My rating: Beach Vacation (3/5)
Scandalous Summer Nights is the third in Anne Barton’s Honeycote series. While I have not read the previous books, I did not find that this hampered my enjoyment of Summer Nights. This was an incredible sweet romance between an impulsive young woman and a man who is unwilling to give up his dreams for exploration (at least, not yet).
Lady Olivia Sherbourne has been infatuated with her older brother’s best friend, James Averill for a long time. Generally, she is an outspoken person; however, she has never voiced her attraction for James, until she learns that he’s set to travel to Egypt. Olivia is aware that she has to do something to keep him from leaving, unfortunately her efforts are rebuffed:
His blood was boiling – and not from desire. How dare Olivia spoil their friendship? Things would never be the same between them now. No more playful banter, no more gentle teasing. She’d ruined everything. Including his lifelong friendship with her brother. (p. 25)
While James is not unaware of Olivia’s charms, he would prefer that she not rock the boat. He’s heading off to Egypt and Olivia’s efforts are not going to change this. Until they do. Rather than let James go without a fight Olivia follows him into the countryside in the hopes that she will be able to convince him to see her as something more than her brother’s sister, as a woman in her own right. Adventure ensues, attraction flares, and both Olivia and James learn something about grown-up love (ie. compromise).
Summer Nights is an incredibly sweet story. There’s not much angst here; it’s a cute read, with a fun on-the-road romance element to it. I didn’t feel that there was a lot of meat to the story, I did like the light tone and the humour that was evident.
What I was not a fan of here was the bland characterization of James. Olivia had a personality; she was impetuous and bold, and occasionally flawed. Ultimately, Olivia had a presence and for me, she felt like a more fleshed out character. On the other hand, I thought James was boring. And even worse, I never really understood why he was suddenly in love with Olivia. James spent so much time resisting Olivia his capitulation seemed anticlimactic. I think in a romance you want to feel that the hero and heroine are on the same page, but here, I didn’t get that sense. Olivia had been desperately in love with James for ages, you couldn’t help but want this young woman to attain her unrequited love. She even tries her damnedest to make sure that James’ dreams are realized and he gets to go on that trip to Egypt. She’s willing to sacrifice her own happiness for James’ and while James does the same (to an extent) I always felt that Olivia did this more selflessly than James. What can I say? I expect perfection in my romance heroes not the flaws that are expected of real, not-fictional people.
Summer Nights is a nice, light romance. I didn’t find it deeply emotional, but that’s okay, not every romance has to seep emotion from it’s very pages, in fact, I like that Summer Nights is light. I think this is a book that will appeal to readers looking for a fun little adventure with a never-in-doubt happily-ever-after.
*Review copy provided by the publisher via Edelweiss.
For another unrequited love story, try Nina Rowan’s A Dream of Desire. Like Olivia, Lady Talia has been in love with her hero for years and is absolutely devastated when her confession of affection is not returned. The hero (also coincidentally named James) soon comes to learn exactly what he has missed out on, if only he can convince Talia of that.
For another reluctant hero, but no unrequited love, try Maggie Fenton’s The Duke’s Holiday. This is a charming and zany historical romance between a stuffy duke and independent young woman. The comedy is much more overt, but I think the resistant hero will appeal to fans of Summer Nights. See my full review of The Duke’s Holiday for more raving.
For another read that is light in tone and also has a fun sense of humour try Karen Hawkins’ The Prince Who Loved Me. The couple are not similar to Olivia and James, and I argue that they are polar opposites, but it is another novel that also doesn’t take itself too seriously. The Prince Who Loved Me is a cute little story and it’s tone reminds me of Summer Nights. Read my full review on this one.