Monday, March 30, 2020

#TBRChallenge 2020: Her Summer Crush

 Book Cover
The Book: Her Summer Crush by Linda Hope Lee

The Particulars: Contemporary romance, 2016, Harlequin Heartwarming #134, out of print, available in digital, Book #2 in Return to Willow Beach series

Why Was It In Wendy's TBR?: I had a print copy and it was autographed which means I picked this up at an RWA conference. 

The Review: This is going to be a damning with faint praise review. To be perfectly blunt, it was exactly the right book to read in this moment of my life, with the world on fire and any semblance of work/life balance I normally have getting chucked out a 15th floor window. It bares little resemblance to reality, which was just what I needed even if the story and writing itself are flawed.

Luci Monroe has just graduated college and landed her dream job back in her hometown of Willow Beach (somewhere vaguely Pacific Northwest) doing PR for the Chamber of Commerce.  Tourist-y magazines, brochures, promoting the local businesses - that sort of thing. She's super close to her family so returning to her hometown has always been in the cards.  Not in the cards? Cody Jarvis - the man she's had a crush on since high school.  The man who is now a world-class photographer, travels the world, who doesn't want to settle down in his quiet hometown. Turns out he's in-between gigs and has agreed to take a temporary summer job at the Chamber of Commerce as their go-to photographer. Oh, and Luci is going to be his boss.  Worse yet, her crush is still there, Cody is still as handsome as ever, and still doesn't know she exists other than they're "good friends."

That's basically it.  Luci has an unrequited crush. Cody actually likes her more than as "just a friend" but he's such a GUY it takes him the whole book to realize it.  There's a whole bunch of small town shenanigans - including eleventy billion characters (really, in book 2?!),  Luci navigating her new job/boss, getting saddled with a teenage intern, her family ties fraying at the seams, a wedding, a 4th of July celebration, a sandcastle building contest etc. etc. 

The romance itself is very slow and leisurely, but lacks spark.  It's a low-heat novel, which is fine - but even low-heat novels need something, and this romance is lukewarm to tepid.  (Note: you can still write passion even if you don't have a sex scene and there's nothing like that to speak of here). The first kiss scene is pretty decent and there's some nice dancing scenes but other than that?  Meh. I've read worse, I've read better.

But I kept flipping the pages and once I started reading I didn't come up for air. Even though this book lacks all semblance of reality.  It felt like Mayberry. Like the small town that everybody thinks exists but rarely does in real life.  The clincher for me was a moment in the story when the heroine buys three newspapers (two local-ish, one out of Seattle) to, ready for this?, CHECK THE HELP WANTED ADS!  In a book published in 2016.  In a local small town rag? Sure, maybe (even that strains at the seams of credibility) but SEATTLE?!?!?!?!

So if you want some semblance of reality? Yeah, not this book. If you want an escapist, Hallmark Movie-style setting completely devoid of reality however (and hello, see current events) this is a decent small town romance if you go for that sort of thing.  I found it pleasant, but otherwise meh.

Final Grade = C


Jill said...

I'm glad you got a chance to escape into a book, even if it was only a so-so read. I'm trying to schedule my reading time lately which may seem counterintuitive to treat it like a chore, but I find once I actually read for about 30 minutes (provided my phone is faraway and on mute) I can focus and keep going. I have to remind myself it's for my mental health, just like taking a walk is for physical health. And lets be real, everything I have to do in this house will still be there tomorrow. And the next day. And the next. . .

I've been intrigued by Heartwarming for years (b/c I'm a definite fan of the OG, Harlequin Romance and this sounds similar), but I haven't bitten the bullet. Truthfully I try to save my Harlequin purchases mostly for either tried and true authors or when I see minority voices authors represented. Everything that doesn't fall into one of those categories falls by the wayside.

Wendy, thank you for all you do. Best wishes for health and happy reading.

Wendy said...

Jill: Take this with a grain of salt because I'm not widely read in Heartwarming - but so far I find them to be a mix of SuperRomance and the Romance line. They tend to run "just kisses" like Romance but feature a lot of family story lines with a slightly larger word count like Supers had.

Category romance is the only area of romance where I'm a big impulse reader. I'll take flyers on newer or unknown authors more readily in category than, say, historical or single title contemporary. Short word counts? The fact that I'm a fairly big trope-y reader? Probably a little of both. I'll also give authors "second chances" more readily in category unless the book I started with is a dumpster fire (usually that means a D grade or lower).

I need to finish the last "obligation read" I've got going and then I plan on hitting some category romance and/or mystery HARD. Those are my comfort reads.