by Kate Noble, historical (2011)
Berkley, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-425-24019-9
The Summer Of You is a cozy story with very little action and intrigue despite the presence of a highwayman subplot. The hero Byrne Worth and the heroine Jane Cummings first encountered each other in Revealed, but this story can function as a standalone tale very well as what happened in the previous book does not affect the story line in this book much.
Jane Cummings and her reluctant brother bring their Alzheimer's-stricken father to their family estate in Merrymere Lake, near the village of Reston in the county of Lancashire. While the old man recuperates from his unsuccessful rounds at various doctors in London at the country home, both siblings and the various residents of Reston will put on a nice comedy of manners for the reader. Also in the neighborhood is Byrne, who behaves like your stereotypical emo hermit hunk. His behavior doesn't dissuade the people of Reston from believing that he is the local highwayman. Jane knows that Byrne is no such thing, so she decides to set out to clear his name.
The Summer Of You is in so many ways an improved kin of Revealed: both are heroine-centric stories with equal emphasis given to her interactions with various secondary characters as much as her interactions with the hero. However, this book is better than the previous one because the hero Byrne doesn't take passive-aggressive antics to an irritating degree and the romance is stronger. There are more quiet moments between Jane and Byrne that amply illustrate convincingly their growing bond to each other, and some of these moments are absolutely magical to read. Also, there are very good scenes that define the complicated depths of Jane's personality in the earlier parts of the book. Her relationships with her brother and her father start out as something that can very well be real - there is no simple love or hate here, just complicated and sometimes conflicted feelings. Sometimes she loves them so much, it hurts; at other times she wants some space far away from them so that she can be herself and put herself over others for once.
My problem with this book is that I have read Revealed. This is a problem because Jane in this book and Jane in that book are two vastly different people. The author says that Jane has changed for the better, but what Ms Noble really did here, especially in the last quarter of the story, is to divest Jane of her spirit and her backbone, so much so that Jane in that last quarter is no better than a dog who sits when she is told to do so by her brother. What happened to the funny, bitchy, and adorable woman in the previous book and the first few chapters of this book? I know we romance readers need our heroine to be as squeaky-clean good and inoffensive as possible, but Jane being forcibly transformed into the family's favorite doormat in the last few chapters of this book is a painful thing to read. Ms Noble lets the whiny, irritating, useless, and incompetent Jason - Jane's brother - wins and dominates Jane, hypocritically beating her down into a submissive doormat using her own guilt using her, and I can't stand how Ms Noble lets Jane just sit there and meekly take all dressing down and emotional guilt-tripping lying down. Come on, don't do this to me!
Even if I haven't read Revealed, the author's eventual transformation of Jane into a personality-free doormat would have left a bitter taste in my mouth. Because I have read that book and adored Jane in that one, I actually cringe while reading the last few chapters of this book. What happened, Ms Noble?
For the most part, The Summer Of You is a well-written and delightful read, but the last few chapters cause the pay-off of this book to be most awful indeed. It is really too bad that Ms Noble seems to confuse a virtuous heroine with a personality-free doormat. All things considered, I'd give this book a guarded recommendation, especially to readers who enjoyed Jane's appearance as much as I did in the previous book.
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