Book Review

One Reckless Summer by Toni Blake


Title: One Reckless Summer
Author: Toni Blake
Publication Info: Avon 2009
ISBN: 0061429899
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Book CoverAfter a few people recommended this book to me, and after feeling a serious frenzy to read more contemporary romances, I picked this book up. Here are the things that made me raise a brow because I didn’t think I would like it:

1. See the adirondack chair on the cover? I love those. LOVE. Comfy! But on a book cover that usually means “selfish urbanesque twatbadger is going to stop paying so much attention to her toenails and start paying attention to her SOUL and things that MATTER after she learns fly fishing or clam digging or something.” Or, perhaps “People will talk a lot and ruminate on the state of the pine tree without doing anything.” Adirondack chair books are a big miss with me.

However, see the teeny weeny bikini top there? Is key, the bikini top. A whole lot of spice lurks in what seems to be a “return to small town” plotline.

So thinking that the adirondack chair was a signal of plot complacency? I was so wrong.

2. It’s set in a small town (duh) called Destiny, Ohio. Now, I’m all for small community set romances, and I love me some summer romances, but Ohio? What?! There’s nothing romantic about OHIO, I said.

I mean, I’m from Pittsburgh. We tell JOKES about Ohio. Cleveland specifically. Here’s one:


I know two people who have that on a t-shirt.

For the record: I was SO WRONG. (About the book being set in Ohio. I can do nothing about the marketing of Cleveland jokes as bumperstickers).

3. The plotline seemed very, very tempting: he had the hots for her, and she thought he was cute, but that was in high school when they were so far apart socially there may as well have been bodies of water between them. Now they’re even further apart – and can’t stay away from each other.

And that’s the charm and power of the book: it’s so not what I expected and I enjoyed it all the more for continually surprising me. I’m grabbing people and saying, “No, really, it’s in OHIO. And I really liked it!”

Jenny Tolliver was the town good girl, who did what she was told and worried what people would think – and therefore did nothing wrong. She married a nice guy and gave up her dreams of being an astronomer at her husband’s urging, became a teacher like him and was doing just fine.

Until she walked in on her husband dry humping her teaching assistant on her desk. Seems Perky McTA-TA had zesty sex with Feckless O’Cheaterass and he liked that better. So Jenny leaves him and moves her broken hearted, humiliated self back to her hometown of Destiny, Ohio. Her father lives in town – he’s the chief of police – but still has the house on the lake just outside Destiny, so Jenny goes and hides there until she can think of what to do with her new and different and utterly derailed life.

The lake house is small and slightly neglected and frozen in time since Jenny was 13 and her mother died of cancer. There’s a shrine, even, in the living room. In effect, Jenny has moved back in time to the same expectations, the same community, the same reputation – and she’s not sure what to do about that.

But she still loves stargazing, so she rows her telescope across the lake where there’s cliffs and trees and no nice houses like on her side, only the cabin where the town troublemakers, the Brodys, lived. And what to her stargazing self should appear, but Mick Brody, and he’s hotter than she’d remembered—and exactly what she wants. Conveniently, there’s a tree. Trust me. The tree is key to busting your expectations with this book.

The layers something more, beyond the plot that looks at class and expectations, small towns and real people inside them, and how life can turn out differently than one expected, is both a lot to think about and easy to enjoy. Beginnings and endings overlap and wrap around one another, cycling through rebirth and grief simultaneously. As Jenny and Mick figure out their attraction and their potential, both the weather and their sex lives get hotter before things cool off.

There are a LOT of differences for the two of them to overcome. Mick is very aware and blunt about what he’s getting from her. Mick has a secret that he’s hiding that summer, and being with Jenny is the only relief he gets from a lot of pain and hiding. She’s on a pedestal in a way, which is good for her wounded ego but bad for her continued self-esteem. She’s still held up for adoration for being a “good girl,” even while she’s being bad.

Jenny is learning that she is the one in control of her happiness, and going for what she wants – and maybe breaking the “good girl” rules – may let people down or cause them to gossip, or both. Breaking out of ever role she’s ever played in her life is a big, big risk, but I worried that once she realized that she could create her post-divorce life to her own liking, what did he bring, what did he give her, that made him a crucial part of her life? Would she stand on her own feet and choose to have him with her, or would she need him to help her change? And if the former was her option, would he say yes?

The problems of what other people think are never as big as we think they are – and it’s very easy to lose your patience with characters who worry too much about what other characters say. I didn’t in this case.

But I lost my temper in a huge way at the heroine when she threw what I thought was a very adolescent fit and, trying to stay within the “good girl” rules while also having her bad girl fling, demands something of her father in such an immature manner that is so far out of line I wanted to hit her over the head with a rowboat. That one scene almost made me stop reading, I was so pissed. But I persevered, though in that one scene, with some seriously bullshitty rationalizations and an overflowing bucket of immaturity, Jenny lost a LOT of my respect. I came so very close to not reading more, and while ultimately I do understand why she did what she did and what motivated her, I was so irritated that she took such a huge, giant leap backwards (and landed on her ass in my opinion).

