21 of the best beach reads, mysteries, essays and debut fiction from down South.
The Book Woman’s Daughter by Kim Michele Richardson (Out Now)
Honey Lovett only knows how to hide from the law. But once her packhorse librarian mother is arrested and her father is thrown into jail soon after, Honey has no choice but to fend for herself in the wonderful yet treacherous paths of Kentucky. While she’s convinced she has to forge her path alone, Honey finds unexpected help in the woman of the Appalachians she begins giving books to. A story detailing women empowerment, The Book Woman’s Daughter is a tender novel that pays homage to Appalachian culture. Read a review of Richardson’s previous book The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek here.
The Grand Design by Joy Callaway (Out Now)
A young Dorothy Tuckerman can only escape from the choking traditions of aristocracy in the breathtaking nature of West Virginia’s Greenbrier Resort. After falling into a forbidden love affair, Dorothy’s family cements her fate as a woman bound to the rules of society. But even after her family’s attempts, 38 years later Dorothy still stirs up controversy. Having divorced her husband and founded the U.S.’s first interior design firm, Dorothy comes back home to The Greenbrier as the world is entering World War II. A historical drama based on the extraordinary life of Dorothy Draper, reading The Grand Design will prepare readers to break all of the world’s rules this summer.
The Homewreckers by Mary Kay Andrews (Out Now)
Hattie Kavanaugh knows how to fall in love with a house, working since the age of 18 for Kavanaugh & Son Restorations and even marrying the boss’s son. After the death of her husband, Hattie is determined to carry on the business, but her efforts end in disaster, shattering her confidence and threatening the entire company. Her luck takes a turn for the better when she’s offered the opportunity to star in a renovation show “The Homewreckers.” Hattie soon finds herself caught up in more than just dry rot and wallpaper—between a cast member who could be her true love or worst enemy and the unfolding case of a young woman’s disappearance. Centered around finding love and flipping houses, The Homewreckers delivers a tale for both romantics and cold-case lovers.
The Lost Book of Eleanor Dare by Kimberly Brock (Out Now)
There are only two legacies left behind from the Lost Colony of Roanoke: the commonplace book of Eleanor Dare and the daughters of her bloodline. After the untimely death of her parents, Alice Dare is unable to claim Eleanor’s book at the age of 13 as all the other Dare daughters have done before her. It is only many years later when Alice has a 13-year-old daughter of her own, Penn, that she is given the deed to her long-empty family home. After returning to the house, the book is uncovered with the long-lost identities of Alice and Penn. A novel brimming with the uncanny, The Lost Book of Eleanor Dare is an entrancing examination of family history and the ties that bind us. Read an excerpt from Brock’s first novel The River Witch here.
The Marsh Queen by Virginia Hartman (New Pub Date of September 6)
Loni Murrow has an ordered, accomplished life, with a job she loves at the Smithsonian working as a bird artist. But when her younger brother calls for her help with her mother while she recovers from an accident back in her hometown, Loni’s life takes a chaotic turn as she finds herself uncovering snippets of a childhood she prefers to forget. After discovering a note from a stranger who claims to know more about her father’s death, Loni starts on a perilous path to uncover the truth, dealing with family relationships and attractive strangers alike. Caught between her neat life in Washington, D.C., and the small town she grew up in, Loni must choose to either confront her past or bury it for good.
Mother Country by Jacinda Townsend (Out Now)
When Shannon follows her boyfriend to Morocco looking for an escape from her medical debt and the news of her infertility, she finds a toddler whose face could mirror her own instead. Her decision to adopt the girl and raise her in her hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, leads Shannon to confront her issues with her own mother. She then meets Souria, an undocumented Mauritanian woman who escaped trafficking and the mother of the same child Shannon seeks to adopt. A story dealing with the separation of family, Mother Country explores intergenerational trauma and healing as well as the actions made in the name of love and survival.
Mustique Island by Sarah McCoy (Out Now)
Set in January of 1972, Mustique Island follows former Texas beauty queen Willy May, who, after her share of scandals, is looking for peace and a place to reconnect with her two daughters, Hilly and Joanne. The private Caribbean island of Mustique, a white-sand haven for the privileged and wealthy, seems the perfect place. But Willy’s plans for peaceful isolation are disrupted when she’s drawn into the inner circle of the exiled Princess Margaret and her wild and decadent lifestyle. From secrets to scandals, Mustique Island delivers a sun-soaked journey through mother-daughter relationships and self-discovery.
