Sisters of Summer's End
Sisters of Summer’s End is a decent little story about two women who take a leap into bigger and better things after a lifetime of insular attitudes. While the book pulls focus on one of the romantic relationships fostered by one of our heroines, the best part of the story is their newfound friendship and how they become nurtured by and rooted in it.
Single mother Joy Lee is trying to keep her head above water while raising her five-year-old son Jack. She’s been working as an activities director at Cooper’s Charm, a lakeside RV resort, since he was in utero; thanks to the generous terms of her employment, she lives at the resort in a small apartment, and busies herself otherwise by centering her world entirely around Jack. She’s comfortable in Woodbine, Ohio, with her multiple work friends, but she’s still afraid to open up to other people and new relationships. Burned by her cheating ex and her disowned by her distant, rich parents for marrying him, she’s learned that it’s best to keep most people at a distance.
Joy’s been aware of the self-contained but incredibly kind Maris Kennedy for a while yet has never had a real conversation with her until now. Maris has been working at the resort’s camp store, Summer’s End, for much longer than Joy’s been in Cooper’s Charm, and has been closed off from others from much longer than that. When the pair of them begin chatting over morning coffee, it’s Maris who nudges Joy back into the dating scene – and Joy who pushes Maris into reconsidering her own lonely, closed-off life.
Joy is smitten at first sight with the handsome Royce Nakirk when he hangs out at Summer’s End. Royce, who has been busy attending the deathbed of his grandmother for the past year, hasn’t had romance on his mind either; he’s trying to learn the ropes of running the drive-in that he’s inherited. Royce and Joy try to keep things platonic as they work out a special event at the drive-in for the resort’s customers, but the more time they spend together, the deeper into love they fall. Things threaten to change when Joy’s grandmother passes away and a stipulation in her will requires Joy to spend time with the people she hates the most. Can she do it?
Meanwhile, Maris begins a flirtation with Daron Hardy, the twenty-five-year-old camp handyman. Maris has never put her employment before her personal life – a childhood filled with poverty has ensured that she values her job above all else. When a dog named Chaos enters their lives and begins to pull them together, will she too have the courage to reach out and enjoy life?
Sisters of Summer’s End is a slice of warm and sweet women’s fiction, but it’s sometimes an awkward fit for Lori Foster’s erotica-heavy storytelling methods. The story gets sporadically sacrificed for another sex scene the narrative doesn’t need to propel it along its winding pathway. The friendship between Maris and Joy ends up being much more interesting than the two love stories, but those romances also aren’t the most original things on the planet. Yet the character work is charming, and the story engagingly told enough to earn a qualified recommendation.
Of the two women, I found Joy the more emotionally accessible, though Maris is a closed-off mystery for a little longer than she is for a good narrative reason. Both are relatable young women who have years left to live but are so walled off it requires someone exactly like them to make a hole and let the sunshine in. This does mean that they act in occasionally juvenile ways when they’re together; their lack of social experience in the romance department goes a long way to explain the way they react to the re-entrance of romance into their lives. But the central relationships were all good, even heartwarming, to watch play out.
A few of the late-book conflicts didn’t work for me. After all they’d been through I didn’t buy that Joy would think that Royce was after her for her money. Meanwhile, Maris’ resistance to the realization that Daron’s sexually attracted to her – even after they’d made love – made a lot more sense. There are also a lot of cute dog and kid antics, and of those I’d take Chaos’ gambolings over Jack’s; sometimes he felt a little too cardboard to be believable.
But in spite of my small quibbles with its storytelling methods, Sisters of Summer’s End is a fine summer beach read, and Foster’s fans are bound to love it.
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