Entrepreneur Rayne Walker has a plan. A upscale event planner in New York City, Rayne plans to continue building her business with no mind to romance until after her thirtieth birthday. This year, as always, she has cleared her calendar for the summer months, when she will venture South to spend some time with her father, Ray Walker, an artist, on American Beach. She assumes it will be like any other summer since she and her father began this tradition when she was eight years old.
That is until Rayne learns that her father is sick and needs surgery, an operation he is willing to forgo. She and her mother, Julianne, put aside everything to travel to Florida together, along with Rayne's younger sister Shannon, to trick Ray into having the surgery that will extend his life. In the process, Rayne and the entire Walker clan learn some things about love and forgiveness as they clash with Ray's longtime foe, Benjamin Jefferson, who Rayne has recently discovered is actually her biological father, and his son Wade.
Janice Sims has again captured the heart and soul of romance among the African-American upwardly mobile. Her characters are always smart, savvy, and folks that one could easily see oneself becoming friends with. Comfortably paced, with enough plot twists to keep a reader glued to her seat, That Summer at American Beach is a multi-layered, multi-textured treasure just right for sunning at the beach, lounging on the lanai, or even reading in snatches throughout the day. As always, Ms. Sims entertains and educates her readers, as she does this time by setting the story on American Beach.
As it turns out, American Beach is a real place, a beach that was founded by A.L. Lewis, an African-American entrepreneur and millionaire, as a reward for his insurance sales force. Eventually, he opened it up to other African-Americans who, during the height of Jim Crow from 1930 - 1970, were denied access to other shores. In its heyday, American Beach was frequented by the likes of Ray Charles, Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, and other Black entertainers and vacationers.
When segregation ended, American Beach fell out of favor and into decline. Originally 200 acres along 13 miles of shoreline, American Beach now is only about half that size. There is a movement underway to save it from encroaching development, and it has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Selecting such a locale only adds to the pleasure of reading Ms. Sims' novel, as she has in her own way enlightened a whole generation and contributed to recording the legacy of this historic place.
Enough love and romance, across generations and even families, to put a smile on the most cynical of faces, That Summer at American Beach is a great read with which to begin one's summer reading list.