Summer Rental – Mary Kay Andrews
St. Martin’s Griffin/2011
   Reviewed By: Sheri de Grom

Summer Rental by Mary Kay Andrews qualifies as a beach read, should you be in the mood to head out with a cooler full of your favorite beverages, a large umbrella, fluffy towel, and whatever else makes summer special for you.

The three primary characters—Ellis, Julia, and Dorie—are all thirty-somethings who have known each other since grammar school in Savannah, Georgia. They’ve stayed in touch with each other and gotten together for weddings and funerals through the years.

Ellis lives in Philadelphia, Julia in London, and Dorie still lives in Savannah. They’re tired of only having a night or two to talk when one of their parents pass on so when they were last together for a funeral, they promised they’d spend the month of August together and Ellis would be in charge of planning. There were two necessities they all agreed on. They would vacation at the ever-popular Outer Banks of North Carolina and they wanted a house on the beach.

Ellis loves the planning, finding what she believes will be the perfect place for their vacation although she’s never talked directly with the home’s owner. All communication with the owner of Ebbtide, the house they will be renting, has been via e-mail. Ellis isn’t sure about Mr. Culpepper, the owner of Ebbtide, but what the heck—the price for the house perched on the edge of the Atlantic is just right.

That is, the price was just right until Ellis loses her job to downsizing. She’s worked for the same Philadelphia bank her entire life and now they have the nerve to toss her out like yesterday’s newspaper.

Suddenly, Ellis is without a job and there’s none in sight. She’s not only jobless, she’s on a very tight budget, and she’s lonely.

Julia has enjoyed a successful career as a model and lived abroad with her boyfriend/photographer. At thirty-five, her modeling years are coming to a close. Her boyfriend, Booker, wants nothing more than to make Julia his wife. But Booker also wants to move to DC. He’s willing to give Julia anything she wants.

Julia’s afraid. She’s independent. Booker wants the big house and children plus wife at his side. Julia’s afraid she’ll lose her own identity and turn into her mother.

Dorie has remained in Savannah where she teaches elementary school and she’s a newlywed. Her husband, Stephen, was supposed to have been the fifth wheel on the vacation along with Dorie’s sister, Willa, as the fourth. Ellis and Julia didn’t want Stephen and Willa but the house was so big, they needed help with paying the rent. They decided it was worth having the extra two bodies to keep the rent cost lower among the original three. The house cost more than they’d wanted to pay but they insisted on beach front access. They made the trade.

When Dorie and Julia arrive at Ebbtide, Stephen and Willa aren’t with them. It soon becomes clear that Ellis, Julia, and Dorie will have to tighten their financial expenditures.

Maryn is a stranger and a woman on the run. She needs a place to stay and the three friends need someone to help pay the rent. Maryn isn’t forthcoming with her past or present and keeps to herself. Maryn doesn’t want much: no questions, a good hiding place, and a new identity.

Ebbtide, their home for the month of August on the Outer Banks, sounded so romantic when Ellis made the rental arrangements with the grumpy Mr. Culpepper. In reality, the house is falling down around them and the real Mr. Culpepper is Ty Bazemore. Ellis first meets him as he’s relieving himself off the balcony of the garage apartment.

Ty is trying desperately to save Ebbtide from being foreclosed on and had wanted to keep his identity a secret. Instead, he and Ellis are attracted to each other long before August is over.

Summer Rental is a light read and just what I was looking for after I read three literary fiction novels in a row. I wanted something charming and airy, set in a location I love. Mary Kay Andrews is spot on with her description of the Outer Banks. I heard the ocean swells, saw the sea grass on the distant dunes, heard the call of wings over the ocean, all the while knowing—whatever was for dinner—it would include corn on the cob washed down with iced cold beer.

The characters are oh-so-real. I can easily remember my thirties and, although life had thrown me a couple curve balls the same as it had Mary Kay Andrews’ characters, I didn’t feel jaded and neither do hers. Her characters have hope and know they can have the life they want if they make the right decisions.

I carry a book with me wherever I go and someone will almost always start up a conversation about what I’m reading. In the case of Summer Rental, the comments were always something like, “You’ll love the ending.” So, I’m not even going to say there’s a spoiler alert coming up. I haven’t read other books by Mary Kay Andrews but evidently everyone that follows her knows she always provides a happy ending.

