If you want to jump ahead into the full swing of the season ahead of time, then get an early start with Jean Stone’s new novel “A Vineyard Summer.” The backed-up traffic, busy eateries, and hectic streets of Edgartown are the backdrop of Stone’s second of her series, the Vineyard Novels.
Protagonist Annie Sutton is desperately trying to finish the final draft of her latest novel to get to her editor on time, but things just keep getting in the way. One of them might be familiar, the need and difficulty in finding year-round housing. Her none-too-friendly landlord wants her out of the guest cottage ASAP. In fact, the book opens with what none of us would ever want to hear:
“‘You have to leave.’
“Annie Sutton stood in the doorway of the cottage on Chappaquiddick. Her jaw went slack; her thoughts tumbled into one another.
“Her landlord, Roger Flanagan, pressed his thin lips together as if attempting an apologetic smile. ‘I’m sorry, Annie. You’ve been a wonderful tenant. But my grandson, Jonas, is moving to the Vineyard.’”
Annie also has to unexpectedly take over the last-minute advertising and running of a grand Edgartown garden tour to benefit Island schools, since her dear friend is suddenly quite indisposed.
There is also her too-good-to-be-true boyfriend John, who as it turns out might be flying the coop. Is it only trouble with John’s young daughter that’s pulling him off-Island, or the lure of getting back together with his ex? Frustratingly, his communication once he’s out of sight is anything but transparent.
But Annie’s biggest distraction would be ours as well. One night she quite literally stumbles on her lawn over an unconscious young woman named Fiona, who happens to be a bridesmaid in the big wedding going on next door. Through good will, nice nature, and mystery writer’s curiosity, she becomes involved in unraveling a potentially deadly plot to do away with Fiona. And I promise you, you’ll be surprised what the culprit used to try to slay her prey.
And while the whodunit mystery runs throughout the plot, so does the one of family, both blood and the friends we adopt by choice. Annie was literally adopted, and we met her endearing half-brother Kevin, whom she is getting to know well when he decides to visit her on the Island. He quickly becomes part of Annie’s close family of friends — an older couple, Claire and Earl, as well as single mom Francine and her baby Bella. Kevin is an immensely affable fellow, and the patter of his and Annie’s growing kinship is delightful. There are other family ties, but for the moment, let’s leave it at that.
Stone shares, “What inspired the story, I guess, was mostly from watching the interactions among year-round Vineyard folks and seasonal residents, mixed in with the tourists. I’m hoping that readers will walk away with that. Above the romance of summer, seasonal folks and tourists get to witness a strong Island community. And that year-rounders and visitors alike — from fishermen to servers, from wedding parties to the people with the BMWs whose car alarms often seem to be triggered when crossing the Sound on the ferry — that ALL of the people are what make the Vineyard the great destination that it has become. Oh, yeah, and I hope they finish the book thinking it was a good story.”
“A Vineyard Summer” by Jean Stone. Kensington Books. Available at Bunch of Grapes in Vineyard Haven and Edgartown Books for $15.95 and online, as well as at her book talks and signings: June 28 at 7 pm at Bunch of Grapes, July 5 at 10:30 am at Edgartown Books, July 18 at 7 pm at the Edgartown library. Stone will be on an Islanders Write panel on Aug. 12.