Head to the gulf with city friends, bridal secrets, family reunions

Who can afford to get out of town this summer? A more budget-friendly option is to bring a book (or three) to the beach and spend your time traveling in your imagination. Here are some options to fill the season’s days.

n “Mercury in Retrograde” by Paula Froelich; Atria (260 pages. $24)

Meet Penelope Mercury, Lena “Lipstick” Lippencrass and Dana Gluck, three New York City women who are too busy working to trifle with relationships.

Penelope is a workhorse at a bustling tabloid until she accidentally sets part of the office on fire and quits at the same time. Lipstick, a socialite who must abandon her life of luxury when Daddy cancels the credit card, toils at an elite fashion magazine for an editor who could give “The Devil Wears Prada’s” Miranda Priestly a run for her money. Dana, 32 and divorced for a year, is the youngest junior partner at her law firm and on the way to full partnership.

The novel traces their adventures in careers and eventual crushes and brings the women together for yoga classes in the SoHo building where they live.

Just when you thought the world couldn’t possibly need another frothy tale about single women in New York, this novel comes along to change your mind. Breezy and sunny, it’s the perfect summer reading getaway.

n “The Bride Will Keep Her Name” by Jan Goldstein; Shaye Areheart (272 pages. $24)

So many things can go wrong for a bride in the week before her wedding. Dress alterations go haywire. The flower girl gets pink eye. The colorist turns her hair a wrong shade of something.

Goldstein adds a few new (although seriously farfetched) items to the long list of potential bridal nightmares with his hurly-burly novel. Manhattan art gallery manager Madison Mandelbaum is six days away from marrying the man of her dreams, dashing TV reporter Colin Darcy, who sits on the precipice of a grand career in muckraking.

But then a flurry of anonymous messages begins, and Madison must question whether Colin, whose job is to uncover unsavory truths, is hiding a big secret involving a dead call girl.

The plot careens from there and crams in too much shrieking and fainting and recoiling from shocking new revelations.

As the drama unfolds, and the countdown to wedding day continues, trips to forensics labs and crime-solving organizations are interspersed with awkward future-mother-in-law teas and riotous dress fittings.

Thanks to some amusing scenes and surrounding characters, the story manages to entertain, albeit superficially.

But the novel could serve as a sort of public service to stressed-out brides: If the wrong flowers are delivered to your wedding, don’t have a meltdown. Things could be so much worse.

n “Summer House” by Nancy Thayer; Ballantine (368 pages. $24)

The golden, sprawling Wheelwright family seems to have everything: health, beauty, money, social pedigree and a gorgeous summer house in Nantucket where the whole brood gathers every year.

Overseen by matriarch Nona, whose 90th birthday party is one of the island’s summer highlights, the Wheelwrights — Nona’s children, grandchildren and their families — are the sort of blue-blooded, moneyed clan that holds a Family Meeting every year to discuss charity giving and investments.

The family’s summer will bring parties, weddings and a birth but also plenty of heartbreak and drama. One wife discovers infidelity after overhearing her husband call someone “Sweet Cakes” on the phone; the alcoholic prodigal son shows up with a young pregnant woman right before Grandma’s big party; frequent interfamilial strife breaks out, and long-held secrets are finally revealed.

Thayer portrays beautifully the small moments, inside stories and shared histories that build families and makes the reader intimately familiar with the Wheelwrights’ flaws and triumphs.

She captures the essence of summer.