What Happens in Summer
Books with Hispanic heroines are rare, so I was excited that What Happens in Summer had a leading lady with Cuban heritage. Unfortunately, that heritage played no significant part in the story and the book itself was a very average romance.
Connie Reyes has a plan for her life, a plan that doesn’t include being dependent on a man. Ever. For anything. So, when she falls in love with Jonathan (Jon) Pierce during summer break while still in college, she’s stunned. That hadn’t been on the agenda, but she creates a new dream where they go to school near each other, graduate, marry and have fab careers, together every step of the way. When Jon informs her that he plans to quit college, Connie explodes. Her father was irresponsible and undependable, and she can’t have that in her life again. The two have a nasty breakup and part company with anger and hurt on both sides.
Seven years down the road and they are both leading romance novel lives. Jon is now
…revolutionizing the motor vehicle and battery industries with his innovative designs, unconventional methods, and fearless experiments.
Connie is a hot shot lawyer who is being considered for partner. And, of course, she
…had persuaded her firm’s partners into taking on quite a number of small clients who might not otherwise have been able to obtain the kind of representation needed for their legal issues
because romance novel heroines have heart along with their ambition.
The two would have gone on ignoring and avoiding each other forever but unfortunately it is not to be. Her best friend and Jon’s brother are in love. But it’s complicated. There is some sort of family feud separating them, and the couple doesn’t have the cojones to deal with the problem on their own. Enter Jon and Connie, who in the name of supporting their friends and family, wind up seeing each other again. The setup for our reunion romance is complete.
Naturally they are attracted to each other, but Connie doesn’t see Jon’s net worth and successful company as a sign of maturity. (Wait, what?) She’s noticed how often he appears in the papers, photographed with models and doing other fun things (the horror) and feels that’s proof that he won’t be there for her. Jon, meanwhile, knows that Connie’s great fear is to have another deadbeat in her life and buys a rescue dog. Because owning a successful company and creating complex engines isn’t responsible but it’s not like they let just anyone own a dog. (Eyeroll)
There is some truth to the adage that romance novels are generic, that they are in some ways similar and rote. The best of them either break that barrier or use it to their advantage and I’ve read excellent books that do either or both of those things. I’ve also read some very good books that use standard tropes and typical plotlines and still deliver a wonderful story. My problem here is that Ms. Pinero delivers too many clichés and doesn’t cover that with sufficient charm to make up for it.
The characters’ argumentative and often hostile relationship, especially on the part of Connie, contributed a lot to that feeling. Connie gives Jon no chance to explain his own dreams or plans before denouncing them as being irresponsible. When he makes a ton of money and is successful enough to be in the news, she dismisses that, too. She is constantly needing to have everything be on her terms and her way, something I found difficult to deal with. While those things grated on me, given that I have read lots and lots of heroines just like this one, I guess that character type must be popular with someone. Which is why she feels very generic, especially in regard to her positive attributes. Her beauty, intelligence, and desire to be involved in social justice are all par for the course in contemporary heroines.
Jon himself is so bland he almost blends into the page. He is attractive, successful and caring, as is required of the modern hero. Naturally, he loves our heroine to pieces and just couldn’t get her out of his mind. I could, most likely, name a hundred just like him.
When the two get together, it is a spur of the moment decision that still leaves all their problems on the table. The good news is that the author does have them resolve their issues as the story goes on, but the bad news is that it involves a lot more romance novel clichés.
I really struggled with grading What Happens in Summer. My primary complaint with the book was that it was entirely predictable and that almost every piece of it was similar in some way to lots of other romance novels on the market. The fact that it is so homogenous in every way means that readers who pick it up can expect to receive a very average read.