My review contains spoilers and they're mostly my thoughts as I went with the book...
Hmmm... Summer Is for Lovers by Jennifer McQuiston didn’t quite live up to my expectations. If you already didn’t know, I absolutely ADORED the previous book, What Happens in Scotland which was all sorts of heartwarming fun that I gulped down in just a few days. I was looking forward to David’s book, hoping that his book would shed some light on the guilt both James and David felt for an underlying issue that was addressed on WHiS. I got that, yes. I also found a marvelous heroine in Caroline. But what made me want to shake my fists in the air was David. I wanted to enjoy this book but he made me want to scream, and not in a pleasing manner... *sigh*
So what did David do?
Quite a few things actually, which have nothing to do with his ‘name twin’ BTW (read JMcQ’s hilarious blog post on that issue here.)
I’ll start with a short recap of what links this book to What Happens in Scotland (WHiS). WHiS was James, David’s former best friend’s story. Why former? That’s because they were both in love with the same girl, a vicar’s daughter, at a young age. David, with his blonde good looks, was already a known rake. So when the girl fell pregnant and David was nowhere to be found, James offered for her hand. But she went and threw herself off a bridge. Needless to say, she was carrying David’s baby and not James’s but I think she always played James (slept with him as well). It certainly was a big mess. That incident threw a significant shadow on James’s later life, about that you get to learn in WHiS and how he overcomes those too with the help of Gerogette, the h. He felt guilty, though it was not his fault or doing.
David hails from Moraig too. He was in the army for a time in his life (about the time of that ‘incident’, that is why he was absent). This book actually opens up with a drunken David trying to drown himself in Brighton, where he was stationed at that time and a young Caroline saving him. I’ll get to that part a bit later... This ‘incident’ has also left scars of its own on David’s life. He doesn’t want to show it outside, being the merry rake, bedding widows and bar wenches alike but inside, this is eating him up. It’s been around 10 years, David still couldn’t forget that. He has sold his commission some years ago and now serving as a magistrate for Moraig, a pretty good one at that too.
Anyway, at present, David is visiting Brighton with his ailing mother who needed the fresh air etc., suggested by the doctor. David is the second son of an Earl, has no reason to get married, if not now, ever at all. Better yet, his elder brother has already seen to the task of an heir. Yet, that doesn’t stop his mother from the talks of marriage and little blonde haired granddaughters at every opportunity. David is a good son, I’d give it to him as he stayed with his mother all through the story, worrying about her, taking care of her but this one thing he doesn’t know if he can do.
The day he arrives at Brighton, while walking and taking fresh air along the beach (and reliving a not-so-pleasant memory), David comes to a halt when he suddenly finds a tall girl heading towards him. And wow, it is THE one who saved him all those years ago from certain death! Caroline was a lanky 12 yrs. old at that time but now... well, she’s grown of course but without so much of any promise of beauty. And David, if nothing else, appreciates physical beauty. Though he’s not physically attracted to her, David is glad to be reacquainted with someone he has never forgotten all those years.
Caroline’s family has fallen on hard times ever since her father died. He ran a small local newspaper, the income is not so great and off late, it has come to their notice that they don’t have much money left. Her mother, who used to be a viscount’s daughter, has never forgotten her ‘golden days’ as a debutante. But her life hasn’t been the same ever since she married for love. Right now, she has two grown up daughters she needed to marry off. Caroline’s elder sister, Penelope is beautiful in her quiet way but she stutters, which is why she has given up on marriage. It seems like her interest lies in different direction.... of which, no one yet knows.
Caroline made a promise to her father on his deathbed that she’d take care of her family. She was VERY young so I don’t know how she even remembered it, but she did and is more than determined see it through. She harbors a secret though- she’s a very talented swimmer, trained by her father before he died. Swimming has also somewhat altered her body structure, with wider shoulders added to her very tall, curve-less form. And so, she’d grown up knowing she’s too plain, too tall and just too weird. But this secret had to be kept tight-locked. Otherwise, it’d ruin any chances of her ever having a marriage proposal. Also, her Lady of a mother would have a fit. Not that she ever fails to remind them, however gently (or not), that both her daughters are far from what she had hoped for. But one can’t have the London polish in a place like Brighton, let alone having a coming out now that Caroline’s over 20. But her mother is still hopeful about Caroline making a match, and soon. There’s basically no other way for her to help but to marry well.
