Originally, I was trying to read this one for the June TBR Challenge, as I have probably eight or more books by Kate Noble in the TBR mountain range of doom, with The Summer of You being the first one to make its way there (back in 2010, during RWA in DC–my copy is signed and everything).
But the dreaded reading slump from hell struck.
Then I thought, “well, it was nominated for a RITA, so I’ll read it for the July TBR Challenge” (don’t ask me how or where I got the idea that it had been nominated, as I cannot find it listed now).
But I was still in reading slump hell.
Then I looked up, and suddenly is freaking August!
At any rate, I have read high praise indeed for Ms Noble’s work in general, and for this novel in particular, and yet…
And yet, I hadn’t read even one of her books until now.
So here we are.
The Summer of You, by Kate Noble
I confess that the first few chapters left me cold. I would start reading, then put the book down, and forget where I had left it. I would pick it up again, put it down, and lose track of it again. Lather, rinse, repeat. At least a little of this can be blamed on the horrendous reading slump of late May-all of June-all of July, but still, some of you may experience the same issues with the beginning.
The blurb from my trade paperback copy:
Lady Jane Cummings is certain that her summer is ruined when she is forced to reside at isolated Merrymere Lake with her reckless brother and ailing father. Fast-paced London society is replaced with a small-town grapevine. But one bit of gossip catches Jane’s attention–rumors that the lake’s brooding new resident is also an elusive highwayman.
Jane must face the much-discussed mysterious stranger after he saves her brother from a pub brawl. She immediately recognizes him from London; Byrne Worth, a war hero and apparent hermit–whom she finds strangely charming. The two build a fast friendship, and soon nothing can keep this lady away from Merrymere’s most wanted. Convinced of his innocence, Jane is determined to clear Byrne’s name–and maybe enjoy this summer after all…
Let the games begin!
Lady Jane Cummings, daughter of the Duke of Rayne, has finally had enough of her older brother’s irresponsibility. When he comes back to London, after a two year long jaunt to the continent,¹ she blackmails him into accompanying her and the Duke to the Lake District.
Their hope is that spending time at the cottage where the family spent the summer, before their mother’s death, will help their father’s failing memory–as well as hiding this fragility from the worst of the ton‘s gossips.
My main problem is that I just didn’t care for either Jane or Jason, Marquis of Vessey. They both came across as spoiled, selfish people who really didn’t have it in them to care for anyone else–including their only living parent. As far as Byrne, the hero, I gather that I was supposed to find him intriguing precisely because we know so very little of him, and perhaps I would have, had Jane not helpfully filled in the blanks while recounting events from Revealed, the prior book (and Ms Noble’s debut).
Then came the scene where the duke doesn’t recognize his grown son, and has a panic attack, and my heart hurt so badly for Jane. Yes, Jason is also suffering, but honestly, after leaving all responsibility for the family to his sister since their mother’s death? About time, says I.
And still, I had a lot of trouble caring for the characters. I mean, I was at the mid point in the story, and there were only a short scenes here and there where I was moved by their respective plights. The rest of the time I felt disconnected enough to ponder the most trivial things.
For example, it’s supposed to be the hottest summer in decades, so Jane walks from The Cottage to Byrne’s house without a shawl on, to talk to him.
He could see freckles rising just from her walk through the woods (pg 109)
I don’t know about you, but I don’t believe I’ve ever met anyone translucent enough to actually freckle in the space of ten minutes or so–particularly if she walked through the freaking woods.
Yes, yes, I get that I’m supposed to be impressed–or at least feel that Byrne is impressed–by the delicacy of Jane’s skin. I? I not only didn’t buy it, it jarred me right out of the scene.
A few pages later, Byrne wakes up from a dream. For once, it’s not a nightmare; though it started like one, once Jane makes an appearance, it takes the expected turn. Sadly, he’s fully awake now *wink wink nudge nugde* and just can’t fall asleep again, and:
for the first time in ages, his leg, whose wound endured a perpetual dull throb on good days (pg 116)
I know it’s stupid, but I had to stop reading and ponder whether a leg could possess a wound.
Before anyone says this, I know very well I cannot write a book, and that it’s petty to point out every minute grammatical error, when I make plenty of my own. The point I’m trying to make here, is that I was not invested enough in either the characters or the story, so that every little thing pulled me out of the book.
I kept reading, hoping for the emotional punch pretty much everyone else seems to have gotten from thi novel, but it just wouldn’t come. Instead of giving a fig about the actual plot, or even Jane and Byrne, I was back to pondering how old Jane is, how old her brother is, and so on and so forth.
Then there was the whole highwayman bit, which I found distracting; the secondary love story, which never gelled for me (just how old is Victoria, and how old is Dr Berridge?), and Jason’s childishness, which annoyed the bejesus out of me.
Mind you, there are some dark moments, and both of the main characters carry heavy loads, and have to deal with serious issues, and I see how, if the reader connected with them, there would be that emotional payoff. Unfortunately, I was too detached for that.
Where does that leave me, then? Well, not very happy, frankly. I will certainly give Ms Noble’s writing a second chance–it may well be I’m not in the right mood for historicals, or for her voice. But as of today, The Summer of You gets a 7.00 out of 10
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¹ At least, I’m thinking it would be at the very least two years, since Jane is now back in society, but the death of a parent would require at least a year of full mourning, and then what? another in half mourning? I am not altogether sure, and I don’t think it’s ever made clear in the book.