One Summer first came out in 1993. When I read it, I thought that Johnny and Rachel were two of the best characters I had encountered in a long time, but I had reservations about the plot. One Summer has been re-issued in a new paperback edition and I re-read it. Johnny and Rachel are still two of my very favorite characters, and the plot is still a mess.
Rachel Grant is thirty four years old and still lives in her old home town. When she went away to college, she had dreams of travel and finding love, but family responsibilities kept her at home. Rachel teaches English at the local high school. Trying to bring a love of and appreciation of literature to uncaring adolescents is kind of like trying to find a diamond in a pile of broken glass. Every once in while, Rachel does find one, and in her first year as a teacher, she found a memorable diamond in the rough.
Johnny Harris was the town bad boy. He was all black leather, swagger and go-to-hell attitude, but Rachel discovered that he loved to read and had a true insight into poetry and books, It was O.K. if the teacher knew his love of reading, but God forbid anyone else should find out! After high school, Johnny was convicted of killing his girlfriend and went to prison for ten years.
Now Johnny is back and out on parole. He has nowhere to go and Rachel gives him a job in her father’s hardware store. Johnny is still the swaggering bad boy, but now he is 28 and unbelievably handsome. The town still has neither forgotten nor forgiven him despite his insistence that he was innocent of the crime.
Rachel’s protective instincts are aroused and she defends Johnny to everyone. When another murder is committed, Johnny is the main suspect, and although he was with Rachel when the murder was committed, he is still looked on with suspicion.
Johnny and Rachel become closer and closer until Johnny pours out all of his anger, pain and hurt to her and confesses that he has always loved her. As for Rachel, the sensitive and intelligent mind that she loved in the boy Johnny is still there – and in the body of an incredibly sexy man. Rachel has found the soul-mate she has yearned for for so long.
When the story concentrates on Rachel and Johnny and their relationship, it is compelling. But too much time is spent on the murders – both new and old. And, when the story focuses on this aspect, things get very melodramatic. The scenes involving the villain (most especially the torture of victims) are distasteful in the extreme and way over the top.
Johnny Harris and Rachel Grant remain two of my very favorite characters in contemporary romance. I only wish they had a better plot to play in.