Summer is for Lovers by Jennifer McQuiston

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His heart is unavailable.
Luckily, her interest lies in the rest of him…

Though she was just a girl when they first met, Caroline Tolbertson’s infatuation with David Cameron remains undimmed. Now fate has brought the handsome Scotsman back to Brighton for what promises to be an unforgettable summer. Soon, Caroline will have to choose a husband, but for now she is free to indulge her curiosity in things of a passionate nature.

That is, if David will agree to teach her.

Past mistakes have convinced David he’ll make a terrible husband, though he’ll gladly help the unconventional Caroline find a suitor. Unfortunately, she has something more scandalous in mind. As the contenders for her hand begin to line up, her future seems assured…provided David can do the honorable thing and let them have her.

When a spirited young woman is determined to break Society’s rules, all a gentleman can do is lend a hand
… or more.

Publisher and release date: Avon, September, 2013

RHL Classifications:
Time and setting: Brighton, 1831 and 1842
Genre: Historical romance
Heat level: 2
Reviewer rating: 5 stars

Review by Maria Almaguer

This is Jennifer McQuiston’s sophomore novel, and it is just as wonderful as her unique and engrossing debut, What Happens in Scotland.

I loved Caroline Tolbertson. I felt for her, her gangly-ness and awkwardness with her height and lack of fashion sense, her passionate love of swimming, her deep love for her shy sister, Penelope, and her reluctant desire to fit in at the same time as she doesn’t want to care about it at all. Swimming is Caroline’s passion and a connection to her late father along with her love for Brighton and the sea. I was struck by how its sometimes rough seas often calmed her.

David Cameron, a Scotsman visiting Brighton with his sickly mother, was running from a secret sorrow in his past when Caroline saved him from drowning, eleven years before. Despite his mother’s matchmaking intentions, he has no desire to marry. In fact, to dispel unsavory rumors he’s heard about Caroline, he inspires the gentlemen in Brighton to view her in a different light and pursue her, emphasizing her physical assets including her athleticism and long legs. The scene the morning after Miss Baxter’s racy party, when a gang of suitors call on Caroline, is hilarious. But as they shower their attentions on her, David finds he wants her for himself, against his better judgement. It sometimes exasperated me (and Caroline, too) when he pushed her toward other men yet told her the myriad reasons why none of them is good enough for her; in other words, if he can’t have her, he doesn’t want anyone else to have her either.

The detailed descriptions of swimming were vivid and fascinating. I especially enjoyed reading about Caroline’s distasteful experience in the bathing machines, designed to transport women into the water to swim privately as it was unseemly and unladylike for women to actually be seen swimming. The swimming competition was a great moment in the story but I’m sure the author stretched the truth by having a female swimming publicly against gentlemen in 1842. And when Caroline saved a drowning boy, it stunned me that society would be more scandalized by a lady swimming than the necessity of saving a human being.

Caroline’s older sister, Penelope – Pen, for short – is sweet and charming in an absent-minded way. At first I thought, with her gentle demeanor, that she was the younger sister. Indeed, Caroline seemed protective of her sister’s nervous stammer and of their sad social situations when, in fact, Pen was just as protective of Caroline, albeit secretly. I liked Pen so much I would love to read her happy ending someday.

It was very interesting to me to read about a resident of Brighton, that popular seaside resort town, which wealthy Londoners descended upon during the tourist season. Its relaxed social atmosphere reminded me of Bath as portrayed in Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, when Catherine Morland and her friends went around unchaperoned with much more freedom than would have been permitted in London.

The sea and beach descriptions were richly portrayed. I could almost taste the salt, smell the humid, damp air, and feel the sand in the way Ms McQuiston employed the imagery evoked by the sea. For example:

David’s attraction to Caroline:

In a sea of frivolity and artfully placed curls, she stood out like a lighthouse beacon. Only he was pulled toward, not away from, her rocky shores.” (p44)

Their second kiss:

He surged against her mouth like an incoming tide, determined and powerful and impossible to stem. (p84)

And David’s reaction to another man’s attentions to Caroline:

The reminder of how he had unleashed the swain on Caroline grated like sand in places best left unmentioned. (p135)

The slowly growing romance between David and Caroline was almost bittersweet; she does not hide the fact that she loves him, ever. He has to come to terms with accepting her love and must move on with his life after a youthful scandal. David’s wedding gift to Caroline moved me; he knows her so well. That’s what true love is.

This book is loosely connected to McQuiston’s debut, What Happens in Scotland in which David Cameron is a good friend of James MacKenzie, the hero of that novel. It can be read as a standalone.

Summer is for Lovers is a beautifully told, sweet and sexy romance, rich in its vivid descriptions of Brighton, its lively summer visitors and culture, and strict adherence to convention and decorum.

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