This book is part of a series and what struck me as odd was the fact that I never really warmed to many of the ancillary characters. Some served as foils for Jenny’s self-determination, which made them bland and forgettable. Oddly, one, Jenny’s best friend, was truly someone who didn’t do anything wrong, and at times I wondered if she existed for the dialogue she provided.

Even with occasional flat notes in the characterization, One Reckless Summer was not at all a reckless summer read. Reading it was easy but the subjects weren’t fluffy or meaningless. The plot didn’t demand emotional involvement capriciously, but it made my eyes sting more than once, and made me laugh several times out loud. It was, in a word, charming. 

Reading this book was like floating on the lake on an inner tube, not too hot, not too cold, just relaxing and right. Before summer comes to an end, treat yourself.

One Reckless Summer is available at, Books on Board, Book Depository and many other booksellers online. Toni Blake’s website website says something about the book being sold out at many stores, so you might have better luck online. (Also, you can read an excerpt at her site, too.)

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Mala says:

    It’s set in a small town (duh) called Destiny, Ohio. Now, I’m all for small community set romances, and I love me some summer romances, but Ohio? What?! There’s nothing romantic about OHIO, I said.

    Glad Blake was able to exceed your expectations, but I’m sure there’s a lot more decent Ohio lovin’ out there.

    I believe all of Jennifer Crusie’s novels are set in Ohio, in small towns. (The giant penis water tower of Temptation comes to mind.) And as for Ohio not being romantic…well, I must cite Julie Ann and the bear.

    I am with you on Cleveland, though. I’m from the southwest and we don’t know what to make of Cleveland either!  ;-).

  2. 2
    Heike M. says:

    I liked this book exceedingly well, would probably have given it a B. Maybe because I read it on the beach. And because, in reading your review, I realized that I skimmed or skipped all the interactions between the heroine and the other small town people including her father, after the first scenes with the father and especially the annoying best friend. Perhaps the best friend scenes were so annoying for me because, as you said, sometimes it appeared she only

    existed for the dialogue she provided

    or as a kind of externalized small-town-good-girl-conscience…
    So now I know that I didn’t even read the scenes you didn’t like; it’s like I read a slightly different book :-D

  3. 3
    cursingmama says:

    I like floating in an inner tube so I’ve added this one to my To Be Read List!

  4. 4
    WendyK says:

    I loved this book. The story was wonderfully freeing IMHO. I left a couple of copies at various locations at the beach this summer, hoping people would read it. There was something for everyone to love IMHO.

    I can’t wait for book 2. Will you be reading that?


  5. 5
    Sarah W says:

    I was born and raised in Cincinnati thirty-cough years back, which means I have an extensive collection of Cleveland jokes, although their football team usually did the work for us.

    But I’m with Mala—-I’d still love Jennifer Crusie’s books even if she’d set them near the Mistake on the Lake.

    Okay, Clevelandites, have at me :) !

  6. 6
    Mary E. Ulrich says:

    She’s still held up for adoration for being a “good girl,” even while she’s being bad.

    That would have been a great quote for the cover and press packet.

    I thought “Reckless Summer” was a fun read and especially enjoyed the ice cube scene. I look forward to the next book.

  7. 7
    Jane says:

    I was born and raised in Cincinnati thirty-cough years back, which means I have an extensive collection of Cleveland jokes, although their football team usually did the work for us.

    *sigh*  Yeah, that was before the Mike Brown era.  Now Cleveland makes jokes about us.  I think even the Detroit Lions have a better overall record over the last 18 years…

  8. 8
    Phyllis says:

    I thought Cruse was more Cincinnati, not Cleveland.

    And we Ohioans made fun of Pittsburgh, too ;)

  9. 9
    Magnolia says:

    I liked this book okay (I enjoy Blake’s writing) but I think I liked the heroine even less than you did.  She was SO immature that it was hard to identify with her in any way.  She acts like she’s about 12, worried constantly about “omg, what will daddy think? what if people don’t agree with me?” all the time.  Grow the F up already. 

    And her “holier than thou” attitude toward the hero really pissed me off.  She thinks nothing of trespassing and violating his privacy (which are crimes), and then she’s all “but I could never break the law and that is just so wrong!”  Gag.  I have this issue with a lot of Blake’s heroines though.  Her heroes are a lot more appealing.

  10. 10
    Laurel says:

    I like it better when you review books that suck. I keep checking back for more “Daahrk Lover.”

