Nicole has returned to her family cottage on Quinnipeague in order to get it ready to sell. She needs the break from the stresses of her life. Her husband Julian is a well-known surgeon who has been diagnosed with MS and has tried to keep his diagnosis a secret from his colleagues as well as his children from his first marriage, leaving Nicole the only person who knows and worries with him. So spending one last summer on the island, sorting through the house and writing a cookbook based on the luscious, local food available there, should be a release for her. Not wanting to do it alone, she calls and invites Charlotte, the best friend from whom she's been partly estranged for ten years but who used to spend summers with Nicole's family at the cottage, and suggests that Charlotte join her there. As Nicole, a food blogger, creates the recipes, she will rely on Charlotte, a celebrated journalist, to write the human interest tales about the people and the restaurants behind the recipes. This is a collaboration that Charlotte cannot refuse. But Charlotte has a secret that makes their reconciliation awkward at best. And Nicole isn't sharing about Julian's MS either, at least not at first.
As Nicole and Charlotte tiptoe around each other and the secrets they clearly aren't telling each other, they tentatively start to try to rebuild something of their old friendship. Nicole cooks amazing food as Charlotte roams the island interviewing people about their contributions to the local culinary scene. In the course of her research, Charlotte runs into Leo, the handsome, abrasive, loner son of the woman whose amazing herbs are the foundation for almost every tasty thing produced on Quinnipeague. Leo has his own reason for keeping to himself and warning Charlotte away from his land and his herbs but she's intrigued and just can't stay away from him. Meanwhile the tension between she and Nicole is growing until Nicole spills her secret. This revelation increases the power of Charlotte's secret and makes her decision whether or not to reveal it that much harder.
There are several different story lines going on throughout this book: Nicole's feelings about selling the family cottage in the aftermath of her father's death, her relationship with Julian, Charlotte's interest in Leo, the rekindling of Charlotte and Nicole's friendship, and Charlotte's secret. All of the story lines are emotionally weighted and the majority of them hinge on secrets that will eventually be shared. The major focus, of course, is on Charlotte and Nicole's lapsed friendship and the way that a secret festering for 10 years has kept them cordial but carefully held at arm's length instead of as close as they once were. In addition to the many secrets, there's a big moral dilemma involved that holds the potential to change the trajectory of the whole story. Some of these plot issues are very believable and others stretch credulity some. The pacing is consistent if a little slow; it is of the leisurely beach read variety rather than the can't put it down type. In the end though, it is a pleasant but not so very surprising beach read and astute readers will have guessed the unspoken long before it is revealed.
Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy of this book to review.