Author Irene Hannon is best known for her romantic suspense novels (Private Justice and Heroes of Quantico series), but some may be surprised to learn that she has actually penned quite a collection of romances for the Love Inspired line. Writing short, sweet romance novels is how Hannon started her career, and she continues to write for Love Inspired today; her latest title released earlier this year. Now, Hannon tries her hand at her first long contemporary romance with THAT CERTAIN SUMMER.
Karen and Val are sisters, but couldn’t be more different. While Karen is considered plain, Val is a gorgeous model. Karen regularly reaches for the chips; Val is totally health-conscious. Karen is the recently divorced single mom of a teenage daughter; Val has never been married and has no children. Karen is the dependable daughter; Val is a free spirit. They’ve never been close, but when their mother suffers a mild stroke, the sisters are forced to share in the care of their overly critical mom.
"Hannon proves that her talent stretches beyond suspense and will likely expand her fan base with this contemporary romance. THAT CERTAIN SUMMER is definitely one that should make your 'beach read' list this summer."
There’s nothing like being thrown back into the midst of a dysfunctional family situation to make you face issues that have long been buried. Through the next few months, Karen and Val open up to one another and realize they may have more in common than they ever thought.
Karen is adjusting to life as a divorcee. She had pretty much been a doormat throughout her entire marriage, her heart the stomping ground for her overbearing husband. Even though it was Scott who cheated and filed for divorce, Karen struggles with feelings of wanting her husband back --- not because she loves him, but because of her daughter’s constant pleas to put their family back together. With Val’s help, as well as the affections of a certain man, Karen finally realizes her own value and begins to reclaim her independence.
Coming back home is not easy for Val. Not just because she has to deal with her cranky mother, but because of a secret Val has been hiding since she left. This secret has pretty much caused her to reject the possibility for love and having a family of her own someday. Val is determined to face her past and put her secret to rest, once and for all. But what she doesn’t count on is meeting someone who will break through the wall she’s built around her heart. And there’s Someone else who’s knocking, too. The Holy Spirit wants to claim her brokenness and make it whole again.
THAT CERTAIN SUMMER has several wonderful undertones. Healing, both relationally and internally, is the main focus and what puts this novel in the women’s fiction category. Issues of self-worth, freedom from guilt and shame, as well as forgiveness, create plenty of opportunities for contemplation --- and to get choked up. Karen and Val each possess qualities present in every woman, which are real, relevant and relatable. Their development progresses at a nice even pace, resulting in a satisfying conclusion for the reader.
There is one particular event written in at the end regarding Karen and her ex-husband that I wish hadn’t been tied up so neatly. Without going into detail and giving anything away, I’ll just say that, for me, it felt like the author was trying to justify Karen’s relationship with another man so as not to offend the Christian community. That may or may not have been the intent, but as a gray area, I wish it would have been left a little more open-ended, allowing the reader to make her own assessment of right and wrong.
That bit aside, I thoroughly enjoyed the story. Hannon proves that her talent stretches beyond suspense and will likely expand her fan base with this contemporary romance. THAT CERTAIN SUMMER is definitely one that should make your “beach read” list this summer.
Reviewed by Lynda Lee Schab on July 19, 2013