One Summer Evening
What is a story without a good plot and good characters? Sometimes a terrific plot can make up for less than terrific characters, and vice versa. When elements of a plot make me uncomfortable and angry and characters creep me out, I know I’m in for an unpleasant read. Such was the case with Mary Lynn Baxter’s One Summer Evening.
It is Cassie Wortham’s eighteenth birthday. Cassie is the daughter of a preacher and a southern belle. She is looking forward to college and her life ahead of her, although she does not believe that she can ever live up to her parents’ expectations. Her beau, Lester, is pressuring her to marry him. Since she has no desire to marry anyone at this point in her life, this makes for a small cloud over her birthday celebration. Before her party begins, her father James’s close friend from college, Austin McGuire, shows up with Cassie’s annoying aunt. Austin is 32, four years younger than James, and has known Cassie since she was born. Cassie and her parents think of Austin as a family member.
While Cassie is talking with Austin, she suddenly realizes she is overwhelmingly attracted to him. In a juvenile maneuver, she gets him alone in the woods before her party. Unbelievably, neither one of them can control themselves, which leads to a quickie right there in the woods. The whole scene was quick and emotionless for this reviewer. Both are equally horrified and go their separate ways quickly. Austin announces his engagement to Cassie’s aunt at the party.
Fast forward ahead nine years. Cassie is returning to her hometown with her 8 year old son, Tyler. Her insane and abusive ex-husband Lester, is finally behind bars. Cassie no longer has to live her life on the run, from women’s shelter to shelter, fleeing Lester’s gun crazy militia group. Conveniently, Austin’s wife was killed a couple of years earlier, so Austin has taken over her share of the hotel business she ran with Cassie’s mother. Circumstances force Austin and Cassie back together when she must take over her mother’s share of the business. How can Cassie keep her secrets and avoid her inevitable attraction to Austin when they must work together?
This book presents several overwhelming problems. First and foremost is the ick factor to Austin and Cassie’s relationship. Austin’s relationship to the Wortham family is described as close as family, so there is an incestuous feel to their love. The author doesn’t do much to dispel this feeling because of the close relationship she paints between James (Cassie’s father), and Austin. And then there’s James himself. He is a one-note, self-righteous pig. He keeps telling Cassie over and over that she must repair her relationship with Lester and be a family again, since James does not believe in divorce. Lester is truly scary, and had my father tried to shove me back into the arms of a gun-crazed abuser, one whom is incarcerated, no less, I would have told him what he could do with his suggestion. Cassie lets these comments slide, even though they enrage her, until it is too late.
To make things worse, there is an ugly subplot involving a friend of Austin’s that was extraneous and almost overwhelming when added to the plot with Lester, who was enough of a villain by himself. Austin turns into the Lone Ranger later in the story and confronts one of Lester’s gun-crazed cronies by himself, since he believes he can do it better than the police. Even more improbability occurs when Cassie literally pulls a gun from her bag to save Austin from the bad guys, when throughout the story, Cassie mentions that she hates guns and does not want them around. Please, the FBI doesn’t even want to deal with the Freemen in Montana, and Cassie and Austin can turn into a vigilante team and handle the bad guys all by themselves?
One Summer Evening is riddled with unbelievable characters and absurd plot twists. My recommendation? If you see it at the bookstore, walk by it quickly and don’t look back!