Girls Of Summer
by Barbara Bretton, contemporary (2003)
Berkley, $6.99, ISBN 0-425-19269-5

This book is a sequel to A Soft Place To Fall.

One of the main characters is the man that carried a one-sided never-expressed affection for Annie Galloway (now Annie Butler), Dr Hall Talbot. During the christening of the Butlers' second child, he and Dr Ellen Markowitz enjoy the champagne too much. He, blue from the realization that he and Annie will never ever mean to be, and she, high from her own infatuation with the handsome doctor, end up spending the night together. Since he's her boss and this being a small town so everybody knows (her car is seen parked outside his place the entire night - whoa!), things will get very uncomfortable between them. Did I mention that he calls out Annie's name at the, uh, critical moment?

Deirdre, Ellen's half-sister, breezes into town. If Ellen's the Good Girl, she's the Aimless Tail-Between-Her-Legs Sister, a failed blues singer turned harp player. She needs a place to stay with sorting out a few things, and she's bringing a huge dog named Stanley to crash at Ellen's place. As stories of this sort tend to go, she starts falling for the local bad-boy mechanic but she has been bruised and burned by so many bad boys in her past. She isn't so sure this time.

We already have the Responsible Sister and the Bad Girl Sister, who are we missing from the cast? That's right - the Frustrated Soccer Mom Sister. Meet Mary Pat. She'll make her appearance a little later in Girls Of Summer to round up the cast. The three half-sisters will have to work out some typical family issues before the story is over. Meanwhile, some of the cast from A Soft Place To Fall, including the cranky Claudia and her daughter Susan, round up the secondary cast.

I have a hard time warming up to this book. I'm not sure at first as to why: this book is well-written, the main characters are on the whole likable, and there are subtle but effective moments of comedy as well as realistic scenes of family drama. Then I realize it's because I've watched so many movies patterned in the same way as this book on TV. Girls Of Summer is a well written book but it fails to introduce anything new to the Sisters With Kleenex formula.

I find the main romance between Hall and Ellen tepid and bland. Hall, in particular, is a flat hero that comes with four daughters he had with three ex-wives. It is bad enough that he's much older than Ellen and the whole romance seems more like Ellen's searching for a new Daddy, but I find myself wondering how he's going to make marriage number four work if the previous three crashed and burned. The author makes Hall out to be the sexiest, most worthy, most hunky guy ever and everyone from women looking for some easy adulterous trip to women looking for new Daddies all throw themselves at him. Thing is, Hall is so bland that, aside from him being a good father and he was infatuated with Annie, he has very little personality. Is smalltown life that boring?

Deirdre and Scott are more interesting, even if they both come straight out of central casting (the burned out failed singer and the smalltown man that will love her and show her the love and what not that is missing in her life), but that's just a bias of mine. I always like reading about "bad girls" trying not to fall in love than responsible women falling for much older men. Come to think of it, even the stereotypical Married But Unhappy Susan and the other sister Mary Pat are much more interesting than Ellen and Hall going around for the hundredth time in circles arguing whether to forget their one-nighter or not.

A well-written book Girls Of Summer may be, but unfortunately it is a little too safe and predictable and the main characters Hall and Ellen are too bland for my liking.

Rating: 76

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