    In fact, I like it so much that I believe there could be a market for a deliberately bad book written with an eye on driving traffic to this site. The author could get a percent of something for every hit. Sort of the romance version of “Mystery Science Theater 2000.”

    Also, in the part of my heart that is still warm, it would make me feel better for the authors if I could entertain the notion that they were in on the joke.

  11. 11
    Sunny says:

    Wow, that sounds very much like a book I just read called “Just Breathe” by Susan Wiggs.  Except the main character also discovers she is pregnant by said philandering ex-hubster.  Oops!  But you gotta love the returning-to-the-small-town-I-grew-up-in premise.  Everything Is The Same, But It’s Not!  Fahbulous.

    And BTW, I am originally from Michigan and we always made fun of Ohio too.  It smells bad down there.  Except Cedar Point rocks my world.

  12. 12
    Mala says:

    I don’t know about the fumes coming off of Lake Erie, but it smells just fine in the southwest corner! And, yes, Phyllis, Crusie’s books are set more around Cincinnati and Columbus.

  13. 13
    SonomaLass says:

    But you gotta love the returning-to-the-small-town-I-grew-up-in premise.  Everything Is The Same, But It’s Not!  Fahbulous.

    I’m a sucker for that trope!  Plus it means that the heroine is a little older and wiser, which is something I look for in romance.  I’m going to have to look for this one.

    I liked Ohio.  Cleveland has a lot going for it, including the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and Cincinnati is also a fun city, with a Roebling bridge, no less!  And I did my master’s at THE Ohio State University, so Columbus was home for two very special years.  Anyone who has issues with Ohio should try living in rural Indiana, that’s all I’m saying.

  14. 14
    SarahT says:

    I also gave One Reckless Summer a B-.

    With the exception of the Ohio setting, my criticisms were similar to yours. I found Jenny exasperating. She promises to keep Mick’s secret, then promptly blabs to her best friend. She only admits to telling her dad his secret when Mick confronts her about it. Her dishonesty bothered me.

    That said, it was a light, entertaining read, and I plan to read the next Destiny book.

  15. 15
    Estelle Chauvelin says:

    For the record, the rest of Ohio makes fun of Cleveland, too.  Though not as much as we did fifteen years ago when the Indians were setting badness records.  It’s got some good theatres and concert venues, but it remains the state punchline.

  16. 16
    Karen in Ohio says:

    Uh, people who live in Pennsylvania have the nerve to be condescending about Ohio?

    Just kidding. Can’t we all just get along? Sheesh.

  17. 17
    DianeN says:

    This was a DNF for me. I usually enjoy “yes, you really CAN go home again” books, but not this one. I quit reading it last night when I found out the hero’s secret, which was just too unbelievable. And I agree with everything Sarah and others have said about the heroine—she wasn’t so much TSTL as she was annoying and kind of unlikeable. I didn’t introduce the book to the closest wall, but only because it was a library copy. I was very glad I hadn’t actually bought the book myself!

  18. 18
    Heidi says:

    I liked this book :) As with my IRL friends, Jenny made me mad at times with some of her decisions. I wanted her to grow up too. But you know, I step back a couple of decades in maturity every time I step into my parents house, and I’m 47. I grew up in a town very much like Destiny, and just going there makes me grit my teeth. Add in my parents, and you have instant 5th grader attitude. ACK!

    However, I got into the story with the first scene when she meets up with Mick in the woods. I kept thinking “Is she really going to do this…oh yes she is!” It was unexpected, it was exhilirating, and I really liked it. I really liked Mick as well. He had become a stand-up guy and I appreciated his changes. Jenny had not changed as much, and she had to mature to meet up with him.

    Plus, I saw hints of the next Destiny story that were confirmed for me on Toni’s blog, so I can’t wait :)

  19. 19
    BforBuckeye says:

    Wow. Right. Ohio is Cleveland. Because it would totally be fair if we judged Pennsylvania by Philadelphia – or, God help you all, Pennsyltucky.

    I’m just sayin’.

  20. 20
    SB Sarah says:

    But you know, I step back a couple of decades in maturity every time I step into my parents house, and I’m 47.

    I think that might be true for a LOT of people – one of the reasons that, barring a few key scenes, I understood Jenny’s stepping back huge leaps in time and maturity. She was back at home, in her old house, which hadn’t changed since she was a girl, and basically undoing her marriage. I think one of the things she struggles with is whether she’s going to be a grown up and learn from her mistakes, or try to go back in time and search for a do-over of her 20s and early 30s.

    And y’all. With the Ohio. I was kidding! I am fascinated with the fact that for multiple reasons, midwest and rural settings are growing in popularity for romances.  Ohio,

    And believe you me, there is pah-lenty to mock in the Pittsburgh surrounding area alone. Ask me how we pronounce Versailles. Or DuBois.

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