By: Lauren K. Denton
Publisher: Thomas Nelson--FICTION
Publication Date: 4/11/2017
My Rating: 5 Stars
Best Southern Debut
Top Books of 2017
“A story both powerful and enchanting: a don’t-miss novel in the greatest southern traditions of storytelling.” —Patti Callahan Henry, New York Times bestselling author.
When her grandmother’s will wrenches Sara back home from New Orleans, she learns more about Margaret Van Buren in the wake of her death than she ever did in life.
After her last remaining family member dies, Sara Jenkins goes home to The Hideaway, her grandmother Mags's ramshackle B&B in Sweet Bay, Alabama. She intends to quickly tie up loose ends then return to her busy life and thriving antique shop in New Orleans. Instead, she learns Mags has willed her The Hideaway and charged her with renovating it—no small task considering Mags’s best friends, a motley crew of senior citizens, still live there.
Rather than hurrying back to New Orleans, Sara stays in Sweet Bay and begins the biggest house-rehabbing project of her career. Amid Sheetrock dust, old memories, and a charming contractor, she discovers that slipping back into life at The Hideaway is easier than she expected.
Then she discovers a box Mags left in the attic with clues to a life Sara never imagined for her grandmother. With help from Mags’s friends, Sara begins to piece together the mysterious life of bravery, passion, and choices that changed Mags’s destiny in both marvelous and devastating ways.
When an opportunistic land developer threatens to seize The Hideaway, Sara is forced to make a choice—stay in Sweet Bay and fight for the house and the people she’s grown to love or leave again and return to her successful but solitary life in New Orleans.
“Two endearing heroines and their poignant storylines of love lost and found make this the perfect book for an afternoon on the back porch with a glass of sweet tea.” —Karen White, New York Times bestselling author
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Storyteller Lauren K. Denton, a new voice in Southern fiction delivers a smashing debut, THE HIDEAWAY. Making me want to return to my southern front porch and curl up for a long leisurely nostalgic afternoon while being transported with this beautiful love story.
My vote for Southern Debut of 2017!
Set in Sweet Bay, Alabama in the Deep South, we meet Dot, a friend of Mags (Mrs. Margaret Van Buren), a tenant of The Hideaway. The Hideaway was once a booming Bed and Breakfast; however, over the years it has turned into a home for eccentric seniors (bohemian) style, artists, and the free-spirted looking for an escape; you came and never left.
As the book opens, Dot (husband, Bert) are seniors living at the house. She is admiring the latest Southern Living article featuring Maggie (Mag)’s granddaughter, Sara who owns a highly successful interior design shop in New Orleans.
People tend to arrive at this charming inn and they fall in love and decide to never leave.
Mag’s daughter, Jenny is deceased and she helped raise her granddaughter Sara. Mags was very unconventional and some called eccentric. Sara was embarrassed by her lifestyle growing up. Mags has never told her own story to Sara. By the time she had moved in with her at age twelve, Sara was at that critical age where there were peer pressure and friends’ opinions.
Sara turned out to be a stronger woman because of who Mags turned out to be. If Mags had remained under her parents’ thumb, worrying about how other perceived her, she would have been a wispy shadow of a real woman.
Sara loved the French Quarter in the Big Easy. (so do I) She was proud of her shop, Bits and Pieces. She has no time for a man, relationship, or anything other than her shop. She has restored an old shotgun house and filled it with restored furniture, and antiques. A bit of everything. Her assistant manager, Allyn was always there to help out (loved him).
Her mind always went back to Sweet Bay to see Mags, her grandmother. However, she was too busy with the shop to visit more often.
However, when Sara receives the news from Mag’s attorney, she knows it is too late to spend time with her eccentric little grandmother. She had left her for greener pastures in New Orleans, but Mags was her only family. Her grandmother has passed always. Now she has regrets for not making the time.
What would happen to the house now that Mags was gone?
"The Hideaway was always full of friends and lovers, mothers and daughters, secret keepers, and secret-spillers, straight talkers and soft shoulders. We had hurt and we had joy, but I wouldn't have it any other way."
It had not been a proper bed-and-breakfast since she was a kid. As she got older, she became more aware of the unusual living arrangements. It might have been a legitimate B&B at one time, but over the years it had become a senior citizen commune with a revolving door. A long layover for people on their way to Florida retirement glory.
The old Victorian which was once a beauty, now in a poor condition. It was formerly in all the travel guides as the Southern Sight to See. They would all be shocked to see it now.
Sara soon learns she has inherited the inn and the resident seniors. She is to bring the inn back to its glory days. However, in the process, Sara soon learns there was much more to her grandmother than she ever knew.
