In 1931, Lily Dane is dragged along to a college football game by her best friend Budgie Byrne, where Lily instantly becomes smitten with Nick Greenwald. Despite the fact that Budgie is generally the popular one, Nick quickly falls for Lily as well. There is one major stumbling block to their happily-ever-after, however--Nick is Jewish, and while Budgie warns Lily that this will be unacceptable to their high society friends and family, Lily refuses to believe it. She concedes that her mother might be a problem, but Lily is convinced that even she can eventually be brought around. It is shocking to Lily, therefore, that it is her beloved father who strongly objects to the match when they announce their engagement, and will not be persuaded to change his mind. Refusing to bow to the prejudiced disapproval, Nick and Lily elope to upstate New York in the midst of a massive blizzard, but Lily's aunt comes after them to try to convince Lily not to go through with the marriage.
While Lily seems steadfast in her decision to marry Nick, when the story picks up seven years later, Nick and Lily aren't together. Instead, the summer of 1938 finds Lily heading to her family's beach house in Seaview, Rhode Island with her mother, aunt, and six-year-old sister Kiki (who is, according to rumor, really her daughter) as she has done every year since she can remember. The tiny, tight-knit summer community is disrupted when Budgie turns up unexpectedly, moving into her own family's long-neglected beach house with her new husband--who just happens to be Nick Greenwald. Secrets, lies, and betrayals all come to light gradually, until a major hurricane arrives to kick the revelations and confrontations into high gear, tearing apart their old way of life both figuratively and literally.
The hurricane sets an exciting scene and provides some much-needed momentum toward the end of the book, but it also proves to be one of the novel's major flaws. Consequences feel just a bit too convenient, like the storm was a contrivance built by the author entirely so a couple of more troublesome characters could be dispensed with. Nevertheless, Williams writes well and despite certain clichéd elements and predictable plot points, the the novel is a quick, engaging read.
Williams writes novels packed full of romance, historical settings, and richly layered family drama. Her other titles include Overseas, The Secret Life of Violet Grant, Tiny Little Thing, and the forthcoming Along the Infinite Sea. My super librarian sleuthing skills have led me to conclude that she also writes historical romance novels under the pseudonym Juliana Gray.