Anyone who knows the Hamptons knows 0f the area’s unparalleled summer charm, but this widespread reputation has caused the wealth of winter wonder found here to go largely unnoticed. In his latest novel, A Westhampton Beach Christmas (TouchPoint Press), Robert Babirad shines the spotlight on the magic and romance to be found in the Hamptons around the holiday season.
Babirad drew inspiration from his early years staying in Remsenburg while visiting family for the holidays. While the characters and story aren’t based on real life, many familiar East End locales appear in the book, such as Dune Road and Jessup Lane, Moriches Bay and Gabreski Airport.
“A lot of it came from my own memories of the holidays and winter in the Hamptons, especially the area in and around Westhampton Beach, that’s what always held a lot of memories for me,” Babirad says. “I wanted to write a book to show that the holidays and the winter season are very special in the Hamptons and have a unique feeling that’s very distinct. It’s not just the summer season; everybody always just focuses on the summer, there’s so much emphasis on it, but it’s really beautiful even in the winter.”
In his novel, he lovingly describes the “beauty of the landscape,” especially in the villages of Westhampton Beach and East Hampton where in the winter “it’s quieter. There’s a tranquility and a friendliness among the people, calmness and beauty to it that’s very different from the summer, which is beautiful in its own way.” He continues, “I was thinking about how different it is from Midtown Manhattan at Christmas and all the chaos around Rockefeller Center. You’re anonymous. You get more of a sensation of how many people there are in the world, and you get lost in a kind of anonymity. How different it is when you’re on the Village Green in Westhampton Beach during the holidays, and it’s so peaceful. You feel this sense of belonging, this sense of calm, that contrasts so much with (Christmas in the city).”
Of course, A Westhampton Beach Christmas isn’t just a brochure for Hamptons winter tourism, it’s a gripping tale of passion, big dreams and shocking twists. The book’s protagonist, Dani, runs a successful French bistro in WHB but wishes to follow in her family’s footsteps by entering the Long Island wine business. When a mysterious man of the city, Marcos, enters her Hamptons life looking for fresh air and a commercial real estate acquisition, she is confronted with a different perspective and a chance at love. As Dani and Marcos learn more about each other, and themselves, over a Christmas to remember, will their romance forge a unified dream or will one’s selfish motives leave the other out in the cold?
Having worked in New York City and lived in the Hamptons, Babirad explains that some of Marcos’ city perspective and Dani’s East End perspective are reminiscent of his own. He, too, is unsure how urbanites are supposed to return to the hustle after a peaceful stay in the Hamptons, and he’s passionate about land preservation and fascinated about East End winemaking and history.
In fact, getting to interview local winemakers and research things he’d taken for granted, such as the Westhampton Post Office’s Depression-era mural, “gave (him) a new appreciation” and was one of his top three favorite and most fulfilling aspects of writing this book. The other two were getting to share his love of the holiday season in the Hamptons and coming up with an incredible plot twist late in the writing process. No hints or spoilers here, though.
For those who’ve overlooked the “off-season” in the Hamptons, Babirad hopes readers will enjoy this beautifully written “look behind the scenes” this Christmas and consider experiencing the magic it has to offer. “I hope it draws attention to just how unique and beautiful the Hamptons are, not just in the summer but during the holidays and winter,” he says. “It really is a special place.”