Shetland Summer is one of those books that I’m not going to remember in two weeks. It isn’t a bad book, but it isn’t a good book, either. A predictable plot coupled with forgettable characters make this a very average read.
Gemma Sinclair is living in limbo. She attends Lady Margaret, the Earl of Orkney’s pregnant wife, and helps take care of their children. Until fairly recently, Gemma was married to a much older man, but when he died, Margaret asked for her assistance. Gemma’s uncle, Andrew Crawford, is also serving Orkney by building a secret room, and she worries that when it is finished, Orkney will have him killed.
But Gemma worries for her own life, too. She loves and doesn’t want to leave Margaret, the children, or her uncle, but several months earlier, she sent a letter to King James detailing Orkney’s abuses of the island people. Another, more recent letter was intercepted and Gemma very much suspects that Orkney knows of her accusations and will have her killed if she stays much longer on the island.
Enter Drummond Graham, a man on a quest who is also sickened by the suffering he sees on the island. He meets Gemma when they both participate in the rescue of sailors from a shipwreck. Gemma tells Drummond that Orkney will be displeased with their efforts; since they rescued the sailors, Orkney will not be able to claim the ship’s cargo. Drummond is offended at this newest evidence of Orkney’s infamy and vows to protect Gemma any way he can. And, in return, Gemma offers to help him search for the person he is seeking. Will they be able to outwit the evil Earl of Orkney? And can they do this without losing their hearts in the process?
The book’s biggest problem is that, with the exception of the Earl’s wife, none of the characters are very interesting. In writing this review, I had to look up all of their names again, and I just finished reading the book! Gemma seems very undefined. Lynnford provides some of her background – she did this and then she did that – but who is she really? What matters to her besides her little pony, Ting? Drummond is very noble, despite his horrible childhood, but the quest he is on is rather impossible to fulfill, and, therefore, he seems a bit of a martyr. He’s also supposed to be very charming and irresistible to women, but other than a few sparkly moments, this description doesn’t pan out. Orkney borders on being interesting, but he isn’t quite three-dimensional. More like two and a half.
Also, since Orkney was so awfully, evilly bad, it is unclear why Gemma is still alive at the start of the book. He thinks she’s a threat to him, he has the means to dispose of her, and he is unscrupulous. Yet she lives. And she continues to live all through the book despite the relative ease with which she and Drummond could have met their untimely deaths. Orkney’s incompetent staff fails time and time again to do them in. Apparently it’s hard to get good help in the Shetland Islands.
The conflict between Gemma and Drummond is rather flimsy. She doesn’t like it that he won’t confide in her. He doesn’t think a woman and a quest go together. When the resolution comes, it’s kind of a “Duh” moment. What was all this angst about? Couldn’t this all have been resolved with only a modicum of communication? Also, the ending is too tidy.
So why isn’t this a D? Well, Orkney’s wife is fairly well rounded, actually. She’s in a bad marriage that was once good, and she’s making the best of the situation without being a victim or a shrew. Watching her manipulate Orkney was kind of fun. There are at least two plot twists that made the last half of the book a bit more interesting. The first one I could see coming from a mile away, but the second took me by surprise. And, finally, there were some sparkling moments between Gemma and Drummond. Their dialogue was occasionally amusing. There was a spark of something there that, if developed, could have been good. It’s too bad they spent most of the time thinking about how much they wanted to have sex despite that fact that a relationship between them was impossible.
The most I can say for Shetland Summer is that it wasn’t terrible. It had an intrigue that wasn’t intriguing and characters that are already fading in my memory. It had its moments, but, overall, it failed to engage me, so I can’t give this one a thumbs up.