Title: Just for the Summer
Author: Jenna Rutland
May Contain Spoilers
When I picked up Just for the Summer, I was leery. The premise gave me pause. It relied on too many convenient coincidences in order for the couple to have their HEA, and I just didn’t find it believable. Despite this reservation, the writing is so upbeat and the story is so emotionally charged that I couldn’t help but get caught up in the emotions of the story. It’s all about second chances and finding self-forgiveness, and finding your happiness after life kicks you in the teeth. It’s about hitting rock bottom and finding the strength to hope again. I found it unabashedly sappy, yet I finished the last page feeling satisfied and happy.
Dani is still recovering from the death of her mother a few months ago. She’s renting a cottage in Lake Bliss, Michigan to work on her recipe book, taking a break from her nursing job. She also has a secret. The real reason she’s in the small vacation town is to find the son she gave up for adoption eight years ago. She wants to reassure herself that he’s happy and has a loving home. It pushed the bounds of believability when she finds him so quickly, and in need of first aid. The perfect in for Dani to get closer to Sam. She discovers that his parents are divorced, and that his father, Matt, the town sheriff, has custody. Besides being single, Matt also happens to be sexy, compassionate, and in the market for a good woman to fill the void in his life and in his family. When Sam is diagnosed with a life-threatening health condition, Dani is called on to teach Matt and Sam how to manage his health.
While I had a hard time getting past all of these lucky breaks, I found that I couldn’t put my Kindle down. I liked Dani and Matt, and I wanted them to find the happiness that had been denied them. I liked the secondary characters, too. Lake Bliss seems like a cozy little place to set down roots, with everyone in town knowing everybody’s business – and trying to help out in times of need. There are no usual town snobs or drama queens, and the most adversity Dani faces, at least until her big secret is revealed, is Matt’s mother. Feeling threatened by Dani’s presence in their lives, and in her kitchen, Elaine offers only a little bit of opposition before Dani charms her, too. There’s not much external conflict for Dani to overcome; instead, she is waging a battle with herself. She feels guilty because she is in Matt and Sam’s lives under false pretenses, but she’s terrified to fess up. She knows that she will lose not only her son, but Matt as well.
I think the story worked for me because I was totally caught up Dani’s quest for inner peace. As she works her way through difficult choices she made as a young, damaged woman, she sees that she made the right one, even though it has haunted her every day for eight long years. Giving up her baby for adoption, hoping that her son would find a better life than she could offer, wasn’t easy. Not only did she face her own self-recrimination, other people in her life made no secret of their disapproval. Dani has felt the crushing burden of guilt for years, even as she was trying to come to terms with the awful things that had happened to her. She wasn’t emotionally or financially ready to raise a child, and recognizing that painful fact was the hardest realization that she had ever come to. That part of the story resonated with me; she deserved a second chance and she deserved to finally forgive herself for something that wasn’t her fault.
In the end, I found Just for the Summer sappy yet satisfying. Likable characters kept the pages turning, and I gobbled this up like it was a banana split (with extra fudge). This really is a great beach read, so check your skepticism at the door and just go with the flow of this feel good romance.
Grade: B with reservations noted above
Review copy provided by publisher