The Girl from Summer Hill
I had my doubts in the opening pages as the heroine spots a gorgeous naked man on her porch. When I discovered this is another homage to Pride and Prejudice I rolled my eyes. What was I in for? It turns out I was in for a fun romance in which a local theater company is putting on P&P with most of the main characters playing the P&P character they resemble. At times I found myself thinking of characters both by their actual name and their stage name. But while it may sound confusing, most of all, it’s delightful!
Chef Casey Reddick is staying at the guesthouse of a Summer Hill, Virginia estate, catering for auditions at the local theater company. When things went south in her latest relationship, she quit her job and moved to Virginia to get to know her sperm donor father.
Early one morning Casey sees a gorgeous, naked man on her porch. Instead of being embarrassed, the man’s furious when he spots her. Casey thinks he’s rude and demands he leave. We learn there’s a shower near the porch, and the man – Tatton Landers – has a good reason for being angry. He’s a movie star and assumes Casey took photographs of him.
Tate owns the estate, and is there for a brief visit with an actor friend. It’s no surprise Casey didn’t recognize him. Tate’s known for playing brooding, romantic heroes in historic films, and Casey’s not a fan of the genre.
Casey hopes to have nothing further to do with Tate, but that’s not to be. Tate’s cousin– the man producing P&P – cons Tate into playing Mr. Darcy for the auditions of the Elizabeth character, and Casey’s there as caterer. None of the women auditioning for Lizzie can handle playing a scene with Tate, they’re awestruck. Casey is manipulated into showing them how to act, since she so clearly dislikes Tate. Of course, she nails it and wins the part of Lizzie.
Just like Elizabeth Bennett, Casey is initially taken in by the Wickham of the piece, Tate’s former brother-in-law, Devlin. I appreciate, however, that while Casey initially likes Devlin, she begins to have some doubts after getting to know Tate better.
The best parts for me are Casey and Tate’s interactions. I enjoyed seeing Casey learn Tate is so much more than her first impression. He’s funny, kind, and a wonderful lover. Tired of being typecast as the historic hero, he longs to star in a comedy or horror movie. But like in P&P, Casey doesn’t understand Tate’s relationship with Devlin, since Tate will say nothing. Tate could easily have destroyed his former brother-in-law in the press, but kept his honor and protected his sister and niece; if you can’t accept that type of behavior in a modern-day hero, you’ll despise this story.
The author put numerous interesting spins on P&P, while remaining faithful to the basic tale. The author also injects a lot of humor into the story; from the clearly modern headings to some wonderful escapades involving Tate’s addiction to Casey’s baked goods.
Just a few minor issues keep this from being a DIK. I question Casey’s seeming ability to do so many things at once: cater for the company, rehearse for her part in the play, and maintain a fairly active social life with many other characters. It also seems odd that although Casey came to Summer Hill to get to know her father, he virtually never appears. There are a few incidents relating to Devlin that make Casey seem a bit gullible, which while true to P&P, were still difficult for me.
Despite featuring a large number of characters I never had trouble keeping them all straight. This is apparently the start of a new series featuring the next generation of some of the author’s earlier key families. I’ll definitely look for future books by the author, as this was a lot of fun.