Exploring Heartbreak and Hilarity with the Latest Summer Reads

In this witty read, British writer Dolly Alderton’s latest book, “Good Material,” cleverly captures the angst of the demise of a modern relationship. 

Published June 28, 2024 9:24 AM
3 min read


“What went wrong?” is the question that plagues Andy, 35-year-old struggling standup comedian, after the woman he loves breaks up with him. In this witty read, British writer Dolly Alderton’s latest book, “Good Material,” cleverly captures the angst of the demise of a modern relationship. 

Blindsided by the breakup, Andy fixates on social media, maneuvers to extract insights on his ex from mutual friends, and even goes so far as to see a therapist with a fake role-reversed persona to try to understand her possible motivations for ending things. 

He seeks solace with buddies who have largely moved into the next stage of life — grownups who rush home to their marriages with kids, or have work commitments from more successful careers. While Andy laments “thirty-five is closer to fifty than twenty,” he is still without a place to live and performing comedy gigs at malls and trade shows. 

In a refreshing sidestep from a traditional romcom, Allerton writes from the male’s viewpoint and redefines her characters’ gender roles. In the end, she switches things around again with a sharp reminder that there are two sides to every story — leaving us with the thoughtful insight that loving and understanding someone are not the same. 

Popular novelist Rachel Hawkins’s latest book, “The Heiress,” is a twisty tale featuring a toxic family with a murderous history. The richest woman in North Carolina, Ruby McTavish, leaves her fortune to adopted son Camden, who rejected his inheritance only to be compelled to return home to deal with the estate when his uncle dies and leaves his remaining relatives squabbling over who gets what. They challenge and resent Camden’s lack of blood connection to the family. 

Camden’s wife, an English teacher, whose head is turned by the stunning estate of Ashby House and all that power and money — is intrigued by the family’s history. A notorious ancestry that starts with his adoptive mother, who was nicknamed “Mrs. Kill-more” due to the mysterious deaths of each of her four husbands. But it doesn’t stop there. A series of letters reveal untold history and secrets for the couple that has as many surprising revelations as any melodramatic soap opera plot could muster up. 

You have to stretch credulity if you read “First Lie Wins,” the latest thriller by Ashley Elston, but much like with the success of the recent Prime streaming series, “Mr. & Mrs. Smith,” one seems willing to do that in the name of a fast-paced, entertaining, cat-and-mouse game. 

In this story, nice Southern girl Evie Porter has a charming boyfriend and pretty house with a white picket fence. But behind her picture-perfect life are many secrets and lies. As her history is exposed through plenty of flashbacks, readers are let in on the who and the why of what’s really going on here. The less you know beforehand, the better (even the book jacket says too much in my opinion!) so avoid any spoilers before diving in. 

The queen of the summer rom-com, Emily Henry, offers another breakup scenario in her new book “Funny Story.” Daphne’s perfect fiancé, Peter, calls off their wedding to marry his also perfect long-time childhood friend, Petra. Daphne is then thrust into an alliance with Petra’s brokenhearted jilted beau, Miles. Readers will instantly identify who the real catch is — the coiffed golden-haired ex-fiancé, or the scruffy, smothering new roommate? — and be induced to mutter, “Don’t you see what’s right in front of your eyes?!” But even though you know in the first few pages where it’s going, in typical rom-com fashion, you can still enjoy getting there. 

This month, Annabel Monaghan, our own queen of summer-rom-coms, releases her third one, “Summer Romance.” In this charming tale, we meet Ali, a professional organizer with a messy life. She’s going through a divorce, grieving her mother’s recent death, and trying to juggle all the demands that come with a household with three young kids. 

When a new man enters the picture — her dog pees on his shoe at the dog park — Ali awakens that “carbonated feeling,” the fizzy thrill of a new romance. She finds herself eager for an old-fashioned summer romance, knowing that its magic “lies in the constraints,” that it’s all meant to end along with the season. 

But anything is possible in this funny and sweet read — so yes, even if you’re a divorcing soccer mom who wears Costco underwear, you might still meet someone dreamy and have a romance that could last beyond Labor Day.

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