This week Morgan and Whitney are Dishing about contemporary romance novel Secrets of the Lost Summer, which earned Carla Neggers a Top Pick! review. The story is about Olivia Frost a graphic designer who has come to a crossroads in her life. Tired of the big city life in Boston, she returns to her hometown of Knights Bridge where she hopes to open a Bed and Breakfast. But when a short note to an absentee home owner brings ex-hockey star Dylan McCaffrey to Olivia’s doorstep, she is not sure if she can juggle her growing feelings for him as well as the stresses of starting her life over.
Morgan: As soon as I found out this book was set near Boston, I got excited because while I haven’t visited the area a lot, I know that this is near where you grew up.
Whitney: I was raised not too far from Boston and have to say, this novel certainly captured the essence of the city and Massachusetts’ rural areas, too.
Morgan: While I don’t know much about Massachusetts, I do know small towns, and I was absolutely charmed by Knights Bridge and its inhabitants. I think that Olivia Frost makes a good move leaving Boston and her dying career for her hometown.
Whitney: But she doesn’t have an easy time of it. Olivia has been planning on relocating, but her timetable gets bumped up a bit when her ex-friend starts stealing her clients. With few prospects and nothing keeping her in the big city, Olivia heads off to the country to renovate a quaint old homestead she names The Farm at Carriage Hill.
Morgan: I just loved all of the renovation, cooking and gardening talk in the book. I don’t have a lot of time to indulge in these hobbies, so I really enjoyed reading about the herbs Olivia keeps and her other domestic pursuits.
Whitney: She does settle in to the quiet life well. The only dark spot on the horizon is her absentee neighbor’s run down house. A local eyesore and potentially damaging to her business as the owner of a B&B, Olivia crafts a very nice letter to let Dylan McCaffery know that this situation is going to have to change — and Olivia is willing to make these changes happen.
Morgan: Little does she know that Dylan isn’t even aware that he owns property in Knights Bridge. He’s living (relatively) footloose and fancy free on the beach in California when he discovers that his recently deceased father bought a house in New England.
Whitney: And because Dylan wasn’t at all close to his father, he decides to fly across the country to check out the property. Kind of a last ditch effort for some closure.
Morgan: I, for one, am glad that he has the time and money to jet set to Knights Bridge because otherwise he and Olivia would have never met.
Whitney: But they don't hit it off right away. Olivia is so focused on starting her new life that she doesn’t even consider a romance at first.
Morgan: She certainly has a lot to work through about herself, like re-finding her self-esteem, before she can get serious about anyone. And she is not the Frost woman struggling with some deeply personal issues. We also get to meet Olivia’s mother and sister who deal with serious anxiety issues.
Whitney: You don’t see too much of people dealing with this type of challenge in romance novels, so it was a nice change of pace. It is aspects of the story like this one that make Secrets of the Lost Summer stand out to me. This book is not really a contemporary romance; it’s like a romance plus.
Morgan: I know just what you mean because it’s a “girl plus guy equals (hopefully) happily ever after” situation, but there’s more to the story than that. It’s also a mainstream novel about family members overcoming challenges.
Whitney: But let’s not forget that there is also a mystery to solve.
Morgan: Ah, yes. The “secrets” alluded to in the title are about a seventy-year-old jewelry heist.
Whitney: Which circles neatly back to Dylan and his family. Before he died, Dylan’s father, a treasure hunter, was hot on the trail of the missing gems. Hence his decision to buy a rundown house in the middle of the country.
Morgan: Did you find it at all odd that Dylan’s father’s occupation as a treasure hunter wasn’t really explored? I didn’t realize that this was a viable career option.
Whitney: Oh yeah, didn’t you hear? Treasure hunters make big bucks. Well, the successful ones do ... But I kind of felt like I was on a treasure hunt as well during the story, sifting through the journal passages from the house’s original owner’s memoir.
Morgan: I absolutely adored these flashbacks about Massachusetts’s history when people were displaced in the early part of the last century in order to make way for the reservoir that would eventually feed clean drinking water to the growing Boston area.
Whitney: You know, for growing up in the state, I had no clue how egregiously the government had acted when building the Quabin Reservoir. I mean, they straight-up seized these people’s land. The phrase eminent domain was bandied about and I thought that it was really intriguing — certainly a very unusual topic to craft a story around.
Morgan: I agree. Just one more unique feature about an interesting book that has something for everyone.
Whitney: It is definitely a perfect novel for a quiet summer day. I can just imagine reading it on a peaceful afternoon or evening, maybe even sitting by a lake ...
Do you love to read books that blend genres? Let us know in the comments below. And if you want to read along with us, next week Whitney and Morgan will be Dishing about debut author Anna Randol’s historical romance A Secret in Her Kiss, which is set in the Turkish Empire and is available in stores now.