4 August 2015

Book Review: Summer By the Sea by Jenny Hale

"They say there’s always one summer that changes you.

For Faith the one summer she can’t forget is when she fell in love as a teenager – only for her sister, Casey, to steal her man. Now, at the request of her beloved ninety-year-old Grandmother, Faith has agreed to a family holiday – at their childhood beach house, where it all began. 

Faith hasn’t seen her sister in years but is finally ready to forgive and forget, enjoy the sunshine and relive happy memories. What she’s not ready for is meeting Jake Buchanan – the owner of the beach house – or the long-forgotten feelings he ignites in her. 

Can Faith overcome the hurt of the past, rekindle the close bond she had with Casey and make this summer THE ONE to remember?"

Rating: 4/5

You can buy Summer by the Sea as an eBook now.

I am a huge Jenny Hale fan, and really look forward to both her summer and Christmas reads each year - it's such a treat to get 2 books a year from an author you love! When the cover for this book was released, I knew it was going to be a stunning read, and couldn't wait to dive in and find out about the story. As someone who grew up in a seaside town, I love stories set by the beach, and this one sounded like it was just my cup of tea.

Faith and her entire family have returned to the scene of their childhood holidays in Outer Banks, North Carolina, to the beach house where they used to stay. They are all gathered to celebrate their grandmother's 90th birthday, but it isn't all happiness for Faith. She fell out with her sister Casey many years ago after Casey stole her then-boyfriend, and Faith can't quite bring herself to move past it. When at Outer Banks, Faith makes friends with a local carpenter, Jake, who instantly warms himself to her whole family. Faith is determined to make new friends, and try to let go of the past... is Jake the man to help her do that?

 There's something about Jenny Hale's writing that draws me in, and it was no different for this book. I did find the book to be a little bit slow in the beginning, taking it's time to warm and get going, allowing me to slowly learn about the characters rather than diving in as I have done with her previous stories. Faith was a bit of a strange character for me - I felt sorry for her because of the hurt she went through at the hands of her sister all those years ago, but wanted her to move past it - not just for her, but for their mother and grandmother too. Her reluctance was understandable, but I just sort of wanted her to get on it with the forgiveness I felt was sort of inevitable! However, what I did love about her was her passion for her family, in particular her relationship with her grandmother. She's very doting, and clearly wants to look after her grandmother, and I loved the touching scenes between the pair.

The family dynamics in this book are what made it incredibly readable for me. Although the relationship between Faith and Casey is strained and awkward, you can still sense the sisterly love there, and as the book progresses and more of their story is revealed, I was pleased with the direction of it, and how the characters grew. They are clearly very close, and are wonderful with Casey's young daughter too, who was a joy to read about. I love family stories, so this one was already a winner for me in that respect.

Jake was a great character too, a bit of an enigma as we don't really know much about him until quite a way into the story when I felt I'd already made my mind up about him! Thanks to the twists and the turns of the book, my opinion of him was quite changeable - one minute, I liked him and the next I was a little less happy with him! But I liked that Jenny Hale was able to keep me on my toes regarding him, and reading the blossoming friendship between he and Faith was a joy to read - also his interactions with Faith's grandmothers were incredibly sweet - he seemed such a kind-hearted man, the kind of person everyone wants to know!

This book was a really wonderful summer read, thanks in part to the wonderfully vivid descriptions of Outer Banks and the North Carolina coast. This isn't somewhere I have been lucky enough to visit myself, but Hale describes so beautifully. It sounds picturesque, and you can see why Faith was so passionate about leaving the landscape unchanged, and loving her beach walks. The heart of the novel lies with the importance of family, as well as forgiveness and love. These themes tied together perfectly throughout the book, and it really was a joy to read. I loved that the story wasn't smooth-sailing, I was left wondering how it would all end up for Faith and her family, but I was more than satisfied by its conclusion. A wonderful summer read, with a big heart - I loved it.

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