My Summer Darlings by May Cobb (Out Now)
Having known each other their whole lives, it only makes sense for Jen Hansen, Kittie Spears and Cynthia Nichols to brace for the onset of their forties together. The trio passes their days by gossiping, drinking wine and reflecting on their disappointing children—until the lavish Will Harding moves into the neighborhood and takes over their lives. Jen, Kittie and Cynthia quickly find themselves in over their heads in this riveting thriller of a beach read.
Wingwalkers by Taylor Brown (Out Now)
Taylor Brown’s Wingwalkers follows the exploits of Dell and Zeno Marigold. The couple has been traveling through the West Coast in the midst of the Great Depression, entertaining crowds with their daredevil aerial tricks. On one fateful evening, the pair perform a show with a notable new member of the audience—famed author William Faulkner. After the three become acquainted, none of their lives are ever the same. Based on a true meeting Southern Gothic King William Faulkner experienced, Wingwalkers is sure to delight lovers of historical fiction.
Half-Blown Rose by Leesa Cross-Smith (Out May 31)
The child of two artists who spends her days teaching at an art museum in Paris while managing the new and welcomed attention from a suave man named Loup, 44-year old Vincent’s life seems to be as perfect as the paintings she’s surrounded by. But the grim reality of her complicated relationships comes to find her after she agrees to meet with her distant husband Cillian, who revealed painful secrets about their relationship in his bestselling novel, at their son’s wedding. While Cillian tries to make amends with Vincent, Loup and Vincent begin a star-crossed affair that will force Vincent to make life-altering decisions about her future. Filled with heart and music playlists, Kentucky author Leesa Cross-Smith’s Half-Blown Rose is the must-read romance of the summer.
Planes by Peter C. Baker (Out May 31)
Mel is a former social activist attempting to gain the conservative vote in her little town while balancing an affair she’s only half-committed to in North Carolina. Amira is a new Islam convert reckoning with the imprisonment of her husband in Morocco by the CIA and trying to live peacefully despite her neighbor’s wariness of her in Rome. These two women who seemingly have no relation to each other soon discover their lives—and connections—align more than they could have ever imagined. Peter C. Baker’s PLANES is filled with heart-wrenchingly real characters readers won’t be able to forget.
The Seamstress of New Orleans by Diane C. McPhail (Out May 31)
In the shifting times of social change and women’s equality in the year 1900, Alice Butterworth moves to New Orleans after the sudden disappearance of her husband, seeking to make a living for herself and her unborn child by teaching sewing. Alice soon runs into Constance Halstead, a widow struggling under the gambling debts of her late husband. Constance offers Alice a place to live if she helps her create a dress for the Leap Year ball of Les Mysterieuses, the only time women can overturn and take control of their interactions with men. Filled with dangerous secrets and the thrill of Mardi Gras, The Seamstress of New Orleans is an engaging read of mystery, fashion and the strength and inspiration women find in each other.
The Kingdom of Sand by Andrew Holleran (Out June 7)
A heart-wrenching novel that explores the meanings of death and loneliness, Andrew Holleran’s The Kingdom of Sand unveils the story of a gay man who, after coming to Florida to help his parents, makes a small town his home after their passing. Despite the nameless narrator’s dark humor about his situation, he is able to find a light in his friend Earl, who has been the only person he’s been able to connect with in his new home. But after Earl begins the downward slope toward death, the narrator must come to terms with what will happen when Earl leaves him.
Shifty’s Boys by Chris Offutt (Out June 7)
Mick Hardin returns from the military to give his injured-in-action leg time to heal. But home is far from where his heart is. Mick can’t get away from his pending divorce and sister’s sheriff reelection fast enough. But after Barney Kissick is found dead and the police show no interest in investigating the death of a heroin dealer, Barney’s mother Shifty turns to Mick. Mick is suddenly thrust into a mysterious case that may earn him a graveyard plot next to Barney. A riveting thrill ride, Chris Offutt’s Shifty’s Boys is sure to be the perfect mystery novel to kick off summer.