The author takes us back to 1960's to learn about Margaret's parents, family and how she met her husband to be. The man she married. A man her family wanted her to marry. A banker. After he began cheating, over and over, she escapes to The Hideaway. A solace for many.
After meeting the original owner, whose husband died, the inn was not the prestigious Gatsby house it was previously in its hay day. Margaret comes under a false name and soon gives up the rich life, pearls and pillbox hats, for a simpler life. One she adored.
Mags meets William, a man who changes her life. A wood maker, who teaches her the important things in life. The man who held the key to her heart. However, her old life comes back to complicate things. She chooses the bohemian life, so different that the one she had previously. Mag’s past changed her from quiet to bold. Weak to strong.
Sara soon discovers more and more about her grandmother and the mysterious man in her life from the past. However, she may be more like her grandmother than she knows. She decides to remodel The Hideaway per her grandmother’s wishes.
In the process, she meets the handsome contractor which slowly changes her perspective. In addition, she encounters challenges with the residing seniors, now part of the family, and a developer who wants the land, after all the work. Plus she has her life and shop in New Orleans. She never wanted to return to Alabama. Much less run an inn.
However, just when she is about to wrap up the renovation and make plans to return to New Orleans, the old nasty developer is threatening to take away the historic dream, for a condo new project development, until someone intercepts, which changes more than one life. Sweet surprises for many.
Compelling and Inspiring! Rich in history, character, and lots of heart, Denton bridges the gap from past to present with a heartwarming and charming southern tale of family and friendship. The important things in life. A thought-provoking takeaway on a journey to self-discovery.
Do we really know our parents and grandparents? We all need to slow down, listen, and hear the intriguing stories from past generations which will enrich our lives while helping us to understand their struggles and sacrifices. After all, they helped mold us to become the person we are today. I loved Mags!!
For fans of southern, historic, Christian, women’s and contemporary fiction.
Those who enjoy authors: Viola Shipman, Nicholas Sparks, Beth Hoffman, Patti Callahan Henry, Susan Rebecca White, Mary Ellen Taylor, Lisa Wingate, Kristy Woodson Harvey, Mary Kay Andrews, Joanne DeMaio, Donna Ball, Laura Lane McNeal, Camille de Maio, Wendy Wax and Karen White, will enjoy this newfound author.
Well-written, a must read. The Hideaway resonates with me on so many levels. As a B&Bs, design, antiques, historic properties, plus more.
A special thank you to Thomas Nelson Fiction and NetGalley for an early reading copy.
April Top 20 Reads
Denton’s first novel charms readers with her idyllic settings and wonderful cast of characters, making Sweet Bay and the Hideaway places readers will dream about. The Hideaway is a deeply satisfying exploration of family, friendship, and the meaning of home.' (BookList)
“This debut novel is the kind of book you want to curl up with on a rainy day or stick in your beach bag for your next vacation. It is poetic and compelling, emotional and full of life.” (RT Book Reviews, 4 1/2 stars and TOP PICK)
“Inspiring in tone, with well-drawn, appealing characters, Denton’s delicious debut is a treat for the senses and the heart. Her exquisitely lyrical writing and character-driven story is a must-read, especially for those who loved Beth Moore’s The Undoing of St. Sylvanus.” (Library Journal -- Starred Review, DEBUT OF THE MONTH)
About the Author
Born and raised in Mobile, Alabama, Lauren now lives with her husband and two young daughters in Homewood, just outside Birmingham. In addition to her fiction, she writes a monthly newspaper column about life, faith, and how funny (and hard) it is to be a parent. On any given day, she’d rather be at the beach with her family and a stack of books. The Hideaway is her first novel.
But there’s always much more, isn’t there?...
I have a trunk out in the garage that is full to the top with journals, most of them tattered and spiral-bound. My first journal was actually a diary, complete with little gold key. It had a puffy turquoise and pink cover, and I bought it at Bel Air Mall in Mobile. I have a vivid memory of sitting on a bench outside the pet store (malls used to have pet stores?!) and writing on that first crisp, pink page.
Somehow, the turquoise and pink journal grew to that trunk with 20+ journals stuffed inside. My journaling matured from puppies and birthday parties, to friends and boys, to college, new jobs, the joys of marriage, and the struggle of infertility. Through writing, I found a way to process thoughts and ideas, worries and problems. I don’t journal anymore about my day, but I do often write out prayers (when I have time to sit and actually have focused prayer time.) So I still process thoughts and worries through writing, it’s just directed at God instead of a diary…or it’s making up fictional worlds and allowing my characters to go through difficult situations and come out the other side smarter and stronger. Read More