Sunday, August 29, 2010

A Summer to Remember by Mary Balogh

Book Description:
Kit Butler is cool, dangerous, one of London's most infamous bachelors - marriage is the last thing on his mind. But Kit's family has other plans. Desperate to thwart his father's matchmaking, Kit needs a bride . . . fast. Enter Miss Lauren Edgeworth.

A year after being abandoned at the altar, Lauren has determined that marriage is not for her. When these two fiercely independent souls meet, sparks fly-and a deal is hatched. Lauren will masquerade as Kit's intended if he agrees to provide a passionate, adventurous, unforgettable summer. When summer ends, she will break off the engagement, rendering herself unmarriageable and leaving them both free. Everything is going perfectly - until Kit does the unthinkable: He begins to fall in love. A summer to remember is not enough for him. But how can he convince Lauren to be his . . . for better, for worse, for the rest of their lives?

I really loved the prequel to this book, One Night for Love which I read about a year ago.  That was a story about the Earl of Kilbourne.  Right before he is about to marry his childhood friend, Lauren Edgeworth, he finds out his long lost love - the wife who he has believed to be dead - is alive!  The wedding is dramatically interrupted with her appearance and after much ado, they live happily ever after.

A Summer to Remember is the jilted Lauren's story.  A year after being left at the altar she meets up with Kit Butler a man about town.  Kit's complicated and has alot of family baggage to deal with.  Due to the unexpected death of his older brother, Kit is the heir to the family title and he's hiding a mountain of guilt and anguish beneath a carefree, rakish facade.  When we first see Kit he is bare chested, fighting with two rough and common men in the park.  This is a regency, so to say the least this is a pretty amazing sight in broad daylight.  The prim and proper Lauren Edgeworth witnesses the scene, but she is too ladylike to comment upon it, best to act as if she never saw anything.  Yet she can't forget his bare chest - or the way their eyes meet as he kisses a grateful milkmaid who thanks him for defending her - the reason for the brawl.

Eventually, they meet again at a ball and Kit, who's in the market for a wife, sets his sights (due to a wager) on Lauren.  She is the epitome of the pure, demure and oh so respectable young lady - despite the embarrassment of her near-marriage the year before.  Lauren has her troubles as well, though it takes her a long time to realize them.  She and Kit become friends and there's an attraction there, both are handsome and beautiful people. They make a bargain to pretend they are getting married so that she can "break off" the engagement at the end of the summer and then go off and have a house of her own in Bath and he can appease his family for a while by appearing responsible by marrying a respectable girl of his own choosing, rather than an arranged marriage with the daughter of a neighboring estate.

Now, right off the bat, you know this is all going to lead to a lot of heartache and trouble.  Lauren wants to have a little excitement and passion in her life (which it has been sorely lacking in) and Kit is the man to help her do it.  It became extremely frustrating for the more time they spent together, the more Kit fell in love - and his family loved her too!  Yet despite all of this,  Lauren kept insisting that they should stick to their bargain and not marry - even after they've had sex!  How wanton! ;) What is she thinking?  She's under the wrong impression that he's still in love with the wild and charismatic daughter next door, Freyja Bedwyn, no matter how much Kit tries to prove otherwise.  She thinks they would be perfect together.  Coincidence how Freyja's name sounds like "Free", she represents all that Lauren wants to be - free.  I did not like Freyja at all by the way.

I wasn't overly won over by Lauren either, primarily because it bothered me that she insisted on not marrying Kit throughout the entire book, even though she had her reasons which were obviously misguided.  I understood where she was coming from, but it still irked me; frustrating.  She was somewhat of an ice queen that melts.  I loved Kit and Lauren's frolicking and romantic bantering together and Kit really works on bringing the real Lauren up to the surface.  He teaches her how to enjoy the simple things in life: swimming, riding, climbing trees - and making love.   Balogh is wonderful at this kind of writing, creating relationships and emotions, which made it all the more frustrating to me, for I really sided with Kit and felt like kicking Lauren for what she put him through!  Plus, I couldn't exactly condone the sexual relationship because I knew Lauren wouldn't marry him - I'm a stickler in that respect.

