Want to read a hometown mystery starring a former child actress trying to get out of debt? Yeah, I didn’t know I needed this in my life, but Deadly Summer, the first in a new series, mixes humor and mystery with a sweet romance in a way I wasn’t expecting.
Summer Butler was a famous teen actress. But that was ten years ago, and now, with a three million dollar debt hanging over her head, and about to lose her house, she needs to find a job. Fast. Luckily after her agent sets her up with a producer to pitch a few show options, she’s got one! Summer’s famous role was as a teen detective, and now she’ll be solving mysteries for real as a licensed private investigator. Unfortunately, she didn’t get all the info before signing on the dotted line, and now she’s off to her hometown of Sweet Briar, Alabama. Well, at least now she can pay off the loan on her family’s farm, right?
Sadly however, nothing really seems to be going to plan. As soon as she arrives in town, she runs into her old boyfriend, Luke Montgomery, who is all grown up, just as hot as Summer remembers – and the town chief of police. And he is not a fan. Luke is very much against Summer setting up as a private detective, even if it’s pretty much all scripted. So when the planned filming takes some interesting turns and Summer ends up in the middle of more than one actual crime, she’ll have to convince Luke to work with her to figure things out.
On top of that whole mess, she’s trying to reconnect with her grandmother (who is the actual epitome of hard as nails) and cousins, figure out if she’s still in love with Luke, and fend off her mother, who is the absolute worst. But if the show’s a success, they can keep the farm.
I will say that the beginning is a bit slow, and I wasn’t too sure I would enjoy the book. The reader meets Summer as she’s sitting having a drink, being pestered by fans, and caught off-guard during the meeting with the producer. It definitely doesn’t portray her in the best light. But maybe ten percent of the way in, Summer is signing her new contract, and after that, the story just takes off. Since this is the first book in the series, I’m pretty hopeful about future books not having that problem. And I’m definitely planning on reading more.
The relationship between Summer and Luke, though – that I wanted more of. So much more. They’ve got such an interesting relationship, such an interesting history, and it made the story just fly by. Everything is told from Summer’s point of view, so we have to get all our information through her eyes, and her judgment is definitely clouded by their past.
Also, while I’m not always the biggest fan of small town romances, there’s something about this one that didn’t feel… off. It read like the author (and subsequently the characters) loved their home town, knew about the problems common in such a small community, and honestly wanted to be there. I’ve read books in small town settings so many times where it’s either complete perfection or practically inbred. This is idealized realism.
Overall Deadly Summer is a great sweet story with just enough fluff and an actual mystery with real danger. Definitely a good way to start off a series – like I said, I’ve been hooked.