Sunday, March 1, 2009

Review: A Summer to Remember

Title: A Summer to Remember
Author: Mary Balogh
Genre: Historical Romance/Regency Period
Published: July 2002 (HC)/March 2003 (MM)
Nath's Re-Read Challenge

It's been a year since Miss Lauren Edgeworth was left at the altar, her world shattered and torn in two. She has come to London not to find another husband but to be with her aunt, the Duchess of Portfrey, during her confinement. Lauren has always been dutiful and this gave her the opportunity to leave Newbury Abbey and the close proximity to her former fiancé and his new bride. While in London she makes the acquaintance of Christopher "Kit" Butler, Viscount Ravensberg. When Kit proposes marriage Lauren offers a different proposal. She will pose as his intended if he agrees to give her a summer to remember.

The first time I read A Summer to Remember was when it was released in paperback. Mary Balogh has been one of my favorite authors for many years. Way back when I only read historicals *gasp*, Balogh, along with the likes of Roberta Gellis, Johanna Lindsey, Jude Deveraux and Jo Goodman were authors that I read everything they published. After reading One Night For Love, where Lauren is left at the altar, I was hoping she would get her own book and HEA. So when A Summer to Remember came out I knew I had to read it. After reading it the first time it became one of my favorite Baloghs and this re-read proved it's still one of my favorites.

When Lauren was still a baby her father died. Her mother remarried soon after and went on her wedding trip, never to return. Lauren was left to be raised by her step-father's family. A family of strangers who became her real family in every way. Growing up Lauren made sure to be the perfect child, to never give her family reason to regret taking her in and raising her. But she is not a simpering little mouse of a lady to hide in the corner. She can take control of a situation if she must. She is subtle, taking control of situations through her intellect, her words. She likes to be in control in everything she does and says. She is the perfect, proper lady. To loose control would mean to loose that facade of propriety that has helped her survive nearly unbearable situations. She would never dream of doing anything that would embarrass herself or her family.

The first time Lauren sees Kit she is shocked. He is shirtless, fighting three other men in public. The second time she sees him is in a ballroom and he is asking her to dance. While she knows he has a reputation as a rakehell she can't seem to help but be drawn to him. He is good looking but it's not only his looks that attract her. It's his determination. Kit is determined to court Lauren and make her his bride.

Kit has been order, by his father, to return to his ancestral home of Alvesley Park. The trip is for his grandmother's birthday celebration and also for Kit's betrothal. The betrothal that his father has arranged. Kit has other plans since he has no desire to wed his father's choice of a bride. So he decides he must find his own bride and bring her home with him. And so the idea to woo and wed Lauren comes about.

Kit is the second son of three boys born to the Earl and Countess of Redfield. Being the second son Kit was bound for the military which suited him just fine. But when his older brother dies Kit is forced to sell out his commission and return to London. Since his returned from the fighting in the Peninsula, Kit has spent his time making a notorious reputation for himself. He doesn't want the earldom and feels guilty for the fight he had with his eldest brother the last time he saw him. His relationship with his parents and his youngest brother is strained and in Kit's mind broken beyond repair. With that in mind Kit sees no reason to stop his less than honorable ways and marry someone other than his father's choice.

Lauren was perceived by many of the ton as cool and reserved which she was. But it was how she trained herself to be. Her overriding fear of making a mistake and embarrassing her family kept her in such rigid control. I wasn't sure how Kit could get her to loosen up some of that control and enjoy herself. Fortunately, Kit was very stubborn and determined that in order for him to fulfill his part of their bargain he needed to get Lauren to loose some control and get out of her comfort zone. One scene where Kit gets Lauren to climb a tree demonstrates just how far she has come from the lady who wouldn't dare let her spine rest against the back of a chair:

...He went up behind her, one arm linked about her waist, but she would not allow him literally to carry her up.

"I will do it myself, thank you," she told him curtly the only time he tightened his hold and would have hoisted her upward when she seemed to be paralyzed with indecision. "This is not what I meant at Vauxhall, Kit. There is nothing remotely enjoyable about this."

"But it is memorable, you must admit," he said into her ear with a chuckle. "Swimming in your shift and climbing trees all on the same day. You are in sore danger of becoming a notorious hoyden."

And later, when they are sitting on a branch, Lauren's back to Kit's front, Kit's arms holding her. Kit tells her to open her eyes and enjoy the view:

"Nothing could make the climb worthwhile," she said severely, "though the prospect is a good one, I will concede."

Well. Cool praise indeed. But a moment later she ruined the effect of her words. He felt a slight tremor beneath his hands, and then she was laughing softly. Lauren Edgeworth was laughing!

"I am up in a tree," she said. "Gwen and Aunt Clara will not believe it even if I should tell them. No one who knows me would believe it. Lauren Edgeworth up a tree, with out a bonnet."

She seemed to find the idea enormously tickling. For a few moments her laughter was almost silent. But she could not contain it. She burst into peals of glee, gales of merriment. And Kit, holding her safe, joined her.

"And loving every moment of it?" he asked when he could.

