Robyn Caldwell is a divorced mother of two who’s soon reaching a crossroad. Her oldest, Harlow, is engaged, planning her wedding and turning into a bridezilla, blaming her mother for anything not going her way. Her son Austin is graduating from high school but doesn’t seem to have a plan. Her ex-husband Cord has entered into a disastrous new relationship he’s keeping secret from his children. With Austin turning eighteen, Robyn has to make a significant financial decision about their beautiful but costly Naples, Florida home in accordance with her divorce settlement. When her great aunt Lillian Holton calls and invites her to consider a summer stay at her Santa Barbara estate, Robyn flees to California for a respite. Little did she know how vital she was to the people in her circle who would soon follow her, bringing their baggage with them.
What didn’t I love about this story! Robyn was the heartbeat of her family, which was news to her before she decided to take some time for herself and visit with the aunt who took her in when her parents died. Aunt Lillian is 94-years old and is eager to settle her affairs while she’s still in good health so her time there not only gave her much needed self reflection but an opportunity to spend time with a woman she loved dearly. At the same time, Lillian has invited Mason Bishop, the remaining relative of her late husband, to discuss his legacy. He’s a recently retired Army veteran who is comfortable with life but completely unprepared for what Lillian presents. He and Robyn use the opportunity to enjoy each other’s company while developing a plan for the estate settlement in the future. I loved their developing relationship, how mature and drama free it was in the midst of the chaos Robyn left behind in Naples.
I could hardly put my headphones down, not wanting to miss what was happening next. The narrator added to my enjoyment of the story as she captured the perfect tone and spirit of both the characters and the tale. It was enlightening to see Harlow and Austin find their way on their own, both having a higher appreciation for their mother. It was even more heartwarming to see Robyn learn to let them go and finally focus on her own needs. I loved every moment of my listening experience!
- Release Date: March 15, 2022
- Narrator: Tanya Eby
- Audio Length: 10 hours, 50 minutes
- Publisher: Harlequin Audio
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Q&A with Susan Mallery
Q: Tell us about your latest book, who is the main character(s) and what can we expect when we pick it up?
A: The Summer Getaway, which will be out on March 15, is the story of Robyn Caldwell, a mom who has one too many things on her plate—her daughter’s wedding demands, her son’s refusal to grow up, her best friend’s self-destructive behavior, and her ex-husband’s wildly inappropriate new girlfriend: their daughter’s soon-to-be sister-in-law. She’s been focusing on everyone else’s problems so much that she forgot to make a plan for her own future.
She needs a minute. So Robyn hops on a plane to visit her beloved great-aunt Lillian in sunny Santa Barbara, to give herself time and space to figure out what she wants the rest of her life to look like. But she’s the heart of her family, and those family ties draw everyone she loves to follow her across the country, one by one.
I adore Robyn, a smart, nurturing mom who has given so much that she forgot about herself. I think a lot of us women are like that, and I think readers will be thrilled to go along on Robyn’s journey of self-discovery.
Q: Give us an out of context quote from your book to warm our hearts:
A: Harlow’s gaze turned knowing. “You’re protecting him. Not because you’re still in love with him, but because he’s my father. This is about me, not him.” She smiled. “You’re a good mom. I hope when I have kids I’m just like you.”
Q: Which of your characters would you want to share a campfire with, and why?
A: Oh, Robyn, for sure. First of all, because she’s the kind of woman I love to have as a friend—great sense of humor, good conversationalist, loving, loyal, smart. And secondly, because the woman knows how to cook. (That said, I would choose a fireside table at a nice restaurant. I don’t get the appeal of eating outside.)
Q: Where do you get your ideas for your books, characters, series?
A: Ideas come from everywhere – conversations, articles. Songs are a great source of inspiration for me. I’m convinced that there’s a book in every country music song, but you might be surprised at the idea that comes from a song. For me, it’s not about the lyrics or the story of the song, as much as it is about the emotions.
So yes, ideas are everywhere, but the idea is merely a spark. The tough part is fanning that spark into flames, into a full-length women’s fiction novel. I’ve had a lot of ideas that weren’t good enough to sustain a book. I either have to reassign it as a subplot, or let it go. (That is so hard sometimes!)
The spark that led to The Summer Getaway is something no one would ever, ever guess. I had an idea to write a story about a woman who has fallen in love with an oil painting and goes in search of the artist, sure that they will share a deep connection. Instead, she discovers that the painting means nothing to him. He paints the same scene over and over again because it sells.
But there’s no artist in The Summer Getaway. No contemporary oil painting. While brainstorming the book, the idea morphed beyond recognition from that initial spark. Inspiration is a funny, ineffable thing. You don’t know where it will lead. All you can do is loosen the reins on your mind and let it run.
