Thursday, May 18, 2017

Review: The Forever Summer
Even when Jamie Brenner was writing romance (under her own name, and the pseudonym Logan Belle), she always kind of skirted around the edges of the genre.  Erotic elements, high drama of the soap opera variety, and with her most excellent (seriously read it!) Now or Never she blended the very best of erotic romance with women's fiction and it was simply divine.  She's now gone full-blown into women's fiction territory with The Forever Summer and oh man, I loved this book.  Even when I wanted to throttle some of the characters (and that's a compliment), I positively wallowed in this story.

Marin Bishop is a driven, ambitious woman who has had her life plan mapped out for a long as she can remember.  She's a lawyer at a prestigious Manhattan law firm with a handsome fiance.  Her father is proud, her mother over the moon, and then it all comes crashing down.  Marin calls off her engagement because she's fallen in love with a partner at her firm.  Then the affair is found out (and there's a strict no fraternization policy) and she's fired.  Coming on the heels of this disaster?  A home genetics kit unearths a unknown half-sister.  When Rachel shows up on her doorstep on her way to visit the grandmother she didn't know she had, Marin goes completely off the rails and decides to join her on the trip.  They head to Provincetown, Massachusetts, where their grandmother and her wife have operated a bed & breakfast for the past twenty years.

My one paragraph plot description really doesn't do this book justice.  It reads as if Marin is the main character, and she sort of, kind of is - but this is one of those ensemble cast books.  There's a load of interesting, well fleshed-out secondary characters and the author alternates points of view between a handful of the players including Marin, Rachel, Blythe (Marin's mother) and Amelia (the grandmother).  Amelia's wife, Kelly, also plays an extremely prominent role in the story.  As a one week visit morphs into a summer long stay, the author keeps folding in more drama, some of it with nods to soap opera, without making it over-the-top or of the "Oh no she didn't!" variety.

As always seems to happen in books written with large casts, there are inevitably story threads the reader finds more interesting than others.  Blythe, Amelia and Kelly were easily my favorites.  Marin slides in behind when she's past her wallowing, bitter stage, and Rachel was....well, young.  She probably grated on me the most, but I'm a big enough person to admit it's because she was young, inexperienced in many ways, and kinda clueless.  But Rachel illustrates perfectly what I loved so much about this story.  How real the characters felt to me.  I got irritated with them. I celebrated their joy, cried tears with them, and felt their pain.  They felt real.  Like I could go to Provincetown tomorrow, walk down the street and possibly run into them.

There is a lot of drama in this book, not surprising given the main story line.  That said, more drama comes in through side doors, with all the characters experiencing some sort of loss and awakening over the course of the book.  They all go on a journey, and mostly come out OK on the other side.  That said (I'm going to tap dance around this a bit to avoid spoilers) there's tragedy in one of the story lines and a loss that's devastating.  If your reading mood is currently Must Have Happy Sunshine All The Time, take this under advisement.  What's truly remarkable is that even as more and more drama gets piled on (to the point where I was like "seriously?!") it never feels over the top or overstuffed.  Don't ask me how Brenner pulled that off, but she did.

For romance fans, Brenner does weave in some of that - but I have to be honest and say that pretty much all the straight men in this book annoyed me no end.  They're not evil, it's more like I got so frustrated with them that I wanted to slap them into next week.  I didn't find this a satisfying romance read mostly because of that, but then that's not what this book is.  As women's fiction, it's dynamite.  Multi-layered with characters that come to life.  Drama, drama, drama.  Satisfying, rewarding, heartbreaking and tender.  If this is your kind of thing, read it now.

Final Grade = B+


Carole Rae said...

Mmmmmm IDK - the story itself sounds good, but the annoying men would ruin it lolll

Dorine said...

Sounds like you found a great one -- putting it on my wishlist! I really love well done women's fiction.

Wendy said...

Carole: Seriously, I wanted to smack all of them LOL. They do all come around in the end but oh, getting to that point.

Dorine: I think you'll love it. The characters are so well done and Brenner writes amazing drama.

Nikki said...

I searched high and low for Now or Never and I couldn't find it anywhere. Could you provide more information about it?

Wendy said...

Nikki: OK, this is weird. It's vanished. I had originally linked to the Amazon listing in this review and now it's coming up "page not found." I even tried to get to it via GoodReads and....nada. Looks like it's been pulled from retail sites just recently.

Nikki said...

Okay, thanks for checking. Maybe it will magically reappear sometime.