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Wednesday, May 10, 2017
1:18 pm edt
Happens in the Hamptons
In the late 1950s and early 1960s, my father was the chauffeur for Anna Gould, later to become the Duchess of
Talleyrand. For the better part of each summer, our family stayed in Saratoga Springs where Miss Anna was a member of the
elite higher echelons and we became members of the lower local, working strata. We were cognizant of the major class differences
and knew enough never to cross the rigid boundaries.
However, this is exactly what Katie Doyle – the main
protagonist of It Happens in the Hamptons: A Novel by Holly Peterson – did when she and her young son, Huck, moved from a lake-side community in Oregon to the East
Coast community of Southampton. By virtue of her quasi-boyfriend and her own gutsy initiative, she befriended not only the
local “townies” but members of the top one percent tier who drive up from New York City to the Hamptons for the
weekend, as well as endearing herself into the middle-class landed-gentry, whose sea-faring and whaling forebears originally
founded the quaint communities dotting the Long Island shores.
Katie and George Porter were instantly attracted
to one another during a Portland educational conference, spending the rest of the sessions in a hotel room rather than in
the lecture halls. Overwhelmed by his insistence, and distracted by the sudden demise of her mother, Katie agrees to spend
the summer in a small cottage in Southampton, with the promise that she and George would eventually move into a more solid,
lasting relationship. When she meets Luke Forrester, a local marine biology teacher and part owner of the Tide Runners water
skills camp, Katie finds herself floundering in deep waters as she begins to doubt her feelings for George. What transpires
between Memorial Day weekend and the last fading days of September is grist for the millwork of Peterson’s third venture
into the world of fiction.
Peterson’s author page on amazon.com calls this novel “social satire
fiction”, but it is easily just a step or two higher in its real genre: romantic, suspenseful chick-lit. As such, it
does have an interesting plot line with, of course, the requisite sex scenes written with just the right touch of explicitness
– not too graphic, but steamy enough to keep turning the pages. The characters are believable; most of the time realistic
as they swim in and around the tidewaters of Katie’s and Huck’s lives. Although a few of the author’s attempts
to caricaturize members of Hampton society – locals and one-percenters alike – did seem a bit forced; a bit too
“put on”, too “over the top”. However, with the realization that It Happens in the Hamptons is supposed to be, in fact, a satire, more than several of the more humorous passages and descriptions
rang chuckle-out-loud true.
I have to admit, though, that it did take me a while to catch on to the sometimes
awkward and stylistically stilted manner of writing. The first fifty or so pages did have a few grammatically jarring juxtapositions,
but as I warmed up Peterson’s plot lines and characters, her story of Katie’s experiences – mingling
up and down social strati while juggling emotions between two lovers – finally flowed nicely into a satisfying, nearly
surprising denouement. Who and what George finally turns out to be, the revelation of Luke Forrester’s secret, and the
resolution(s) of Katie’s turmoiled emotions are, in this case, exemplar hallmarks of a rather good satirical commentary
on moder- day cultural mores.
Even if it is couched in a suspenseful chick-lit romance.
Enjoy the read!
J. McInerney, the host of this Literary Blog, is
an author, poet, and librettist. Her currenty published works include a novel, a book of spiritual inspirations,
volumes of poetry, stories
for children (of all ages) and
a variety of children's musicals. Her titles include:
Hotel: A Novel of Phoenixville during the Early 1900s
the Schuylkill Monster: A Novel of
Phoenixville in 1978
The Prisoner's Portrait: A Novel of Phoenxville during World
Rainbow in the Sky
of Oreigh Ogglefont
The Basset Chronicles.
Cats of Nine Tales
Water: A Collection of Poems
Exodus Ending: A
Collection of More Spiritual Poems
We Three Kings
Beauty and the Beast
Peter, Wolf, and Red Riding
Originally from the New York metropolitan area, June currently lives near Valley Forge Park in Pennsylvania with her constant and loving companions, FrankieBernard and Sebastian Cat. She
is currently working on her fifth novel.