In addition to the up front romantic storyline between Kit and Lauren, there's also a nice symmetry to the book as both hero and heroine fight their own private demons and win.   Kit has his cathartic moment patching up the difficulties with his brother, Syd, and coming to terms with the loss of Syd's arm and almost dying.  Kit has been carrying around a huge burden of guilt needlessly for years feeling he was responsible for Syd's loss.  Finally, Kit can let go of it.   Lauren has her cathartic moment as well by finding out her mother did not abandon her as a child by just disappearing.  It turns out that it's an entirely different kind of story that brings closure to Lauren and her need for acceptance which was the reason for why she had always been such a good and perfect little girl and eventually - young lady.  Good but boring.  Each were instrumental in helping the other, it created a bond between them and it made their relationship more meaningful - yet still Lauren could not admit she wanted to marry Kit!  And still Kit could not tell her he loved her.  After all that!  They were both at fault here since they couldn't speak up and say how they felt!  Grr!  As it's mentioned in the book, communication is key and that is what eventually sets them "free."  It's a great moment when they finally get there!

It's a wonderful ending, though I did find it a bit jarring that they enacted almost the same exact scene between Lauren's ex-fiance Kilbourne and his wife, Lily that Lauren accidentally witnessed in the first book - a little weird. I would have preferred that they had their own new scenes. Same thing with Lauren and Kit's wedding at Newbury, the scene of her first "almost" wedding.   I know,  I know, banish those old bad memories with new good ones, but still!  I wanted Kit and Lauren to have their own fresh and different memories!

All in all, this was a good romance with a lot of emotional complexity and angst to it.  But, I felt the daring deeds that Lauren agrees to with Kit unrealistic, particularly in giving up her virginity to him with no intention of marrying him.  I see how it's all part of the way we see Lauren completely blossom in the story and by the end I liked her, but I still couldn't help holding it against her the way she wouldn't marry Kit after all they'd gone through together.  She just refused to believe he really wanted her and not Freyja!  Sometimes Lauren was so dense, plus she had almost no sense of humor.

This book sets the reader up for the Slightly Series which features the unusual Bedwyn family next door (and the awful Freyja!)  Also, one of Lauren's friends, Gwen, Lady Muir deserves a book of her own and I hear Ms. Balogh will be writing it soon - I'm so pleased to hear it! I really liked Gwen, I hope she winds up with that tall Viking of a Bedwyn - or at least one of them, yet I suspect it will be someone totally new!

To sum it up, it's not as good as the first book in the series, but it was an enjoyable read. It was frustrating that the heroine kept insisting on not marrying the hero, but it was a well thought out, beautiful story of how both come to terms with their painful family histories and how they help each other become whole again.



Carrie at In the Hammock Blog said...

Sounds good to me!! I have only read one short story by this author, but I loved it!! I really need to read more by her. Great review!!

Julie at Outlandish Dreaming said...

Carrie, I'm surprised you've never read any of her books, she's the queen of romance, and as much as I had my problems with this book and the heroine, it was beautifully written and well thought out.

Yvette said...

I love Mary Balogh, too. Though I haven't read any of her newest books lately. No reason why except that I've just been reading other things. But I have tons, I mean TONS of Mary Balogh's earlier books on my special paperback bookshelf. Mostly Signet Regencies. If I had to pick my one favorite book of hers (an almost impossible task!) I'd pick LORD CAREW'S BRIDE. Have you read that one, Julie? Oh gosh, I love it. OMG, and have you read THE SECRET PEARL?? Jeez, it is almost impossible to find. But I have a copy. If you want to borrow it, let me know. It's one of Balogh's ground breaking books. By the way, speaking of Regencies, have you ever read Edith Layton's books? She's another queen of regencies, far as I'm concerned. She's passed away now, but she left behind some wonderful books. Another one I love is Carla Kelly - do you know her work? These three writers have different styles, but they all have one thing in common: They KNOW how to write an inventive, interesting, thoughtful, beautiful and sometimes funny (in Carla Kelly's case) love story with just something extra added. An indefinable something. Oh gosh, I could go on and on, but I won't. Ha!

Julie at Outlandish Dreaming said...

Yvette, I've only read two MB books, but will def. read more! I've heard of the other authors, I read Kelly's "Marrying the Captain" last year, but that's the only one. Thanks for the recommendations, I'm always looking for new authors!

Loving Amelia again in my current audio book, I'm giggling through the whole thing!

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