2003 reissue of 2002 release, European Historical Romance (Regency England)
Dell, $6.99, 320 pages, Amazon ASIN 0440236630 Part of a series
Most romance readers think of Mary Balogh as a dark, intense writer, but she has proven in books like The Famous Heroine and Lady With A Black Umbrella that she can handle the lighter side as well. A Summer To Remember is not a farce, but it is much lighter than her recent hardcover books. The hero, Kit Butler, Viscount Ravensberg, is a charmer. The heroine, Lauren Edgeworth, is beautiful, dignified and in serious need of some fun in her life. Kit is just the man to give it to her. There is a wonderful tortured secondary character, and lots of family problems to solve. The more I read, the better I liked it. It definitely goes on my desert island shelf.
Lauren Edgeworth had retired from Society after her aborted wedding. (See One Night For Love for the details). She has been living quietly as a companion to her cousin and good friend, Elizabeth, Duchess of Portfrey. Lauren has been understandably soured on marriage and would like to establish her own home somewhere - Bath would be nice - and live a quiet life.
Kit Butler, Viscount Ravensberg is a rake and a rogue - all Society says so. Lauren's first glimpse of him is when he is stripped to the waist, and brawling in the park with three low class toughs. The three had been trying to forcibly kiss a milkmaid, and Kit was out to defend her honor. Lauren is horrified. She is even more horrified when Kit shows up at the ball that her friends have persuaded her to attend. Kit is all charm and courtliness. He waltzes with Lauren and against her will she finds herself much taken with him.
Kit meets Lauren at every opportunity he can, and asks her to marry him. He is honest with her, and explains that his friends are sure a lady like Lauren will never marry a rake like him, but he needs a bride. His family is after him to marry and have even chosen a bride for him, so he would like Lauren to pose as his betrothed (and then jilt him) to get his family off his back. Lauren agrees. By jilting Kit (and because of her previously aborted wedding), she will be rendered unmarriageable, which will allow her to retire to that quiet life in Bath she wants. But she makes Kit promise that for the time she spends as his fiancée, he will give her a summer to remember.
Since this is a Mary Balogh book, there are deep problems in Kit's and Lauren's families. Kit's father banished him three years ago, and he and his older brother parted bitterly. Now that Kit is the heir, he can't be banished, but there are many barriers to get over before the family can be united. After Kit's younger brother Syd followed Kit into the Army, he was captured and tortured. Kit blames himself for his brother's permanent injuries (Syd lost an eye and an arm); the two must slowly find their way back to the love they shared as brothers.
The next door neighbors, the Bedwyn family, one of whom, Freyja Bedwyn, was Kit's intended bride are - well, they are Originals and they leap off the page. There are a lot of Bedwyns and they are all interesting - I can see sequels on the horizon.
Kit is described as charming. Charm is such a hard quality to define, but we all know it when we see it and Mary Balogh manages to get that elusive quality across on the printed page. Balogh describes Kit as having smiling eyes, even when his face is serious. That phrase was all I needed to picture Kit, and the more I read, the more vivid he became. Kit is outwardly quite the rake, but he is not a care-for-nothing. His family estrangements haunt him, but he does not let them make him a morose character who is constantly walking around with a cloud over his head. Kit is a balanced man - neither too frivolous and nor too angsty.
Lauren is a fascinating character. Her seriousness has been formed by her circumstances. After her father's death, her mother re-married and left Lauren with relatives. They have been kind and good to her, but Lauren feels as though she must not give them any trouble at all, and so has stayed at home and tried to be as inobtrusive as possible. Lauren has ruthlessly quashed any high spirits she may have had, feeling that she does not deserve any fun. The charming and fun-loving Kit is just what she needs.
I thoroughly enjoyed A Summer To Remember. For me it was the perfect blend of romance, with an interesting story and, oh, how I loved the characters! When Mary Balogh is at the top of her game there is no one better, and she is at her pinnacle here.
-- Ellen Micheletti
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