It’s the summer of 1936. The Great Depression lingers, and Lissa’s Aunt Hetty has left her a lighthouse–on its own island, no less–an ideal getaway for a fledgling writer.
The rest of Aunt Hetty’s estate was left to Alexander “Lex” Carson. Lex arrives on his best friend’s yacht, ready to claim his inheritance, but he and Tod Kent have another, secret purpose.
“Here we are, my hearties. Two electrical engineers, temporarily; a lawyer, in quest of a vacation and an inheritance, presumably; and a playboy with nothing on his mind but the pursuit of pleasure, apparently.”
Gravity routed the cool amusement from his voice and eyes… “Somewhere within the area surrounded by those pegs is the person we’re after. I’m sure of it. And we are here to get him—understand—we are here to get him.”
The cover illustration for Give Me One Summer resembles Bass Light on Mount Desert, but Lissa’s lighthouse was modeled after the Blue Hill Bay Lighthouse on Green Island. After seventy-five years of operation, the light was shut down in 1933 and sold as private property.
The whitewashed walls of the lighthouse and the connecting one-and-a-half story frame building shone like mother-of-pearl against a towering background of balsam, pine and arborvitae.
“Is the light working?” There was a hint of excitement in the question. “No, hasn’t been for three years…”
Lissa might have felt threatened by the arrival of the new heir, but instead, she is entirely smitten.
One knew the moment one looked at him that he was a man of power. Someone to hold tight to in time of trouble. She liked him. Tremendously. Liked him better than any man she ever had met, and she had seen him for the first time less than half an hour ago! She did need a guardian!
He was even better looking when he smiled, she decided, his teeth were so white and his gray eyes turned so dark and shining, and he didn’t need to be any better looking than he was with his face in repose.
Lex and Lissa share a sympathetic understanding, and Lissa confides her ambition to become a writer.
“Wasn’t it Emily Dickinson who said; ‘If I can stop one heart from breaking, I shall not have lived in vain?’ That’s the way I feel about my writing… Why do I tell you my innermost thoughts, I wonder?”
“I hope you’ll always tell me your innermost thoughts, Lissa,” he declared on a sudden note of tenderness.
Emilie Loring wrote herself into two novels about authors, and both were signalled by the character’s initials: Melissa Barclay in Give Me One Summer and Molly Burton a dozen years later in Beckoning Trails. Maria Emilie Baker, “M. B.” The details of Lissa’s writing career are verifiably Emilie’s:
She had devoted hours each day to creative writing. She wanted to write fiction, in spite of the fact that an editor had warned her to think well before she started on the rough and rocky road to authorship, that the woods, to say nothing of the park benches, were full of would-be writers.
She lived over the ecstatic moment when she had drawn a pink cheque from an envelope. Three dollars! It had seemed a fortune. She had sold something!
She sat down before the typewriter and resolutely kept her eyes from the window, that alluring window, beyond which the sea sparkled and beckoned, and outboards, scooting round the harbor like a flock of prehistoric waterfowl tempted her to join them. She opened her manuscript at the page where the story had stuck, read it, went back three chapters and read up to it again. Long ago she had discovered that the power to close the door on problems was one of the perquisites of creative writing. One dwelt in another world when one was at work on a story.
The keys changed tempo with the mood of her story. Once she held her breath as she touched them as softly as if she heard cautious footsteps.
She typed on and on until tired, but triumphant, she curled up in the wicker chair and read aloud what she had written.
Lissa also explains Emilie’s trademark philosophy:
“Optimist, aren’t you?”
“I hate that word, because so many of the people who use it put a sting in it. Be honest, have you ever known gloom or depression to solve a problem? Problems aren’t solved that way. Instead, it settles over one’s spirit like a fog and that fog attracts more fog and there you are in the middle of it groping for a way out, but if, instead, you keep in the sunlight of courage, even if a gale of misfortune blows you off your feet and whirls you along, at least you will have the thrill of seeing where you are going while you ride it.”
A new set of characters appears for the first time in Give Me One Summer, and it’s unclear who their models might be, but they return under new names in later novels. They are a stepmother and half-sister, a grasping, conniving, shallow-hearted duo.
Hetty Carson had refused to see them. “Buzzards! Buzzards!” she had muttered and closed her eyes.
This is also the first appearance of Johnny Grant, Lissa’s former love and one of a select few characters who appear by name in multiple books.
Lex’s friend Tod Kent resembled Victor Loring’s friend James Karrick, an attorney in Washington, D.C. who married the daughter of a Supreme Court justice. Karrick’s yacht was the Enigma, aptly replaced here by The Sphinx.
The renters of Tarry Farm’s three cottages complicate the mystery. Ralph Packard claims to be a writer but seems awfully anxious to destroy his fingerprints. Vulnerable Madge Millard and her son Andy have a claim on Lex’s heart, and Major Fane’s activity on a shortwave radio gets him pushed overboard. Meanwhile, the “too-too-English” butler, Fenton, monitors the family’s mail and keeps strange hours.
Which do you think will turn out to be a counterfeiter?
GIVE ME ONE SUMMER A swift, pulsating story of danger and romance set against the colorful sea-swept background of the Maine coast.