The Summer of You
The first fifty pages are not auspicious. Besides setting three different tones, the book introduces a heroine who bids fair promise to being spoiled, immature, and thoroughly anachronistic. But then the book takes a turn for the better. And oh, what a turn it takes.
Lady Jane Cummings is a socialite in perhaps the truest sense of the word: She loves socializing with people and she loves the ton. But her father’s ill health forces her family (consisting also of her erstwhile brother Jason) to retreat to the family home in the Lake District, near the village of Merrymere. There, she meets Byrne Worth, a London acquaintance who has come to recover from the war.
Byrne’s wounds lie on both the outside and inside and he doesn’t relish the prospect of having Lady Jane of Society Fame as a neighbour for the summer. Yet somehow they become friends and soul mates and, when Jane discovers Byrne is accused of highway robbery, she will do all she can to clear his name.
Which makes the book sound like a recipe for disaster, but it isn’t like that at all. The opening prologue sets the truest tone to the book – ignore chapter one, which makes no sense at all and pass over chapter two which scans a bit wonky. Head straight back in at chapters three and four which tell you first that this book is an ensemble story; that it is second a wittily and gracefully executed book; and that finally, it is beautifully, wonderfully romantic.
And I don’t say that lightly. How many romances really, and I mean really, stir the heart? This one did. Byrne and Jane are magic. I cannot overemphasize how well-suited and how convincing their relationship is. They both reveal depths that surprised me, particularly Jane, whose relationship to her father and brother strikes a realistic chord. Kate Noble depicts a young woman with human feelings and impulses, one whose youth makes her occasionally self-centred, but who has a good heart. The author also breathes well-needed life into the generic war hero and, while Byrne isn’t radically different, he is, simply, Byrne. Which is very good indeed.
And as if that weren’t enough, there’s the writing to consider. The opening chapters are more reminiscent of Meg Cabot than the confiding, fairy-tale prologue, and that’s not a good thing in an historical romance. However Ms. Noble’s prose takes wing once Jane journeys out of London – I particularly like the passage as she greets her childhood haunts. At its best, the writing evokes the timelessness of Charles Perrault and a wry acknowledgement of human frailties that reminds me of Jane Austen. (Really.) Add to that a title I find lovely in both its simplicity and its appropriateness, and clearly we havea winner here.
My biggest criticism is the unevenness of tone, but otherwise the ensemble cast is deftly handled, the romance is romantic, and the writing – just go and read the book. Kate Noble is a true find.