Another Summer
by Georgia Bockoven, contemporary (2001)
Harper, $6.99, ISBN 0-380-81865-5


Another Summer is basically one of those montage stories - short stories of different people passing through a place. In this case, the location is a romantic beach house with a history of love and heartbreak. The owner, a widow who has suffered heartbreak that Hallmark will no doubt one day make a movie out of (since it is a Grand Epic Story of Love, Tears, and Heartbreak - or something like that), will sell this cottage if she can bring herself to it.

She keeps promising herself that one day, one day she will rent this cottage to people who will find Grand Love and Endless Passion. Then she will sell the cottage. Probably to someone who will turn the place into a Love Motel, I guess.

Anyway, my first though was "Eeuw! Cheese! Smells just like that Bridges Over Madison Country crap!"

That will teach me to be so cynical. I have to eat my words soon enough.

Anyway, so the stories begin. It starts in May. Two estranged exes, after twenty years, finally meet again when Andrew Wells and Cheryl Cunningham reunite at a high school reunion. She is still miffed that he dumped her without a word (and he even led her to believe that there was another woman), and he is eager and maybe even desperate to make up for lost time.

I love this one. My hubby doesn't - "Too much bloody talking," he says, but that's the best part. Sure, the ongoing yakfest can get tiring at times, but hey, how can I resist?

He didn't know the words to tell her how hard it had been to wake up to a sunrise and know she would never share another morning with him or how many times he had composed a conversation telling her about something new he'd seen or experienced that day. Would she care how many letters he'd written and then destroyed? Or how, slowly, he came to recognize that she was more than a habit he could get over, she was an integral part of him, the best part.

Okay, the bit about the sunrise thing is pure Robert James Waller eekfest, but the rest did get to me a little. A little by the way of a Kleenex tissue. Andy here is so sweet, so earnest, and so driven that it is no wonder that Cheryl is tempted despite herself.

And May ends with one of the sweetest ways a blossoming love story could end.

Then it's June, and I get one of the most irritating killjoy women I have ever read (Kelly Anderson) paired with a sweet, sexy, surfing lawyer with abs you can grate cheese over (Matt Landry). Kelly is attending Matt's law class and she is staying at the beach house. Her fun-loving, cheerful sister Donna tags along, and naturally, Donna doesn't get the man.

Kelly just won't do anything. What will Daddy think? What will her obviously useless boyfriend back home - who she herself admits is useless and not fun, but who she doesn't dump because she's just... well, she just doesn't want to - think? What will everybody think? Matt has to drag her screaming - okay, not literally, but figuratively - into having fun. He has the patience of some old men who sit on mountaintops to meditate. I am in awe.

Nice Matt, lousy Kelly, could do without the environmental preachfest.

July. It's now time for Ann and Craig Davis with their lil' boy Jeremy to rent the beach house. They are hoping that this beach getaway will give them time to heal. Annie and Craig are still recovering from the death of Angela, their daughter who died so soon after her birth. Angie can't let go, Craig is too guilt-ridden that he just wants to let go, and poor Jeremy wonders how long it will be before someone clobbers some sense into the two adults.

This one is not an easy read. On one hand, I understand how grief and guilt can make the two adults become so self-absorbed in their misery that they all but let the world around them fall under. But look, people, there's also a boy who needs your emotional support so get your bloody head out of your asses and start living again!

Thankfully, they do that by the last page of their story.

This is not a bad one, but a difficult one, rather. Next time I suggest they invest in shrinks rather than a beach house.

Finally, the author uses the next two months to wrap out Andy and Cheryl's story with a cameo from three 18-year old girls named Maria, Karen, and Deanna. Oh, you guessed right - those three girls are the obligatory minority cast every Hallmark weepie must have. Nice for them to show up before we end the story altogether. And yes, Maria's the heroine. After all, Natalie Wood's all the bomb, you know.

I wish the author hasn't brought back Andy and Cheryl. The high note of their love story in May leaves me high and warm inside, but look, here they come again, and now I get to realize that (a) Cheryl is a one-dimensional Mother Teresa for Minorities, (b) Andy is a workaholic phone-hugging bore, and (c) Maria falls for a rich dude and it's the end ("Mariaaaa! Mariaaa! Say it once and it feels like prayiiiing!").

Hmmm.

Still, this book is a nice change from hardcore romance novels. Another Summer is a romance, definitely, but it dares to be different and tells stories in different ways - sometimes with beautifully done endings that hint at more promises and possibilities without relying on contrived and too-sweet epilogues. There's poetry, there's romanticism. And best of all, this story in unabashedly centered on emotions. No jewel thief, no ditz, no serial killers, just people falling in love, healing, and living.

Come to think of it, this book can blast all those "Romance" romance novels out of the water. Another Summer has some rough spots, but it recaptures all those fantasies of idyllic beaches that help people love and laugh again perfectly. In short, it's a perfect getaway.

Rating: 89


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