Kelly Sullivan is on the fast-track to making VP at her company and has been sent to Ireland to oversee the takeover of a centuries-old castle her boss has bought in order to turn it into a luxury hotel. The current owners of the castle have been running it as a B&B but are financially strapped and need to sell the building. Kelly is at first appalled by the establishment’s lack of amenities, but quickly becomes charmed by all things Irish, including the current owner/manager of the B&B, Conor O’Meara. While Kelly is rediscovering her Irish roots, her boss is evilly plotting to actually gut the architectural treasure that is the castle and turn it into the equivalent of Euro-Disney. Kelly must decide where her loyalties lie – with Conor and the good people of Ireland, or with her lecherous, mysogynistic boss. Gee, how could she ever choose?
One of the more annoying aspects of this book is how it paints absolutely every American (even Kelly at first) as a driven, money-grubbing, cell-phone-loving snob, while everyone Irish is an uncomplicated, honest soul who knows how to Really Enjoy Life. Given this world-view, it is impossible to figure out why Conor is so besotted with Kelly, who shows up acting every inch the ugly American. Yet our heroine does a complete 180 in just two days and quicker than you can say “what does he see in her?” the two of them are warming the sheets in his private cottage. Love scenes can be incredibly moving if we’ve come to know the characters enough to care that they’re together, or deeply gripping if their making love is an important event that is crucial to the plot in some way, or even just titillating if written with enough erotic punch. Unfortunately, none of the above is true with Kelly and Conor. Their love scene is entirely uninvolving. It reads more like a grocery-store checklist than a love scene:
Woman on top…check!
Against the wall…check!
This last was the most ridiculous, because they actually leave the bed in order to use the wall. I guess they were as bored with the whole enterprise as I was. But at least one of them was entertained, because Conor essentially proposes the next morning, even though they’ve only known each other a week. Kelly is flabbergasted, and laughs him off. Sensible girl. Conor is hurt by her rejection and decides they shouldn’t keep sleeping together if she won’t make a commitment. Where were these noble sentiments the previous night?
At this point, we’re only about a third of the way through the book, but have basically finished with the romance part. The rest is mostly corporate intrigue as Kelly tries to stop her evil boss from destroying the castle he had falsely promised to restore, all the while rebuffing his amorous advances. Meanwhile she is flying back and forth to Ireland every few weeks for a quickie with Conor. We know Kelly will eventually decide to commit to Conor once she realizes that Ireland is where She Truly Belongs; the only thing that sustains interest in the story is the hope that Kelly will finally get to tell her boss where he can stuff his promotion yet still find a way to restore ownership to Conor’s family so they can continue to run the B&B. If she succeeds in this, however, not only will she lose her job, but she’ll also manage to alienate her parents (who are driven, money-grubbing, cell-phone-loving snobs, of course). How can all of these problems get solved? Apparently all too easily, as everything is wrapped up in just the last six pages of the book. It’s incredibly anticlimactic and unsatisfying.
Midsummer Lightning was simply an uninvolving read. Nothing special, nothing awful, nothing great. The content was Irish-loving in the extreme, yet lots of little things were bothersome. Conor seemed to have an off-again/on-again accent, much like Kevin Costner in Robin Hood. An especially glaring error is how Conor casually refers to condoms as “rubbers,” which as far as I am aware is an Americanism that is not in use in Britain and Ireland. At one point Kelly is described as waiting as an Irish clerk bags her groceries, which in my experience is a service that most American grocers provide, but one that you are expected to perform yourself in most of Europe. None of these are unforgivable slips, but they don’t help raise the book out of its resolute mediocrity either.