It Happened One Summer is a contemporary romance about socialite Piper Bellinger reeling after a fall from grace. Following some bad choices, Piper finds herself stuck for the summer in the small town where she was born, where she might find more than she bargained for.
Our story begins when Piper is dumped by her latest boyfriend, a guy who tells her that she’s about as substantial as a champagne bubble and not as interesting. A public break-up is not great for a reputation, so Piper takes the natural next step: she throws a huge, wild, and highly illegal party. When she gets caught, Piper is forced by Daniel, her disappointed stepfather, to face the music, and the consequences are unthinkable- at least for Piper. Daniel exiles her to her late father’s hometown of Westport, with limited funds. Hannah, Piper’s little sister, volunteers to join her, but two girls who can’t boil water might be out of their depth in a sleepy fishing town far from the bright lights of Los Angeles.
Brendan is worlds away from the guys Piper runs circles around back home. Their first encounter reeks of antagonism, so despite his handsome exterior, Piper knows she should steer clear of the rugged fishing boat captain. Besides, a gold band clearly marks Brendan as married, and thus off-limits. Piper can only hope that his antipathy for her isn’t reflected in the town’s entire population. Having lost their father very young, Piper and her sister want to take this opportunity to try to understand the man they never knew, and Westport is the key.
In reality, Brendan is a gruff, routine-following widower, still wearing his ring out of a loyalty to his father-in-law, rather than his wife. Instantly attracted to Piper, Brendan knows he has to keep her at arm’s length, and so he can’t involve himself in her messes, not even when she can’t navigate a grocery store or nearly starts a fire. Despite his best efforts, Brendan finds himself falling under the spell of this strange new addition to his hometown. Piper feels the attraction too, but a lot of obstacles stand in their way. Piper tries to confine their connection to a purely sexual one, but she can only lie to herself for so long. Brendan knows that being with him would require Piper to make a lot of sacrifices, and he’s not sure a guy like him would be worth it. Between them, they have to work through a lot of baggage to see if what they have could be forever.
This is a great read, and surprising in a lot of ways. There’s room for there to be grief in this book- both of the main characters have lost someone important to them – but the story isn’t about grieving and death, it’s about healing and moving on. Piper and her sister start off with no connection to their biological father, and part of their journey together is getting to know the town where he lived and loved. I adored the relationship between the sisters. You can tell that they truly care for one another, and there is never any tension between them about the choices they make, they are a team. Hannah goes out of her way to help Piper when Piper isn’t even sure what she wants, and she supports her sister through thick and thin. They are also incredibly different people, but each respects those differences in the other. It’s a wonderful, supportive sibling relationship and really adds dimension to the characters and the story.
In general, the cast of characters is stellar; the citizens of Westport each leave an impression and feel very grounded in their town. The only ones who fell short for me were Daniel and Maureen, the girls’ mother and stepfather. While we do get a little bit from Maureen about her grief and healing following their father’s death, very little is said about her and there isn’t really any sense of closure about her daughters coming to peace with their father’s life. I was also kind of surprised that we didn’t get any conclusion with Piper’s stepfather either. It was Daniel’s idea that Piper spend time in Westport to cool her heels, and it is unsatisfying that there isn’t any resolution to the conflict in their relationship. Given that Piper seemed to desire his approval and for him to feel pride in her, I would have liked some kind of affirmation from Piper’s parents of her worthiness.
While at first I wasn’t a fan of Piper the Bratty Heiress, she quickly charmed me. She’s a lot more than she appears to be, and I love that she doesn’t stop being herself for a second. A lot of narratives about rich kids are about coming to love the more wholesome life, and Piper does appreciate Westport, but she doesn’t stop loving sequins. Piper doesn’t have to change to find herself, and I loved that. She and Brendan have great chemistry on all levels, and I love that they both get to have the things that make them happy, without making huge sacrifices for each other. Brendan also gets a great arc; he really opens up to Piper and talks to her about things that matter, and that leads to him being more open with the other people in his life. The book has a strong emotional backbone, and that holds everything together.
Overall, I loved It Happened One Summer. It would be an A, if not for the lack of closure with Piper’s parents. I highly anticipate the sequel!
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