Laina Danvers and Ian Hamilton grew up together, not quite family but almost. Laina’s father was the foster child of Ian’s grandparents, and when he died Ian’s grandparents took her in and raised her. But the car accident that killed Laina’s father also killed Ian’s father and uncle. Beatrice Hamilton made peace with that tragic accident but her grandsons never did. They took their anger out on Laina because her father had been behind the wheel. Even now, as adults, they are cold and cutting toward her.
Ian Hamilton was the exception among the Hamilton boys, and he is the person who Laina turns to for help when she notices that Beatrice (Gram) is beginning to fail. The family is scattered and each sibling has adult responsibilities: Ian is an assistant district attorney in Richmond; Elliott is a partner in a large insurance company; Cal is a financial adviser; and cousin Palmer moved to California is escape his overprotective mother.
Laina is busy too as the president of an international trading company and the foster mother of a seven-year old girl. But just as Gram was always there for her when she was a child, Laina will help Gram now. When Laina has visited Gram in Arlington, Virginia she’s noticed that the older woman has become frail and is forgetting things, but it is Gram’s annual move to the beach house on Hatteras Island that precipitates a crisis. The house needs a lot of work, and Gram shouldn’t be there alone. Laina can see what needs to be done, but the Hamilton men will not accept her advice on anything. When the family gathers at the beach house on the Fourth of July weekend a stray box of letters reveals something about their shared past that upends the Hamilton family story and allows Ian and Laina to acknowledge feelings that his brothers’ hositility toward Laina forced them to hide.
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