I couldn’t be happier with the end result. The Summer Getaway is a heartfelt, emotion-filled story of one woman’s triumph over self-doubt. Robyn is nurturing and fiercely loyal, and I love her.
I might still write about that artist. . .
Q: Do you interconnect series and locations or is it one and done with series?
A: Sometimes series are connected to other series, sometimes not. The Summer Getaway is a standalone novel, not part of a series. But when it comes to series, the Fool’s Gold series segued into the Happily Inc series. The Blackberry Island series segued into the Mischief Bay series—and then I returned to Blackberry Island with Sisters by Choice. A teenager in the Bakery Sisters series ended up as the hero of one of the Fool’s Gold books, Finding Perfect. (That was a reader’s suggestion, by the way.)
Q: How do you keep track of your characters when a series is longer…do you keep what I have heard referred to as a “Bible”?
A: I do have a series bible that my assistant creates. The Fool’s Gold bible is about 300 pages long. Every character is in it, with whatever specific details have appeared on the page—age, height, hair and eye color, where they went to college, what kind of car they drive. . . And because animals are so important in my books, even the animals are included in the bible.
Q: Did you love books as a child, what age did you begin to read and devour books, and what is the first book that you remember that made a difference in your writing (as a child or later)?
A: Oh yes, I was a voracious reader for as long as I can remember. Every Saturday, my dad took me to the library, and the rule was that I was allowed to check out as many books as I could carry. We would go home, and I’d read them all that day, and then spend the week re-reading the ones I loved. When a librarian told me how many more books I could carry if I used a tote bag, she changed my life!
I didn’t start writing until I was in college (studying accounting). In addition to my full courseload, I took an evening class titled How to Write a Romance Novel. By week six of the eight-week course, I knew I wanted to write books.
My goal, still, is to make each book better than the last, so I continue to study the craft of writing. I don’t remember the first book that made a difference in my writing, so I’ll tell you about a book that did so more recently—Save the Cat! It’s a book on screenwriting. Although I don’t have aspirations of writing screenplays, I like to study screenwriting because I find the story structure helpful. Save the Cat! talked about the importance of high stakes in a way that made me think differently when plotting my books. In my books, the stakes aren’t actual life and death, but they’re deeply emotional stories, and the stakes need to feel like emotional life and death to the characters and to the reader.
Q: Can you remember one or more early books that influenced you? What were they? Did you remain interested in the same type of stories over the decades or did your interests change?
A: When I was a teenager, I discovered my best friend’s mom’s stash of romance novels. She let me borrow them whenever I wanted. I still remember the feeling that came over me when reading that first one—that moment of catching my breath when the hero’s and heroine’s eyes met in the mirror—and that early reading experience continues to influence me today.
Q: Do you read the same genre you write or branch out to relax?
A: I still love reading women’s fiction and romance. I like stories that bring me deep inside characters’ heads and hearts, and I love happy endings.
Q: Do you write under another name or in other genres? If so…please share!
A: No, I only write under Susan Mallery. Early in my career, I wrote a few historicals as Susan Macias.
Q: How many books have you written?
A: 176 and counting… (including a few that haven’t been published yet—The Boardwalk Bookshop will be out in May, Home Sweet Christmas in October, and The Sister Effect next year, assuming the title doesn’t change.) And I’m working on more.
Q: Is writing easy or difficult…or should I ask what parts are easy and what parts are difficult?
A: The beginning of a book usually goes relatively slowly for me as I get to know the characters. But once I’m in the groove, the actual writing goes pretty fast and smoothly for me. I do a lot of plot work before I ever sit down to write, and that works for me.
The more challenging part for me, after all these books, is to come up with ideas that I haven’t already written about, but that still give readers the experience they want from one of my stories. Variety makes it more interesting and fun for me, too.
Q: Tell us about what you are reading at the moment or anticipate reading in the future? Any new books you are looking forward to?
A: Christina Dodd has a new one coming out this summer that I can’t wait to read — Point Last Seen. She’s a master of romantic suspense, and I find myself holding my breath as I read.
I’m currently reading First Comes Baby by one of my favorite romance authors and one of my favorite people, Christine Rimmer.
About the Author
Susan Mallery is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of novels about the relationships that define women’s lives—family, friendship and romance. Library Journal says, “Mallery is the master of blending emotionally believable characters in realistic situations,” and readers seem to agree—forty million copies of her books have been sold worldwide. Her warm, humorous stories make the world a happier place to live.
Susan grew up in California and now lives in Seattle with her husband. She’s passionate about animal welfare, especially that of the two Ragdoll cats and adorable poodle who think of her as Mom.
(Thanks to Harlequin Audio for my complimentary copy. All opinions are my own.)