Summer is for Lovers
If there’s such a thing as the perfect beach read, it’s Summer is for Lovers. Not too serious, but engaging, fun, and sexy, it’s a lighthearted (if slightly imperfect) way to spend a few hours.
Caroline Tolbertson is a very good swimmer, which in the 1840s is not at all the thing. As a young girl, she saved David Cameron from drowning in the dangerous currents of her beloved isolated Brighton beach. Eleven years later, with the family money running out and David back in town, Caroline must leave her comfort zone of the water and seek a suitor on land.
Athlete heroines are rare, and it was very interesting to visit a world in which a brilliant female swimmer would be a social pariah rather than a lauded Olympian. Her talent is also credible – unlike some characters, who are supposed to be genius fighters yet somehow never seem to practice, Caroline is in the water daily as soon as it gets warm enough. She even gets jittery when she can’t swim.
The author did a thorough job of exploring Caroline’s complex relationship with her own body. She has a perfect swimmer’s build and is at ease with herself in the water, but on land, it’s another story. She’s taller and broader than the men she meets, and her flat chest and long lines are the antithesis of the petite, rounded beauties of the day. Add to that the fact that she’s forced into an unflattering hairstyle because it hides dampness and is trapped in the 1840s, which might be the least flattering decade for broad-shouldered women, it’s no wonder that Caroline is uncertain of herself as a woman – unless, of course, she’s with David.
David Cameron (a bit distractingly-named for anyone who follows UK politics!) is fine, but not a truly memorable or strongly developed hero. I liked the fact that he not only accepts but admires Caroline’s athleticism and is willing to learn a new swimming stroke from her to become a better swimmer himself. I also appreciated that he’s not wealthy. However, he suffers from a bad case of Overreaction to Tragic Past, refusing to marry Caroline for reasons which honestly don’t make a lot of sense. Once it became clear about halfway through the book that the only obstacle to their HEA was in David’s head, it became a bit dull to wait for whatever lightning bolt was going to deliver him to enlightenment and allow the story to end.
A few other things that kept the book out of the DIK range. The book encourages us to celebrate what Caroline can accomplish with her unconventional body. However, she and David mock her other suitors because they are shorter than Caroline, or narrower-shouldered, or overweight. (David, of course, is an Adonis). That seemed unfair. The suitors’ personalities were also a parade of cliches: the Mama’s Boy, the Distracted Businessman, the Shallow Popular Guy, etc. Caroline’s relationship with her sister is nonexistent, with the sister functioning more like a roommate who acts when necessary to poke the plot along. The push-pull of “Tutor me in sex, David,” “No, I can’t, because I can’t marry you” gets rather repetitive, too.
For all the enjoyable fun of Summer is for Lovers, I just can’t give a DIK to a book in which half of the protagonist couple is so weakly developed. But I still strongly recommend it as one of the most engaging historicals I’ve read in a long time.