This is the season in Brighton when the upper echelons of the aristocrats come down for a vacation. Brighton becomes crowded with snobbish Londoners. Caroline doesn’t like it, more so because the natural beauty of her beloved Brighton is almost always marred each year by a crowd that seems to be steadily growing. On this day, to escape one of her mother’s tirades, Caroline walks off to her favorite hidden piece of beach only to stumble across an apparition. No, not apparition but the man of her dreams. Someone she’d never forgotten; someone who has shaped her daydreams. There was not another perfect looking man in the world for her! It’s that soldier she’d saved so many years ago. After all these times, he seems happy to see her too. David reintroduces himself and makes it known that he’d like to renew their acquaintance. Caroline is just too happy, too surprised to say anything but ‘yes’.
Ah girl, you’re in for quite the ride!
As the story progresses, they do meet up on occasion, talking and walking but very soon, David makes it clear that his interest in her is very platonic, that of a good friend and nothing else. On the other hand, for Caroline it’s anything but. And it does hurt when the man you’ve been dreaming about says he wants only to be a friend. Even hurt, Caroline puts up a face and keeps meeting up with David, sometimes on that beach, sometimes in other places.
Caroline is also introduced to various other characters from that flock of Londoners. One is Viscount Avery’s daughter Miss Julianne Baxter. The other, a rakish, handsome young man, Mr. Dermott. The intro doesn’t go well as they begin subtly mocking Caroline’s lack of sophistication or so-called ‘polish’. Then again, that’s how they about the people of Brighton in general. Dermott was one step ahead. He has already duped Caroline once into believing that he’s interested in her, kissed her in secret, only spread the rumor of that kiss, humiliating her, telling everyone that she has no passion. WOW, that kinda made me mad. Caroline was unhappy but not as angry as I was apparently. After meeting David, she’s scared that David will hear of her misadventure and... well, she just doesn’t want him to hear of it.
There was an incident of a party gone wild (with loads of drinks and other stuff) hosted by the aforementioned Miss Baxter. Caroline was invited, so was David. This was a total mess, and gives us the kind of humiliation this London party can wreck on an unsuspecting, naïve girl as her. Then there was that kissing game; men selecting girls hidden behind a screen and to kiss them. David has already heard of Dermott’s mean game with Caroline and he didn’t like the negative things he’s heard about her so far. He felt somewhat protective. When he begins to understand how Caroline will probably be humiliated again, David chooses Caroline when his time comes. He doesn’t even kiss her because he’s not interested in her that way but it hurts Caroline. I mean DUH! This was just the beginning of what David did throughout the book; how he’d push Caroline away over and over and over and over and over again!
Since their renewed friendship, Caroline has already talked to David about finding a husband. In her dream, it was, of course, David. But she already knew he has no interest. Then David comes up with a plan. He wants to help her and for that, he’d present himself as a candidate. He also lets the young bucks know (later on that drunken night) how lovely Caroline is in her own way... and of her long, long legs. Even though he’s determined not to be involved with Caroline at all, his body is telling him otherwise. The words he tells them were his own genuine words. It works and these men are so interested in seeing Caroline’s ‘long legs’ that they begin flocking at her door the very next morning. Of course, Caroline didn’t know what David did, so she and her family are surprised by this unexpected turn of events.
But this doesn’t sit with our hero. No, he still doesn’t want her in ‘that way’ but once men are interested in her, he can’t stand it. I mean................ Good God! I actually said ‘grow the f*ck up!’ quite a few times when he was doing things to annoy the hell outta me! He’d swim with Caroline on moonlit nights, kiss her. He’d feel aroused beyond anything, yet he’d try to convince himself that it’s nothing but the result of his temporary celibacy!
