May 29, 2012

Review: Summer Days by Susan Mallery

Source: we received an e-ARC of the book through NetGalley for review purposes.

Note: this review is long, contains spoilers and is a bit ranty. You have been warned.

Summer Days is the newest installment in a series that’s become a representative of small town romances joining the likes of Virgin River, Shelter Bay and Destiny. This is the 7th book in the series, and although the characters were introduced in the previous books, it stands alone perfectly well.

Heidi Simpson and her grandfather are the most recent residents of Fool’s Gold. They live in a farm outside of town where she raises goats and makes cheese. Yes, there’s another Heidi quite like this one. She’s happy to finally have a steady home because she grew up on a carnival going from town to town, and even though her childhood was happy, she longed for a steadier existence. But her grandfather is an irresponsible fool who’s about to jeopardize all that took lots of hard work to build. His friend has cancer and needs a lot of money to save his life, so grandpa decides to sell the farm in order to get the money. Problem one: he doesn’t plan to actually give up the farm; problem two: the farm isn’t his to sell because Heidi is the actual owner. So when the buyer takes them to court for fraud, they both can end up in jail, even if she didn’t know about it.

The logical thing is that they must give the farm to the buyers, pay the money back and/or go to jail, right? Well, there’s nothing logical about this book and this is when things start to go downhill. Since they can’t pay the money, and they won’t leave the farm (are you wondering why no one forces them out, the police, maybe?) the judge goes for the next best thing (no, not jail!): Heidi, grandpa and the buyer must go live together in the farm and figure out what to do about it all. The only one that’s slightly rational and angry about all this is our hero, Rafe Striker, the buyer’s son. They all used to live in the farm, many years ago. They were dirt poor and Rafe had to take care of his mother and siblings after their father died. Now, a self-made tycoon, he can’t understand why his mother would want to go back to a place filled with sad memories, and wants to see Heidi and her grandfather in jail. But his mother, who’s even more foolish than everyone else in the book put together, tells him to do nothing against them, so instead he also moves in to keep an eye on things.

Can you guess what comes next? I bet you can: Heidi and Rafe fall in love and (Spoiler Alert!) So do grandpa and mom. There’s also the necessary sequel bait, a matchmaker, an estranged sister that’s actually the book’s highlight, and a ridiculous misunderstanding that leads to an almost book-meet-wall moment. 

This book didn’t work for me, and I think it’s quite clear why. The setting is too unbelievable to work. This is a Contemporary Romance so I expect it to make sense, not much, but enough as not to be distracting. I know that in real life hot tycoons don’t fall for goat girls, but I draw the line at plot devices like the one found in Summer Days. The grandfather broke the law, he should pay the money back or give up the farm, and maybe go to jail. 

Perhaps I’m being too harsh, but this is not the only issue I had with the book. I can suspend disbelief and enjoy farfetched plots, but everything else has to work. Unfortunately, I also found the characters lacking. Heidi reads way too similar to previous heroines in the series, the triplets in particular. There’s no uniqueness to her, yes, she has the goats and the farm, she’s cute, she wants to belong, her friend died, etc. Is not that I didn’t like her, but I didn’t care for her one way or the other, she was bland. Also, there’s a pattern here: Charity, book one’s heroine, was cute, wanted to belong and a family; Dakota, book four’s heroine, was also cute, and desperately wanted a baby and her own family; and now Heidi, has similar wants and personality to them (and those goats sure are cute). 

Rafe was quite typical. Grew up poor and now is rich, has daddy, mommy and commitment issues, but he wants a family, so he hires a matchmaker to find him the perfect wife. This matchmaker is wasted in the story because the fact that he’s looking for someone is not a cause for conflict. Heidi finds about it once they are together, and she gets upset just to forgive him immediately. I liked him because he’s the character with the most common sense, although to be fair Heidi isn’t happy with the situation either, but he also lacked chemistry with Heidi. I couldn’t picture them together, didn’t see why they fell for each other and I wasn’t emotionally invested in them as a couple.

The only secondary character that I thoroughly enjoyed, and she only has a tiny role so I wouldn’t even call her secondary, is Rafe’s estranged sister. She has more personality than everyone else in the book, and her background was very interesting and great for a potential story. However, I’m not even sure if she’s going to be a recurrent secondary character, maybe she will get a novella and her hero will be Rafe’s lawyer, I hope so. I just wish I had read her story instead.