The Beach Trap by Ali Brady (Out June 14)
Set in the summer days of Destin, Florida, The Beach Trap follows the story of Kat Steiner and Blake O’Neill, two ex-best friends who severed contact with each other at age 12 after the reveal that the two are half-sisters. When their father abruptly dies 15 years later, the two sisters find themselves at odds over their joint inheritance—the family beach house. Their efforts to renovate the rundown house are challenged as Blake, who wants to sell the house for money, clashes with Kat, who clings to the happy memories she has of the house. Through the course of one summer, the two sisters must confront not only the challenge of what to do with the beach house, but the challenge of their shared past and relationship as well.
A Gracious Neighbor by Chris Cander (Out July 1)
Martha Hale is not suited to the social expectations that come with being a wife in a Houston, Texas, neighborhood composed of nothing but the mighty and influential. But just as the fear she’ll never be capable of fitting in is about to overcome her, an awe-inspiring old classmate joins the social fray. Martha’s fascination with Minnie Foster and her need to be her friend quickly borders on obsession. But the more Martha learns about Minnie, the more dark truths about Minnie’s seemingly perfect life are revealed. Chris Cander’s A Gracious Neighbor will have readers asking more questions with each secret that is revealed. Read a review of Cander’s The Weight of a Piano here.
The Finalists by David Bell (Out July 5)
Six college students enter the competition for the Hyde Fellowship with the hope of finally having the means to fund their education. However, after they are escorted to the ancient Hyde House, they are forced to sever all connection to the outside world by giving up their devices. The rule is simple: spend eight hours with the school administrator and the Hyde family heir and be permitted to leave. But after one of the six students is found dead, the remaining five look at the locked doors behind them—and what was supposed to be an honest way to help pay for their education seems to have quickly turned into a fight for their lives. David Bell’s The Finalists’ unique premise and engaging execution is sure to grip the reader from the first chapter.
The Floating Girls by Lo Patrick (Out July 12)
Kay Whitaker is a spitfire 12-year-old with a habit of getting into trouble. After coming across Andy Weeber, a boy with an enticing family mystery surrounding his mother’s death, Kay’s father forbids her to go near the Weebers, which, of course, Kay ignores. But after the disappearance of her sister, Kay and her brothers are more enveloped in the world of the Weebers than they could have ever imagined when it’s revealed that their parents may have had a role in the death of Andy’s mother. Readers will be unable to peel their eyes and hearts away from Lo Patrick’s The Floating Girls as secrets are revealed in the span of a Georgia summer.
The Last to Vanish by Megan Miranda (Out July 26)
In the mountain town of Cutter’s Pass in North Carolina, Abigail Lovett works a job she loves— managing The Passage Inn, an upscale resort near the Appalachian Trail. But the arrival of journalist Landon West threatens to upend Abby’s peaceful life when, after investigating a string of mysterious disappearances on the rumored vanishing trail, Landon disappears himself. Soon Abby finds herself caught in the mystery as the community she feels like an outsider in begins turning on itself. Suspenseful and shocking, The Last to Vanish is a thrilling tale sure to keep readers on the edge of their seats. Get to know Megan Miranda in our interview here.
Hannah and Ariela by Johnnie Bernhard (Out August 1)
On the border between Texas and Mexico, a border patrol officer and a rural sheriff’s morality are put to the test after an elderly widow discovers a 14-year-old Mexican national passed out in the middle of nowhere. The young Mexican girl is a victim of sex trafficking, and the elderly widow has taken to helping her, but the law leaves little room to come to either’s aid. Johnnie Bernhard’s Hannah and Ariela will have its readers questioning what true justice means.
Black Folk Could Fly: Selected Writings by Randall Kenan (Out August 9)
Known for his innovative fiction work, Randall Kenan’s Black Folk Could Fly takes readers through his lesser-known nonfiction essays, exploring his personal memories and recollections of his childhood— from the three women who raised him to his childhood home in the eastern North Carolina lowlands. A riveting collection of writing that explores coming of age and identity, Black Folk Could Fly is a testament to Kenan’s literary intelligence and soul.