After 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 Amazon.com, 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.)