Thursday, October 13, 2011

"The Summer of You," by Kate Noble

The Chick: Lady Jane Cummings. When her father's illness threatens to become public, she's ordered by her brother to pack up and move to their summer cottage in Reston, a.k.a. the middle of nowhere.
The Rub: There's not a lot to do in Reston except hang out with the locals - and the most interesting local might also have a highwayman past.Dream Casting: Bryce Dallas Howard.

The Dude: Mr. Byrne Worth. Determined not to burden Society or his brothers with his struggle to regain his health and sobriety, he retreats to a little house he inherited in Reston, hoping to be left alone.
The Rub: Since Byrne became the mysterious newcomer with a dark past, the curious townsfolk - as well as Lady Jane - aren't likely to let that happen.Dream Casting: Matt Bomer.

The Plot:

Jackass Brother Jason: How DARE you take our sick father to doctors who might help him! That's so irresponsible! *takes off to nearest pub once the family arrives in Reston*

Byrne: Did you lose one Jackass Brother?

Jane: I don't suppose you could be prevailed upon to keep him?

Byrne: *arched eyebrow*

Jane: Wow, you are automatically more interesting than anyone else in this town.

Anyone Else In This Town: Stay away from him! He's a criminal!

Jane: On what grounds?

Anyone Else In This Town: On the grounds that we don't like him!

Jane and Byrne: ...

Jane: I don't care - let's get it on!

Jackass Brother Jason: GROSS.


Byrne: Did I mention I found out who the highwayman is?

The Town: Oh, jolly good.

Byrne: So no apology, then? For locking me up and avoiding me and treating me like dirt?

The Town: ....oh look, a distraction! *runs away*

Jane: Don't worry - let's get married and make you a magistrate! That'll show 'em!

Byrne: HOORAY!
Romance Convention Checklist:

1 Sick Father

1 Packet of Incriminating Letters

Several Jars of Jam

1 Silver-Tipped Cane

1 Instance of Skinny-Dipping

1 Annoying Brother

1 Secondary Romance
1 Stolen Doctor's Bag
The Word:
We were first introduced to Lady Jane in Kate Noble's previous book, Revealed, as heroine Phillipa's social nemesis. Her story begins during the celebration of Phillipa and Marcus' wedding, when her relentlessly selfish and callow brother Jason (recently returned from the Continent) tracks her down during the party to give her a scathing set-down.

Jane and Jason's father, the Duke of Rayne, has been slowly succumbing to dementia, and both siblings know that the formerly brilliant intellectual would hate to have his mental deterioration made public. However, Jane and her father's stay in Town, not to mention Jane's various dealings with doctors regarding her father's situation, has exposed their father to public scrutiny.

Jason decides to nip the problem in the bud by ordering Jane and their father to their estate in the Lake District. Appalled at her forced social exile, Jane nevertheless believes the change in scenery would be beneficial to her father - but she refuses to allow Jason to skip out on his own responsibilities yet again and blackmails him into accompanying them.

However, their carriage barely slows down in the Lake District village of Reston before Jason skips off to be the pretentiously annoying prick that he is and, unsurprisingly, winds up flat on his face in a mud puddle after several pints too many at the local Disreputable Pub. He is rescued and returned to Jane relatively undamaged by none other than Byrne Worth, Marcus' older brother from Revealed. It seems he now lives in a tiny cottage on Jane's property that he inherited from his aunt, and the locals of Reston shun and avoid him - partly because he is incredibly rude and unpleasant, but mostly because they fear he's the mysterious highwayman who's been terrorizing the village for the last few months.

For Jane, stuck between the Rock of a Beloved Parent's Illness and the Hard Place of being the most Popular Person in the Countrified Middle of Nowhere, going off to thank and then befriend Byrne is a joyful escape. They bond and grow even closer as they decide to solve the mystery of the local highwayman, all the while avoiding nosy locals, lovestruck secondary characters, mischievous children, and of course Jason, who just can't seem to get through the day without being a Royal Jackass to at least one person.

Let's start with what I didn't like - unlike Revealed, the plot here is light and meandering, if not outright aimless. Jane's ploy to spend more time with Byrne routing out the highwayman is just that, a ploy - when the highwaymen are revealed, it's a last minute "aha" moment that Byrne does on his own. Also, I don't feel we got to know a hell of a lot about Byrne. His main plot is that he wants to (and mostly has) overcome his opium addiction and his bum leg by himself without help from anyone, but apart from that we don't really dig into his psyche or his motivations very much, and I was disappointed - especially considering his brother Marcus Worth is one of the greatest romantic heroes ever (even when he's not in his own book!). However, I did enjoy that Jane liked getting physical with Byrne but was able to break it off before things went too far too fast.

What I did like was the setting, the humour and the description. I'm a visual reader with romances (particularly historical ones) and it was very easy to visualize the scenes in this book and it made the humour quite enjoyable. It's difficult to write humorous novels because comedy is so dependent on timing - and how do you control that with words that are read and not spoken or acted?

In the first Kate Noble novel I read, Compromised, I compared Kate Noble to Julia Quinn. I find the comparison comes up once again in The Summer Of You, only in this case, Kate Noble comes out the winner. Like Quinn, she creates a lovable cast of characters and a humorous social atmosphere in the town of Reston - however, unlike Quinn, she's not afraid to give her setting realistic friction. Reston is countrified, and Noble demonstrates that it's not necessarily a good thing - just a different thing. There are deep-seated resentments and prejudices and very real flaws in everyone, including our protagonists, and Noble's writing actually acknowledges that they are flaws, and not just cutesy "quirks." This gives her setting a gritty edge that makes the humour and moments of positivity pop out more.

I've found that Julia Quinn's writing of late (particularly in her latter Bridgerton books) never really paints her characters (those who aren't obvious villains of course) in any sort of negative light. Eloise's invasive and shrewish nature is never called out - other characters just say she's "inquisitive" and laugh it off. Or Hyacinth - who is incredibly rude and self-centred, but that just makes her "unique." Quinn never really acknowledges that her characters have anything wrong with them other than low self-esteem (that's usually cured by the HEA). In Summer of You, Jason eventually comes around, but his selfish and lazy nature isn't just shrugged off by Jane as "just who he is." That being said, he's played the part of the Asshole Brother so well I'm not sure how he'll actually do as a romantic hero in Noble's next book, Follow My Lead.

However, if you like humour, good heroine characterizaton and a gentle storyline and don't mind slow pacing and loose narrative focus, you're sure to enjoy The Summer of You.B

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