I recommend Summer Rental for a leisurely read. You’ll relax and enjoy yourself. It is character driven by the three best friends, the landlord, and a woman on the run. What more could you ask for?

About Sheri de Grom

Retired Fed/JAG, 5 yrs. on Capitol Hill. Former book buyer for B and N. Concerned citizen of military drawdown. Currently involved in mental healthcare reform, health care strategist and actively pursuing legislative change wherein dual retirees are exempt from enrolling in Medicare at their own discretion without losing tertiary healthcare benefits. Monitor and comment on Federal Register proposed legislation involving Mental Health, Veterans Affairs, Health and Human Services, Medicare and rural libraries. Licensed OSHA Inspector to include Super Fund sites. Full time caregive to Vietnam era veteran. Conceptualized, investigated possible alternatives, authored, lobbied for, and successfully implemented Title X, Section 1095 (known as the Third Party Collection Program of Federal Insurance).
Aside | This entry was posted in Book Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Caryl says:

    Hi Sheri! Thanks for the review, I have never read any of Mary Kay Andrews’ books before. Although, it is winter where I am currently, this will entice me to dream about summer time which I am looking forward to when that comes along!

    Caryl x

  2. Sheryl says:

    Thanks for the review. It sounds like a wonderful summer read.

    • Hello Jane – I hope all is well in your world and things are settling down for your mother. Summer Rental is one of those books you could easily pop on your kindle and carry with you as you make your trips back and forth to see your mom or wait for appointments, etc. You won’t lose deep trains of thought if you are torn away. The book is entertaining and I so love the Outerbanks of North Carolina.

  3. sounds engaging Sheri!

    • Deborah – It’s interesting to me in that each decade we journey through as women, we meet our own trials, adventures and hopefully resolutions. Is’ve been thinking about ‘Summer Rental’ this week in terms of my own friendships with women throughout the decades of my own life and how valuable my friends loyalty has been to me. One of the themes I particuarly enjoyed in ‘Summer Rental’ was how each character honestly cared about the other. Thank you for reading with me.

  4. Mae Clair says:

    This sounds like a wonderful read, perfect for summer. And I love that the author uses the Outer Banks for a setting. I adore novels set on a coast, and the Outer Banks is one I’ve enjoyed visiting myself.

  5. Sheri, to add to your convo wiht Patti Y … I’ve also seen and read reviews of this book. The themes are too predictable for my taste and … Truthfully, if you search under that theme in amazon you find that even the book covers end up looking the same. One of my good friends Shelley Noble wrote BEACH COLORS which made the NYTBSL … but her cover is still so much like others.

    • Hi Florence – Shelly’s book made the NYTBSL and other books by Mary Kay Andrews have also made the same list. Therefore, I know there’s a sizeable audience for this particlar character interaction. I searched the internet looking to see who had done book tours together promoting their books (not internet blog hops but real honest to goodness book tours paid for by the publisher). Having been a former book buyer, I always find those stats interesting. I will be reviewing Seating Arrangements, a debut novel by Maggie Shipstead, in the near future. It is also located on the beach but I’m not calling it a beach read but, Entertainment Weekly did. EW also said it was a must read for the summer. I’m not going that far.

  6. Another concise review with just enough intriguing information to entice me to add this book to my towering TBR!

  7. Sounds like a nice, easy read. 🙂

  8. Thanks for the review, Sheri. This is just the type of book I love, especially for a summer read. I’m wondering when it was published because I swear I might have read it.

    • Patti – The publication date was 2011. I keep two lists of everything I read. One is by author and the other is a running list by year. I was tired of a book being reissued with a new cover and I’d get home and sure enough, I’d already read it. Summer Rental is indeed a nice easy read and when I was looking around under Wikipaedia for photos, it was amazing how many books are in the same category with the same theme. I actually read this novel last winter curled up with an afghan and a hot beverage. I simply hadn’t written a review yet and it was nagging at me before I hit on something more serious. It’s a great light read. Thanks for stopping in and reading with me.

What's On Your Mind, I'd love To Know

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s