Hotel Laguna, a review by Sherry

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Hotel Laguna
Nicola Harrison

288 pages
St. Martin’s Press
published June 20, 2023

Amazon | Goodreads

A book about life and love in post WWII California.  There is a little bit of a dual timeline describing Hazel’s time working at an airplane manufacturer during the war that I found incredibly interesting.  But the majority is how she copes with being put back in her place after the men return and reclaim the jobs.  It is beautifully written with vivid characters that showcases a period in history that I know very little about.  What also fascinated me in this one was the live representation of art.  The town has an annual showcase where they do live representations of famous paintings.  Sign me up.  I wanted to go see this.

We read about Hazel’s reacclimation into the workforce and finding her way.  Laguna Beach ends up being home to some eccentric characters that enhance her life in ways she could not expect.  There is a small mystery and a little bit of romance along the way.  I enjoyed Hazel’s growth and finding her people.  Hanson is a quirky character that is well explored.  While I wasn’t sure I liked him at the start, he ends up being one of my favorite characters.

I was pleasantly surprised that this was a little deeper than I expected.  Step out of your modern life and experience this interesting period of time.

About the book

In 1942, Hazel Francis left Wichita, Kansas for California, determined to do her part for the war effort. At Douglas Aircraft, she became one of many “Rosie the Riveters,” helping construct bombers for the U. S. military. But now the war is over, men have returned to their factory jobs, and women like Hazel have been dismissed, expected to return home to become wives and mothers.

Unwilling to be forced into a traditional woman’s role in the Midwest, Hazel remains on the west coast, and finds herself in the bohemian town of Laguna Beach. Desperate for work, she accepts a job as an assistant to famous artist Hanson Radcliff. Beloved by the locals for his contributions to the art scene and respected by the critics, Radcliff lives under the shadow of a decades old scandal that haunts him.

Working hard to stay on her cantankerous employer’s good side, Hazel becomes a valued member of the community. She never expected to fall in love with the rhythms of life in Laguna, nor did she expect to find a kindred spirit in Jimmy, the hotel bartender whose friendship promises something more. But Hazel still wants to work with airplanes—maybe even learn to fly one someday. Torn between pursuing her dream and the dream life she has been granted, she is unsure if giving herself over to Laguna is what her heart truly wants.

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