With her first two novels—One Night Gone and The Mother Next Door—Tara Laskowski uncovered the secrets behind the façade of suburban families going about their daily lives, but with her latest release—The Weekend Retreat—she is exposing the problems faced by the ultra-rich, many of which are of their own making.
The Weekend Retreat features the Van Ness family, owners of a prestigious winery covering acres of land and on which is situated a palatial estate. It has been tradition that the family gathers at the family home each season to celebrate the birthday of the twins—Richard and Harper. The matriarch of the family has recently passed away, so while everyone is trying to keep the feeling of celebration high, there is also a somberness to the occasion. Along with the twins and their spouses, younger brother Zach, is also in attendance with his latest girlfriend.
In the beginning of the book, readers are privy to a newspaper report that reveals that a terrible storm ravaged the area, cutting off electricity, and that when all was said and done, there was a body found at the Van Ness Winery. So, right from the start, Tara Laskowski has set readers up to be suspicious of everyone. Without knowing who died, or even how, this technique makes everyone both a potential victim or a potential suspect.
Tara Laskowski has proven that she excels at female protagonists, so it makes sense that The Weekend Retreat unspools with multiple points of view—but only from those of the women. Harper, the only Van Ness family member given a voice. Elle, who has done much of the planning for the weekend festivities, and the “outsider,” Lauren whose dating of Zach everyone else finds questionable—at best—and potentially extremely suspicious—at worst.
The plot of The Weekend Retreat is a set-up we have seen countless times—a group of people cut off from any help when suddenly a body appears—but Laskowski manages to keep her narrative from seeming derivative by the convoluted knot she creates with all of the secrets shared by the Van Ness family. At some point, readers might need a scorecard to keep all the revelations organized.
To make matters worse, the three shifting POV’s are occasionally interrupted by a mysterious fourth voice—identified only as The Party Guest. It is clear from their first interlude that whoever they are—man or woman—they are up to no good. But exactly how they fit into the puzzle remains hidden as the narrative creeps toward the night of the storm.
Tara Laskowski’s writing has always been the type that reads very easily. Readers can sink into her words and luxuriate in the twisted plots her devious mind crafts. Writing multiple narrators is challenging, as each of them must have a distinct voice that is easily identifiable. In The Weekend Retreat, Laskowski manages this without much trouble. Since the male Van Ness family members are never given a voice, it can be more challenging to suss out their personalities at the beginning, but it is not too long before too each of them becomes suitably unique—albeit every character here has flaws, secrets, and disparate goals.
In the end, The Weekend Retreat makes for an enjoyable and speedy read filled with unexpected revelations unfolding amidst a delightfully sumptuous setting. Pour yourself a glass of your favorite wine and prepare to meet the Van Ness Family.
Disclaimer: A e-galley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the publisher. No promotion was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.