"Now that I will never admit to," she said and laughed again. But finally they were both quiet, and when she spoke again her voice held more wistfulness than humor. "I will remember today. All of it. For the whole of the rest of my life. Thank you, Kit." from pages 172-174

I really love this scene. Lauren is so surprised at her self. And at the end she makes it sound as if she doesn't expect much laughter in her life after she leaves Kit. But Kit is there, holding her, keeping her safe. This is what he does for her. He makes her laugh. Such an important yet often overlooked quality in a hero. Can you imagine not laughing? Being so confined in your shell that you never laugh. To never let go and laugh long and loud? Lauren didn't know how until Kit. That's what he gave her ~ the freedom to laugh. To be surprised when that unexpected giggle surfaces out of nowhere. Catching her off guard. Then being able to revel in it.

And how does Lauren help Kit? She uses her quiet dignity to help him overcome his sense of guilt for so many things. She helps him mend the relationships that he thought were beyond repair. This is really a story about relationships and the intricacies in not only forming them but maintaining them. Lauren sees her helping Kit mend the bond with his parents and brother as her part of their bargain. She had no idea she would come to care for Kit's family which makes it that much more difficult when she must leave.

Lauren and Kit's relationship changes during the course of the story. Surprisingly Kit is the one to fall in love with Lauren and decide he wants the marriage to be real. I loved the way Kit began to see Lauren in a different light. To see beyond that rigid control of a proper lady. To see what she could be, was meant to be if she just allowed herself to be happy. I really don't think Lauren knew how, she was too busy trying to be perfect, or at least what she perceived was perfection. Lauren too begins to see the Kit she met in London wasn't the real Kit. He is more than the notorious rake that the ton gossips about. He deeply loves his family and his honor is very important to him. But in the end Lauren insists on keeping her word and breaking off the engagement at summer's end.

The secondary characters of Lauren and Kit's families were drawn with Balogh's deft touch. You could feel their love and concern for Kit and Lauren even though some of them were at odds with the couple. The love of family is a very strong current running throughout the story.

I can safely say this is still a keeper and makes me want to re-read all my Balogh books. I would highly recommend Mary Balogh and A Summer to Remember. The prequel, One Night for Love, I remember as being very good also but it isn't necessary to read it before A Summer to Remember. Mary Balogh's extensive backlist can be found on her website.

Rating: A


  1. Oh Leslie, this is one of my favorite Balogh books. She writes such beautiful relationship stories. Men of honor and women of character -- and the way that she develops them slowly but surely so that the she makes you part of their self-discovery. I love it. I just loved this story, as I love most of my Balogh books. Thank you for that lovely review.

  2. Wow!! Great review Leslie!! Feel like I'm going to be rushing to the bookstore before work today!! I've been in the mood for a very good historicals... and this seems to fit perfectly! Thank you!

  3. Oh! What a great review! I've only read two Balogh novels ("The Secret Pearl" and "Slightly Married") one short story (the one from "It Happened One Night"), and I'm already head over heels for her. Already she's at the top of my list (with Jo Goodman, too!) for favourite romance authors. I'm reading "Slightly Wicked" right now and I'm loving it.

    I should get "A Summer to Remember."

    In fact, she has a huge backlist - her publishers should start reprinting them faster, lol.

    Also, if you haven't read the "Secret Pearl," do so NOW. One of the BEST historical novels I've ever read, ever.

    Um, fangirl out. *lol*

  4. Hils ~ you're welcome :) You said it beautifully, the way Balogh makes the reader part of the characters self-discovery is a perfect description of her writing.

    Nath ~ thanks. I'm more than happy to increase your TBR pile *grin*

    AnimeJune ~ I've got the re-release of The Secret Pearl on my TBR pile. Loved the Slightly series and all the Bedwyns. And yes, her backlist is huge. To have all those old Signet and Onyx reprinted would be heaven.

    So from one fangirl to another "Mary Balogh rocks!" lol

  5. A Summer to Remember was the first Balogh I ever read. I loved it! So much so that I was going to make it one of my re-reads for this challenge, in fact. After reading your wonderful review I don't know what I could add to it (but I now feel like re-reading it right away). You said it all so well. I especially love what you said about making someone laugh and how important a quality that is in a relationship.


  6. I read this one when it first came out and wasn't as affected by it as you. But after reading your wonderful review, it makes me want to read it again!! That doesn't happen often :-)

  7. Taja ~ thanks. I thought Kit was exactly what Lauren needed, she just didn't know it. :)

    Kristie ~ I'm just happy it was as wonderful as I remembered. I'm afraid I'm going to re-read a dud at some point during this challenge. *grins*

  8. LOL, bought and read :D It was good, but I didn't like it as much as you :D Question, did you read the Slightly series?

  9. Nath - do you mean you just bought and read it, like in the last few days? ^_^

    I did read the Slightly series and loved the Bedwyns!

  10. LOL yeah :) All on Monday ^_^;

    I'm just a bit curious at the Bedwyns... the family as a whole seems interesting... but Freyja? No no.

  11. Dang Nath - you read fast. :)

    The Bedwyns are an interesting bunch and a fun series. Aidan and Wulfric's stories were my favs. And she just takes some time to warm up to.