The Hideaway – Lauren K. Denton – Thomas Nelson – Published 11 April 2017
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.
The Hideaway is absolutely charming, featuring two intertwined stories of love, self-discovery, and the search for peace.
Deep in the heart of the South is a dilapidated, quirky, and much-loved old home. The Hideaway is a shelter for those who are lost or want to escape society. For Sara, growing up there with her equally quirky grandmother, the Hideaway was embarrassing and as a young adult she quickly escaped to New Orleans to start her own business. Now her grandmother is dead and Sara has been left with the Hideaway, its remaining occupants, and the task of refurbishing the house. But the longer she stays, the harder it is to imagine leaving. She also begins to uncover the secrets her grandmother closely guarded and starts to fall in love with the charming contractor refurbishing what is quickly becoming her home.
This book is written in two sets of alternating chapters. The first from Sara, present day as she returns to her childhood home after the death of her grandmother. The other chapters are written from the perspective of Mags, Sara’s grandmother, dating from the 1960s as Mags escaped an unfaithful husband, learned to love again, stand on her own feet, and never again let someone’s judgement shape who she was.
The Hideaway is set in the Deep South of the USA and is predictably charming. The setting lends the story a laid-back feel and peacefulness that so perfectly suits both Mags and Sara’s journeys. Often, with books that have parallel story lines, I find myself preferring one and hurrying through the other, but I enjoyed Mags and Sara’s stories equally. They fit into the other seamlessly. The reader learns the reasons why Mags ran as Sara returns home, and the reason Mags was content to stand out and be different even if it made the people around her ashamed is made clear as Sara learns who her grandmother was and what had happened in her life to shape her choices.
Sara slowly discovers pieces of her grandmother’s story through old postcards, pictures, and secrets pried from the residents of the Hideaway. I absolutely loved reading Mags’ story – such determination and love in the face of hardship. Sara’s story is equally enjoyable. I particularly enjoyed her romance with Crawford, who is so supportive and patient with Sara. The residents of the Hideaway, both from Sara and Mags’ time, bring vibrancy and humour to the story, as does Sara’s business partner and friend Allyn (green hair, noise ring, good taste and all – I really love Allyn).
Considering the publisher, I think it is pertinent to note that The Hideaway is not Christian fiction, just published by a publisher who usually publishes Christian fiction. There is one, brief mention of God and church attendance, but faith is never discussed. This story is general fiction and perfect for a wide range of readers. For readers who like to know such things, please note there is no coarse language or sex scenes, but adultery is a large part of the story.
The Hideaway is a charming novel, as calming in spirit as the setting and as beautiful as its the message of being content within one’s self. The Hideaway is perfect for readers who enjoy romance and strong, personal stories.
The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.
Genre: Contemporary, women’s fiction.
Themes: Romance, Southern USA, adultery, friendship, old houses, refurbishment, family history, grandparents, death.
Advisory: References to adultery. Alcohol consumption.
Published: 11 April 2017 by Thomas Nelson.
Format: Paperback, ebook, audiobook. 352 pages.