In the early winter, when the holidays roll around, the world is awash in Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Year’s themed stories. Six months later it is summer, with July 4th (a holiday I am partial to)—but I realized that no one seems to celebrate summer in writing the same way we do in December. So I decided to pull together a “smattering” of summer stories—stories that feature and celebrate summer in the same way that Christmas stories celebrate Santa Claus.
Leading the pack: Shining in the Sun by Alex Beecroft, her first foray into a contemporary story. The cover alone, with its gold tones, ocean, and a surfer brought me right into the hot days of August. I’ve never been to the beach in England but I’ve been to the shore in the US plenty of times and Beecroft, with her usual lush prose, fully captures the sights, sounds, and scents—suntan lotion, fried foods, and the crash of the surf in the distance. Shining in the Sun takes place over the month of August—I shared Alec’s anticipation of his month-long respite away from family, work, and daily responsibilities; I shared his mounting anxiety as his vacation time drew short. Funny how a month seems endless on the first day of vacation but three weeks in, where has the time gone? Shining in the Sun is a book that begs to be read in August, while on holiday. If you haven’t done so yet, put it on your TBR list and pick it up in a few weeks—preferably at the beach.
Lessons in Desire, the second book in the very popular Cambridge Fellows series by Charlie Cochrane, features Jonty and Orlando on holiday on the Channel Island of Jersey. Orlando, straight-laced fellow that he is, learns to unwind a bit and enjoy traditional summer vacation activities: walking on the beach and collecting shells; eating fish and chips out of a newspaper packet; and yes, even a little skinny-dipping with a chaste, but public kiss. I’ve enjoyed all the stories in this series but Lessons in Desire stands out in my mind because of the lovely holiday setting and the relaxed and enjoyable time that Jonty and Orlando share, even in the midst of solving a murder.
Aidan and Colm spend quite a bit of time on the beach in The Rest of Our Lives by Dan Stone. Their sojurn in Provincetown, Massachusetts was particularly romantic. It made me wish the Tarot Inn really existed so I could stay in their beautifully appointed suite. The Pilgrim Monument does exist, however, and thinking of them making love atop of it, as a thunderstorm flashed in the sky around them—well, it was hot. They have magical powers and when they really get going they levitate, which is a particularly handy skill when having sex on the beach—which they do, quite a few times. Note that Colm and Aidan are a little more lusty than the characters in the preceding two books, but that was fine with me. It fit the tone and kept things sizzling for this hot summer book.
L.A. Heat by P.A. Brown takes a different view of summer: Detective David Laine is not on vacation but working hard in the blistering heat of Los Angeles in July and August. He is on the trail of a serial murderer, nicknamed “The Carpet Killer.” Golden-haired Chris Bellamere is an early suspect; with his fabulous California good looks, he should be on a surfboard, not in a line-up. As the investigation drags on, David gets hot under the collar, for more reasons than one. This is definitely a steamy summer book and one that I re-visit on a regular basis. Brutal killings as a comfort read? It works for me because I really love the developing romance between Chris and David in this first entry in the “L.A.” series.
My last two choices don’t feature summer quite as prominently, but it still comes through in the story. In Taming Groomzilla by E.N. Holland, Joel and Luke are busy planning their October wedding after an April proposal. One hot Saturday in July, Joel suggests that they go shopping for wedding rings, giving them the opportunity to spend a few hours in air conditioning. The owner of Page Jewelers is a longtime friend of Joel’s family; when he introduces Luke as his fiancé and explains the purpose of their visit, he notes Mrs. Page’s reaction:
I saw a slight shadow flicker across her face, a tiny look of disapproval in her eyes. I couldn’t really blame her. She was older, from a different generation. Men didn’t marry men in her day. Instead, they got thrown in jail.”
A bittersweet moment for the couple, one that contrasted with the heat of the day.
Perfect by Julia Talbot takes place over a year. It starts in July with Avery and Louis breaking up and concludes a year later when they finally get back together. It holds a particular place of affection in my heart because Avery shares a birthday with me (July 2nd) and like me, he always thinks the July 4th fireworks exist especially for him. It’s a very happy ending to a sweet book that I enjoyed very much.
So there you have it. A six-pack of summer treats, offered up for your enjoyment. All have been reviewed on this site. I include the links below if anyone wants to refresh their memory on what the reviewers had to say about each of them. And now, I ask the readers here: what are your favorite summer stories? Please share in the comments!
Shining in the Sun by Alex Beecroft (reviewed 6/9/2010; 4.5 stars)
Lessons in Desire (Cambridge Fellows #2) by Charlie Cochrane (reviewed 3/3/2009; 5 stars)
The Rest of Our Lives by Dan Stone (reviewed 9/29/2009; 4.75 stars)
L.A. Heat by P.A. Brown (reviewed 1/11/2010; 4.75 stars)
Taming Groomzilla by E.N. Holland (reviewed 9/4/2009; 4.5 stars)
Perfect by Julia Talbot (reviewed 3/8/2010; 4.25 stars)