” is both logical and absurd, a reasonable request and an outrageous imposition. Aubrey’s decision is fraught with anxiety and guilt. There is the possibility of losing Tyler. There is the possibility of losing Elodie. Inevitably, there is the sisters’ unquenchable desire for parental approval. And so, as much as Aubrey and Elodie prize their independence from Simon and Veronica, they can’t help inviting them into the calculus. The strong reaction from each parent surprises the sisters but Aubrey agrees to proceed with the plan.

Then a secret emerges from its hiding place, revealing information that will turn upside-down the outwardly tranquil lives of the sisters, their partners and their parents. As they are thrown back on their heels, the novel becomes both a mystery and a thriller. Marren, in tight control of her intricate plot, will leave readers on the proverbial edge of the seat, but she also gives us much to think about. What constitutes a family in the twenty-first century? Must we forgive our elders for keeping their secrets? And why, when the moment presents itself, is it so easy to check out of one’s familiar, beloved world?      

Susannah Marren’s portrayal of Palm Beach is affectionate and deliciously tongue-in-cheek. Birkin bags, nude Manolos and mineral sunblock; the A1A and “the southeast breeze that will blow our words away” — it’s all delightful even as it forms the backdrop of a riveting drama.


Visit the Vivid Pink and Turquoise of Palm Beach Where the Secrets Are as Colorful as the Secrets

A Palm Beach Wife: A Riches-to-Rags Story

Susannah Marren on a New Domestic Drama That Peeks Into a Privileged Society

Video: Interview with Susannah Marren, Author of Between the Tides

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Susannah Marren is the author of Between the Tides and A Palm Beach Wife and the pseudonym for Susan Shapiro Barash, who has written over a dozen nonfiction books, including Tripping the Prom Queen, Toxic Friends and You’re Grounded Forever, But First Let’s Go Shopping.

For over twenty years she has taught gender studies at Marymount Manhattan College and has guest taught creative nonfiction at the Writing Institute at Sarah Lawrence College. She lives in New York City.