REVIEW: The Vacation Rental by Katie Sise

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I read Sise’s The Break about a year and a half ago and gave it a B; I don’t remember loving it but I liked it enough that when The Vacation Rental came to my attention I checked out the blurb:

A summer getaway triggers a psychological game of cat and mouse in a novel about the frightening damages of love, family, and obsession by the bestselling author of Open House and We Were Mothers.

When Georgia rents her country home for the month of August, it’s off to the relaxing Connecticut shore for her; her husband, Tom; and their young daughter. It’s just what they need to ease family tensions and reconnect. All that’s left to do is leave behind their house keys—to a stranger.

For Anna, Georgia and Tom’s house in the cool woodlands is a dream break from the oppressive heat of a New York City summer—and from an increasingly ill-fated relationship with her lover. A month apart and Anna can clear her head and reassess her future. She’s found the perfect place to do it.

As the weeks wear on, Georgia and Anna discover that the pleasures of escape are as difficult to trust in as the comforts of home. And neither one can shake the feeling that something is about to go terribly wrong.

Weird, embarrassing admission to get out of the way: I started reading this book and was a few chapters in when I realized (by the percentage read) that I had not started at chapter 1, but instead chapter 12, one-third of the way through the book. I honestly did not notice anything especially out of order! The narrative did feel like I was being thrown into the middle of things a bit, but that’s not necessarily unusual in my reading. Once I realized, I went back and started at the beginning, and doing so did fill in some blanks, of course, but it also felt a bit tedious because I wanted to get back to the part of the story I’d started with, if that makes sense.

(This is clearly one of the dangers of no longer reading physical books. I support the IDEA of physical books but I find electronic to be so much easier.)

Also, the way I started the book may or may not have been the reason I figured out a twist/secret pretty much immediately. To be fair, said twist/secret was telegraphed to the degree that I don’t even know how much of a twist it was supposed to be. (I’m on record as having trouble figuring that out sometimes – am I supposed to be surprised by very unsurprising plot points? I usually lean no, because I know I’m not particularly sharp at spotting such things, so if I’ve figured it out it must be really obvious.)

Anyway, we have alternating narrators, Georgia and Anna. Georgia is in Waring Ridge, New York. She lives in her childhood home, which she is very attached to. She, her husband and daughter moved there in the recent past, after her father died; previously they had an apartment in the city. While Georgia, a frustrated writer, welcomed the move, her husband Tom and adolescent daughter Millie are a lot less happy about it. Tom is not the suburban type, even if the suburb is lovely and affluent. Millie also misses city life, but seems disturbed by the move on some deeper level, having frequent nightmares and being unusually clingy with her mother (I first thought she was much younger than she actually was, based on the description of her behavior).

Georgia, beset by tension in her marriage and concerned for her daughter’s mental health, decides that some time in an Airbnb on the beach in Southport, Connecticut, just a short drive away, will provide a refresh and reset for her family.

Anna is a magazine photographer having a torrid affair with her boss Carter. She is restless, though, and wants to get away. When the opportunity to rent Georgia’s house while Georgia is in Southport comes up, she jumps at it.

One of the reasons Tom ostensibly doesn’t like the Waring Ridge house is that it has a somewhat tragic history – he actually refers to it as “haunted.” When Georgia was 12, her brilliant, difficult, alcoholic mother, also a writer, overdosed in the bathroom. Georgia developed her own pill addiction in her teens and when she was 16, her nanny Eliza fell off the roof in a mysterious accident that Georgia thinks is at least partly her fault. She believes Eliza was retrieving a doll that Georgia used to hide her pills in (the doll was found beneath Eliza’s body after she fell). Georgia’s daughter found the doll after the move and has become oddly attached to it.

Anna is grieving her twin brother Sam, who recently committed suicide. Anna’s past unravels slowly in the course of the story, but one big revelation is telegraphed heavily, much like the “secret” I mentioned above.

Staying in Waring Ridge, Anna encounters Georgia’s brother, Max, who lives in the guesthouse that was occupied by Eliza before her death. Both Anna in Waring Ridge and Georgia in Southport get a life lesson in “wherever you go, there you are” – neither is able to escape their problems. In fact they find themselves on a collision course. And there’s a big storm on the way (of course).

I can actually give The Vacation Rental credit for not being absurdly twisty; aside from these two revelations involving Anna that I felt were sort of obvious, there was one biggish twist at the end that I didn’t really see coming. Perhaps because I didn’t see it coming, it felt a little random. Or maybe I’m just hard to satisfy.

There’s some minor paranormal stuff that I didn’t love; it feels like paranormal elements are a current trend in suspense, and I almost always find them unnecessary.

My final grade for this is a B.



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has been an avid if often frustrated romance reader for the past 15 years. In that time she’s read a lot of good romances, a few great ones, and, unfortunately, a whole lot of dreck. Many of her favorite authors (Ivory, Kinsale, Gaffney, Williamson, Ibbotson) have moved onto other genres or produce new books only rarely, so she’s had to expand her horizons a bit. Newer authors she enjoys include Julie Ann Long, Megan Hart and J.R. Ward, and she eagerly anticipates each new Sookie Stackhouse novel. Strong prose and characterization go a long way with her, though if they are combined with an unusual plot or setting, all the better. When she’s not reading romance she can usually be found reading historical non-fiction.

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