I got exasperated when Caroline actually goes and tells him that she wants to experience passion with him before she marries someone else. David’s body, again, wants her to show all she likes but oh no, no no, when she begs to be closer to him, he won’t let her. Why you ask? I felt that Caroline being plain was one reason; it took me quite a while to actually believe that David saw through that. Let’s face it, he’s a rake and has slept with many beautiful women. He’s spoiled in that area so he’d always want to nay-say the fact that he’s actually attracted to a not-so-very-attractive girl. It’s just not done, right?! Next he tells her it’s not a good idea to be involved with him since... he has that excuse of the 10 yrs. ago incident. He has not moved on from it, though he had slept with numerous woman (if I remember correctly from WHiS, he was caught by James and his brother while seducing a maidservant) but when Caroline wants to be a little intimate, he can’t let her because apparently that dead girl was ‘the only woman he has ever loved’! Oh how lame an excuse can be! It was worse because he knew he was hurting Caroline with his words, that he’s being an a$$hole to her and that his actions would sometimes distinctly come off as pity. Then, as I was saying earlier, he’d go and do everything to ruin her chances with other men... and so went the cycle throughout the story. WTF am I to call that?
I begin to grow frustrated at Caroline too because she was forever forgiving him, even when she was hurt and hurt some more. It peaked at that point of the story when David finally decides to tell her his 10yrs. old sob story (c’mon even his mother told him to move on!) in delicate details, she actually feels sympathetic. I mean, yah well, you might feel somewhat sympathetic but when he, in so many words, is telling you that he won’t accept your affection (think at that point she even professed her love) because he won’t let anyone inside his heart ever again. And all these after his imbecilic behavior so far... No Caroline, you’re supposed to be mad as a hell cat, not go all soft and teary-eyed for him. Absolutely NO!
God, I wanted Caroline to show David her back and give him something to think of and to seriously decide what he wants. Does he want her? Does he want to act on his desires for her? If the answers were ‘no’ then the only thing she could’ve done is to try to move on from there. It’d hurt but that should’ve been for the best. But she was stuck. She wants him with everything she had to offer but he doesn’t want her... No, he doesn’t want to want her (is there anything more upsetting there for a girl?) and yet he won’t let other men have her! It was more than clear that David had no idea what he wanted, at all. This shouldn’t have been the mindset of a supposedly worldly 32 yrs. old man. So yes, ‘grow the f*ck up’ was what I had for him throughout the book.
As David always liked and supported the talented swimmer in her (one of the few things I liked about him), he asks Caroline to train him for an upcoming annual swimming competition. The prize money is huge and they made a deal; if David wins he’d give half the prize money to her because he didn’t want her to marry any of those guys that were courting her (still he wouldn’t say he wants her). Caroline begins training him but this only led to more fondling, or wanting to do just so and David abruptly ending things because... well, you already know why. Then he’s unhappy when Caroline finally becomes engaged to Dermott; not a very wise choice but she wasn’t attracted to the other men as much as she was to a handsome Dermott. You can also blame that on David because he tried his best to highlight exactly why she shouldn’t marry any of those guys (too short, too fat, too young, too immersed in father’s business etc etc etc). *sigh*
‘Frustration’ thy name is David Cameron!
After that ‘cycle of pain’ (as I called it) I couldn’t really believe in David anymore. I loved Caroline and wished she was paired with a more worthy man who’d see her for who she really was and accept her just so.
So there were some nice surprises at the end of the story where Caroline finally gets to show off her beautiful swimming to the world. I already mentioned about the secret beach that Caroline loved so much and considered as an escape from all her troubles and the outside world. It so happens that Penelope, who turns out to be a reporter for her father’s newspaper, didn’t even bother to consider Caroline’s emotion (it’s not that she wasn’t aware of it) and publishes a report on that beach, which made a big crowd of vacationers to pour in. I was kinda shocked that Penelope would be so selfish to do this to her own sister. Poor Caroline was shocked too when she finds out just how many people were present after reading the news. Moreover, because of the formation of the rocks etc. the place was hazardous. When suddenly someone was drowning and no one there to save the boy, Caroline had to jump in. Et voilà! She’s famous.
What I liked about the ending was how Caroline’s mother was converted from someone who would screech at the notion of swimming because it’s so unladylike, to someone wholeheartedly supporting it. I also very much enjoyed the general description of Brighton. I was glad that David finally had the courage to move forward and made a gesture for Caroline at their wedding; securing the beach for private use. But all his attempts came way too late for me to completely appreciate them. 4 stars.
This ARC was provided to me by Avon/HarperCollins via edelweiss which didn’t influence my review and rating in any way.