The Summer of You by Kate Noble
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This was my 2nd book by this author and I can safely say I love her "informal" writing style. It's fun, charming, emotional and engaging, without being pretentious. When I'm reading her books, I feel like I'm hearing a dear friend telling me a highly entertaining story.
As the story opens, Lady Jane Cummings has just come out of mourning - her mother died one year ago - and is trying to rekindle the joy of being one of the most respected and sought-after members of the ton. But her life has vastly changed since her mother's death: her father, the Duke of Rayne, has begun to show clear signs of dementia and her brother Jason has run away to the Continent, ignoring all his duties and leaving Jane to deal with all the stress by herself. No wonder she doesn't welcome her brother with open arms when he finally returns to England. However, they have to find a way to make peace with each other in face of their father's worsening condition, and that's how they find themselves leaving London and moving to the family's cottage near Reston, in Lake District. Obviously, the fact that Jason is back home doesn't mean he's any help to Jane and she gets even more stressed that she was.
It's in that state of mind that she comes upon Byrne Worth one day - swimming naked in the lake near the cottage, oh yes! Jane and Byrne aren't exactly strangers but they aren't friends either. One could say they had friends in common, as his brother Marcus has just married her friend Phillippa. Byrne is a war hero who was badly injured serving the Crown - he has to walk with a cane now - and doesn't want anything to do with fame and fortune, having chosen to live like a hermit in the small house he's inherited from his great-aunt. His house happening to be on Jane's family's land and within walking distance from the cottage is just a bonus. ;)
Byrne and Jane are two lonely souls who need to find comfort in life. They're drawn to each other from the start and become friends as they spend time together working on a common goal - to catch the highwayman who's been striking around Reston. At first, Jane visits Byrne's house as an escape from her stressful life at the cottage caused by her father's deteriorating health and her brother Jason's irresponsible behavior, but she soon realizes that the happiness she finds with Byrne has deeper roots. On his part, Byrne is brought back to life by Jane's visits. She makes him feel again. She makes him smile, laugh and care for things that he's ceased to care a long time ago. As sappy as it sounds, they were meant to be together.
But what will happen when summer is over? Jane will have to go back to London with her family, as her father won't be able to stand autumn's and winter's cold weather in Reston. Byrne will never get back to living in London, among the ton's frivolities he can't stand. Not to mention, Jane is a Duke's daughter, Byrne is an untitled gentleman, and Jason hates his guts and will never approve a match between them. So, are Jane and Byrne destined to have only this summer?
This was such a delightful read! The beginning was a bit slow to me and I admit I wasn't completely sold on Jane, because she seemed rather spoiled and self-centered. Then, Ms. Noble began to work her magic and reveal what was deep inside Jane's mind and heart. That's when I understood her and when my heart went to her. I wanted Jane to find peace and happiness soooo bad! As for Byrne, I loved him from the start, when he offered Jane some jasmine tea out of the blue even though I could feel he wasn't comfortable with it. He was honorable, dependable and oh-so-lovable. I loved all the interactions between Jane and Byrne, from their friendly conversation to their romantic love scenes. (When I say "romantic scenes", I mean everything. From simply hugging, kissing, fooling around in the lake... There's only one lovemaking scene in the book, but I didn't miss anything more.)
Now, why the 4-star rating if I loved Jane, Byrne and their romance so much? Well, I didn't like how some secondary characters took much "screen time" sometimes. I really disliked Jason, but I understood the need to have him around. He was there to piss Jane (and me) off, and I was OK with that. I didn't get the need to have a secondary romance in the story, though. As much as Jane's friend Victoria was likable, I rushed through her scenes because I wanted to get back to reading about Jane and Byrne.
The mystery about the highwayman's identity was well done and it was interesting to see Byrne's mind at work. His detective skills were good, but I admit the resolution to the mystery was a bit complicated. Something simpler would have been better, IMHO.
Overall, this was another very good read by Ms. Noble, a relatively new author that has managed to make her way into my authors-to-watch-out-for list. Considering I've only read 2 books by her so far, that's something!
Note: AFAIK, Revealed and The Summer of You aren't officially part of a series, but the latter can be considered a sequel to the former (where Byrne and Jane were introduced). Anyway, I didn't read Revealed and I don't think I've missed anything, because The Summer of You stands proudly on its own.
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