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  • Eleanor Howard

The Summer Guests Review

If your idea of a gutsy, fast-moving story exploring the bonds a friendship, the lengths someone will go for the love and devotion of horses and dogs while racing against the backdrop of an impending natural disaster The Summer Guests by New York Times Bestselling Author, Mary Alice Monroe should be your next summer read. Published by Gallery Books and scheduled to release on June 11th, 2019 Monroe’s gripping novel will transport you into the powerful world of equestrianism where long-time friends make their escape from dangerous Hurricane Noelle churning in the Atlantic Ocean off the southeastern Florida coastline. As they flee the storm and find respite in the hills of the North Carolina mountains and wait for the hurricane to pass, they discover who they are, the resilience of long-term relationships and discover what’s most important to them when they only had moments to decide.

Mary Alice Monroe’s The Summer Guests covers a captivating and swift moving ten short days, that’ll leave readers engaged, indulged and educated about the illusive often close-knit world of equestrians with gracious southern hospitality. The novel invites you to the quaint city of Tryon where you’ll visit Freehold Farm nestled on the front porch of the foothills of scenic Western North Carolina mountains. At the height of hurricane season in August 2018, Charles and Grace Phillips welcome Grace’s childhood friend Gerta* Klug and her daughter Elise who grew up with their daughter, Moira. Other hurricane refugees include famous equestrian Javier Angel de la Cruz, his girlfriend and promising makeup creator and artist Hannah McLain and island resident Cara Rutledge.

The Phillips’ friends are scattered along the Atlantic coastline from Palm Beach, Florida to the Isle of Palms, South Carolina but journey with their horses and dogs to find safety in the North Carolina home and farm. Along with the evacuees, the reader gets caught up in the family’s charm and feel like an invited guest staying with them on their expansive homestead. You have a center seat in their warm kitchen filled with sunshine, comfort food, wine and fresh flowers. All your literary senses create this believable farmhouse where meals leave you sated and unresolved issues are sorted. When the summer guests pack and return home, they leave with a stronger connection than they had before and a treasured, deeper sense of self.

The compelling story bands together old friends and introduces new ones as they work together to save valuable, prize winning horses and displaced shelter dogs. The diverse group with similar interests, carries with them their own history of loss and personal struggle. The reader sympathizes with Charles Phillips and the injury that clouds his relationship with Grace or Elise’s decision on whether to “take the road less traveled” and disappoint her mother, Gerta’s dream. Or even though the Klugs established a premier equestrian center in Wellington, Florida, a tragic horsing accident on her beloved Razzmajazz left limits on what Gerta can do with horses one on one. Then there’s Cara’s “woolgathering” memories and loyalty to care for her family’s beach house and her history.

The horses and dogs in The Summer Guests are integral 4-legged characters. They effortlessly move the reader into exploring our connection with animals and how they impact our deeper, meaningful relationships with others. Monroe captures the essence of the animals, especially the horses, in such a way that convinces the reader they can touch the velvet hair around their nostrils and smell the barn’s sweet hay and leather tack. Even the horse’s names are captivating, like Whirlwind, Elise’s spirited and impressive seventeen hands Trakehne

black stallion - an exceptional young horse from World Championship breeders. Along with Angel’s beloved palomino mare, Butterhead who at one time was at Grand Prix level of show jumping and training for the Olympics.

The Summer Guests mesmerizing tale evokes questions about what possessions are most important if you had to bolt at a moment’s notice. Just as this group of friends, hope the weather, flooding and journey doesn’t dash Olympic dreams or hobble long-term relationships, what if your life was in sudden flux and upheaval, who would you call, where would you go, and what would you take with you? The Summer Guests is an evocative story with so much heart and an unexpected twist revealing a promising love story, that Monroe’s latest novel is sure to become a fan favorite.

Join Southern Lit Alliance at their annual fundraiser, FocusLit and hear from Mary Alice Monroe in person and get a copy of her newly released book. The luncheon event is June 12 at 11:30 in Stratton Hall. For information and tickets go to

Mary Alice Monroe is the author of over 20 novels including two children’s books. Her novel A Lowcountry Christmas won a 2017 Southern Book Prize in fiction, awarded by the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA) and the novel The Beach House was adapted into a Hallmark Channel Hall of Fame Movie. Monroe lives with her family on a barrier island outside Charleston, South Carolina. She is an active conservationist and serves on the South Carolina Aquarium Board Emeritis, The Leatherback Trust, The Pat Conroy Literary Center Honorary Board, and Casting Carolinas Advisory Board. Find out more at

Eleanor Howard is a Writer, Blogger and future Historical Fiction author of a story set in rural North Carolina Appalachia in the early 1900s. Discover more at and connect with her on Facebook at @EleanorHowardWriter and Twitter @writerEleanor

Note: **This review was based on an Advance Reader Copy provided to Southern Lit Alliance prior to the novel’s release date. The ARC showed the spelling of Gerta Klug with a “t” but on Mary Alice Monroe’s website, the description of The Summer Guests, her name is spelled Gerda with a d.

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