And finally, the book-meet-wall moment. This is a spoiler so look away if you don’t want to know. Rafe wants to develop the farm’s land and build some condos. Heidi freaks out when she finds about it, but instead of confronting him, she fakes some cave paintings to fool the town and the archaeologist into preserving the area. Thankfully, the plan fails, but not before I was infuriated, needless to say she doesn’t go to jail for this either. She never confronts him, she just assumes that the only reason he’s been sleeping with her is to take away her land. It’s not her land, at least not until they pay the money back. But even if it were, why not talk to him. There was so much miscommunication, unbelievable plot developments and immature characters that I’m amazed I was able to finish the book.

Having said all that, there are plenty of positive reviews out there, including some from bloggers I respect and follow. Maybe I found the setting so unbelievable that I became predisposed, which, in turn, made me unable to enjoy the rest. Perhaps you will enjoy it more than I did.

ETA: now that I've read Kaetrin's review, I remembered another WTF part. Heidi's lawyer suggests Heidi to do anything possible to make Rafe like her and drop the charges, and by anything possible I mean sleep with him. Yes, this is one good lawyer right there, did I mention the lawyer's a woman? No? Well, there you go. I was very nice when I gave this book a two. 

Review by Brie
Grade: 2
Sensuality: McSexy
Purchase: Amazon


Locked in an unexpected land dispute, Rafe Stryker is trapped in the one place he vowed never to return to – the Castle Ranch in Fool’s Gold, California. He made millions facing ruthless adversaries in the boardroom, but nothing could’ve prepared him to go head-to-head against stubborn, beautiful Heidi Simpson. No one is more surprised than Rafe to discover that he’s finding Heidi – and life as a cowboy – much more compelling than he wants to admit. For Heidi, the Castle Ranch is the home she’s always wanted. After a life on the road, the vivacious blonde has finally put down roots. She won’t give that up without a fight, not even for a man whose late-night kisses make her yearn to be a little less…wholesome. As the two turn from passionate adversaries to passionate, period, they’ll discover that summer love can last a lifetime.

HQN Books. May 29, 2012


  1. Already on my bookshelf.. Can't wait to read the next Fool's Gold books...

    1. Hey Kathleen! I hope you enjoy ;-)

  2. I love when you start your reviews off with a rant warning!!!

    This author is on my list of "never again" and I'm ok with being the minority in this!

    1. Ha, I don't love it as much, since it means that the book was a PITA!

      And now I want to know why she's on you "never again" list. If it makes you feel better, I have lots of author on my "hell no!" list that everyone else seems to love.

  3. This sounds like a whole lot of fuggery going on in this book Brie. And I'm with you wholeheartedly about the unbelievability of not only the situation, but the characters actions as well. And the lawyer needs a good smack in the head for even suggesting something like that. I don't even know how you managed to finish this one.

    1. "Fuggery" LOL! I'm stealing that word, it's awesome! I managed to finished it because I'm fan and wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt until the very end. But no more.

  4. I remember reading Fools Gold which by Susan Mallery but I think I'll give this a miss. Bummer because some of her work is pretty good.

    1. Most of her works is good, but she dropped the ball big time here.

  5. Ouch. You told me about this book - the cave painting - while you were reading it... and reading your review, I thought perhaps it'd be another book, because seriously, I don't see how cave painting fit in this one. Guess I was wrong LOL.

    Ah well, this time, I'm determined to stay firm, not getting this book. You know, I was reading Lucky in Love by Jill Shalvis the other day and I kept mixing up Lucky Harbor and Fool's Gold. Like some of the characters. I was sure Heidi was from Lucky Harbor ^_^;

    I think it's time for Ms Mallery to move on another premises. The fact that Heidi doesn't stand out as an heroine is proof.

    Thanks for taking one for the team :)

  6. I still don't get WHY WAS HEIDI BLAMED IN ALL THIS?!?! It's HER farm! She had nothing to do with selling it! Why is she a victim?! Gah! Great review and you're right, LOTS of great reviews out there. I too was wondering if I was the only one who didn't love. But really could you not think this book was a bit 'out there'? ;)

  7. I enjoyed your honest review. It's nice to see other peoples opinions about books. I enjoyed Summer Days. Made me laugh in several places, which is a plus for me. I like to enjoy my books, believable or not, and Susan has such a great way of bringing characters and the town to life. I've never been disappointed with any of her books/series.


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