Pub. Date: April 3, 2018
Source: ARC via publisher (Thank you, Gallery Books!)
Summary: After finding out her military husband is missing in action, middle sister Sloane’s world crumbles as her worst nightmare comes true. She can barely climb out of bed, much less summon the strength to be the parent her children deserve.
Her mother, Ansley, provides a much-needed respite as she puts her personal life on hold to help Sloane and her grandchildren wade through their new grief-stricken lives. But between caring for her own aging mother, her daughters, and her grandchildren, Ansley’s private worry is that secrets from her past will come to light.
But when Sloane’s sisters, Caroline and Emerson, remind Sloane that no matter what, she promised her husband she would carry on for their young sons, Sloane finds the support and courage she needs to chase her biggest dreams—and face her deepest fears. Taking a cue from her middle daughter, Ansley takes her own leap of faith and realizes that, after all this time, she might finally be able to have it all.
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction
It’s supposed to be Spring here in Pittsburgh, but we had snow yesterday, so who knows. That said, I’ve been in a summery, fluffy mood lately when it comes to my reading, and when I was approached about reviewing The Secret to Southern Charm, it sounded right up my alley and I couldn’t wait to dive right in!
Sloane recently received the devastating news that her husband has gone missing in the Middle East. Back at her childhood home where she’s surrounded by her sisters, her mother, and grandmother, Sloane falls into a deep depression, staying in bed for nearly a month, unable to do so much as shower (let alone care for her two sons), and during those rare hours she is awake, she watches and rewatches home movies just to see her husband again.
Her family rallies around her, stepping in to care for her boys while they deal with battles of their own. As Sloane slowly finds the strength to return to the land of the living, Sloane’s mother Ansley wonders if she can summon up her own courage to finally go after what she wants – and has been fighting off for years.
The Secret to Southern Charm is the second installment in Harvey’s Peachtree Bluff series (the first being Slightly South of Simple), and although the summary of the first seems to set up this one perfectly, I never felt like I was missing out on anything by not having read it. Southern Charm is set immediately (?) after the first book ends – I believe it’s at the end of the first book that Sloane learns her husband is MIA – and the story jumps right into gear from the first page.
As the story alternates between Sloane’s and Ansley’s voices, I realized that all the woman in this novel sound exactly the same. From Sloane in her early 30s to 83-year-old Grammy, I honestly couldn’t tell the women apart. The only one who had her own unique voice was 26-year-old youngest sister Emerson, and that was mostly because she was kind of snotty and bratty, but hey, beggars can’t be choosers.
Despite that minor annoyance, I found myself really enjoying this novel. It seems a bit long for a summery, beach read, clocking in around 400 pages, but I found myself desperate to walk the streets of this little town, take in all the cute shops (including Ansley’s – she’s a decorator), sail on the boats. While the length might not be poolside-friendly, the setting certainly was and I was thoroughly roped in!
Another thing I noticed – and here’s where it gets spoilery – every single woman was dealing with a huge tragedy or some sort of problem. Sloane’s, obviously, is the news of her husband. Older sister Caroline was recently cheated on while she was pregnant and her husband spends this book attempting to redeem himself. Younger sister Emerson is having some sort of health issue and it’s clear the next book will focus on her: the final pages end with Ansley mistakenly coming across an email from Emerson’s doctor asking to schedule an appointment where they can discuss her results. Grammy out of the blue announces she had brain cancer and later passes away. Ansley’s husband was killed on 9/11 and she learned that, instead of receiving a nice windfall from him, she inherited major debt. She’s also coming to terms with her feelings for her high school sweetheart, the man who fathered Caroline and Sloane (the girls grew up thinking their biological father was some unknown donor). Yeah. It’s a lot to pack into a single book.
The Secret to Southern Charm might be a quick read, but it’s still a long read..perhaps a teensy bit TOO long for a beach read? There’s seriously a lot going on within its pages with drama and tragedy in spades. Despite the overwhelming sadness of events, I never felt that this was a sad read, instead it was surprisingly joyful and uplifting! I will admit that I don’t feel any need to go back and read the first book, as what took place in the first was not only still going on in this one, but there was a nice amount of recapping. The one thing here that bothered me the most was that each woman – and there’s a 50+ year age gap between two of them) had the same voice, had there not been any signifiers I honestly would not have known who was speaking. That said, I was absolutely charmed by the setting.