Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Romance Review: The Sweetest Summer (Bayberry Island #2) by Susan Donovan

A mermaid statue could be the cause of heartbreak or everlasting romance for a practical-minded police chief and his first love—in the second of the delicious Bayberry Island trilogy by national bestselling author Susan Donovan....

Every instinct told Police Chief Clancy Flynn that his island’s claim to fame was nothing but a silly tourist attraction. But now and then, he couldn’t help but wonder if his lifetime of bad romances—starting with the pretty tourist who broke his twelve-year-old heart—could be traced back to a childhood prank involving that very statue....

Then one day the pretty tourist comes barreling back into Bayberry—all grown-up and on the run with her niece. Though Evelyn McGuinness is wanted for kidnapping, she tries to persuade Clancy that there’s more to the story. Now the by-the-book police chief must make the toughest decision of his life: to take Evelyn into custody—or into his arms.

The Author is Born
I grew up in the Cincinnati suburb of Milford, Ohio and spent my formative years in the cineplex, the mall, the drive-in, and the convertible MG of some guy named Gary. My mother claims I was destined to be a writer. As a kindergartner, I reported that I’d just seen a giraffe, elephant and rhinoceros at the bus stop. When Mom told me I was a good storyteller, I assured her that it was not a story, but the absolute truth! (See mediocre journalism career summary below…)

The Author Is Catapulted Into the World
I wrote for the school newspaper in high school, but never made it into a position of authority – the journalism adviser told me I was "too spasmodic" to be editor. I also starred in drama club plays and hosted excellent cast parties. I earned a scholarship to be a summer foreign exchange student in Japan, then headed off to college at Northwestern University, events that forced me to conclude that there was, in fact, life outside Southwestern Ohio. Why wasn’t I informed? I look back upon my college years in Chicago and marvel that I was able to graduate and still have such a fine time. In 1983, I walked away with a degree in journalism and a minor in Japanese language and sociology, just in time for the recession. Because the only job I could find was at a Chicago phone sex service, I decided to go back for my master’s degree. I know, I know. Hindsight is 20/20.

Very Odd Jobs
My first job out of grad school was as a staff reporter at The Daily Southtown, on Chicago’s Southwest Side. I was a somewhat snobbish, ridiculously enthusiastic young woman promptly put in my place by the mean streets of Bridgeport and Burbank. My sincere thanks go out to the Southtown boys who teased me mercilessly, gave me a nickname that should have resulted in legal action, and showed me how to get along with cops, politicians and city editors – in other words, generally ruined me for polite society thereafter. Thanks guys. I owe you. Next, I did an internship at the Chicago Tribune, where I learned the nasty truth about gender politics and static electricity. I then packed up my red Dodge Omni and my cat and drove cross-country to work for two years at the Albuquerque Tribune. New Mexico is the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen, and it will always be special to me. But I missed my boyfriend, and moved back to Chicago. (I’m a romantic at heart, right?) I spent the next year working in corporate public relations for a company that has since, shall we say, hit the skids. It was not entirely my fault. When my boyfriend finished medical school, we moved together to Indianapolis for his residency and my job at the now-defunct Indianapolis News (also not my fault.) We got married in September 1989. Unfortunately, Hurricane Hugo destroyed our honeymoon hotel in the Virgin Islands, our luggage got lost somewhere between the US mainland and Puerto Rico, and we spent our wedding night in fleabag motel near the Atlanta airport that housed the overflow from a nearby Army base. This made us pause and ask, "Mmm…is this some kind of omen?" It was.

The Author’s Family Life
My husband joined a small-town medical practice in Maryland about an hour from Baltimore/Washington and I went to work for a member of Congress. In my opinion, there are some things a person simply does not need to know in order to lead a happy life, such as: what really goes on behind closed doors at the U.S. Capitol? I ran from that job before delivering my first child. (Okay – I waddled.) My kids – now ages thirteen and eleven – are the most important part of my life. However, I am not strong enough to be a full-time mom and have resorted to a variety of part-time jobs in an effort to stay somewhat sane. These jobs have included fund-raiser for a symphony orchestra, communications consultant, free-lance journalist and painted furniture artist – a creative pursuit I still enjoy.

Susan Donovan has a knack for writing books that make the reader emotionally involved.  Her characters are always so real, and the storyline is always so believable.  So when The Sweetest Summer showed up at my doorstep, I was so excited to take an emotional ride with Susan and some of her characters again.  

This time, it's a story of first love finding it's way back to one another again.  Such a deeply moving subject matter that is pieced together with memories of the past - something Ms. Donovan does flawlessly.  Her ability to take the past and weave it in with the future creates a very strong emotional connection between the reader and her characters.  It makes the story believable and gives the reader a strong sense of longing - a longing for the two of them to find their happily ever after.  

Of course, no love story is complete without obstacles.  And this one is big.  Especially when it creates a seemingly impossible scenario for the hero - a man who works hard and appreciates the boundaries of his job, but who finds himself lost in love with a woman who interferes with the morality of his profession.  His predicament makes the situation between the two of them feel all the more real, and the tension it brings them is what keeps the reader frantically turning the pages.  

It's a genuinely sweet and charming romance that does it's job extremely well - it isn't just a book you've read, it's an experience that you'll not soon forget.  

Rating:  5 stars

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  All conclusions reached are my own.   


holdenj said...

Sounds like a good romance with the end of summer approaching. I think the mermaid statue is interesting too.

Elizabeth H. said...

I really enjoyed the book! Thanks for sharing your review!

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