Review: Sweet Kiss of Summer

~ By Toni Linenberger

I first met Sophie Gunn in a bookstore.  Yes, I know, that is where all good readers meet new authors.  In this case, I was initially a reluctant party participant.  The cover of her first novel How Sweet It Is was bold and bright, reminiscent of a 50s diner.  It caught my eye every time I wandered through the shelves.  Several times I read the back cover only to put it back on the shelf as just another small town romance.

Enter the closing of several Borders stores in my area.  My resistance was worn down by bright shiny 50% off signs.  Ms. Gunn’s book finally made it off the shelf, into my basket, and ultimately my TBR pile.  In need of something light, it made its way to the top more quickly than expected.

I have to say, the back cover copy lied.  This was not the sweet small town romance it advertized.  This was the first book about the Enemies Club.  I’ve got to say, had the cover copy mentioned the Enemies Club, it probably would have made it into my basket a whole lot sooner.  The Enemies Club is comprised of four high school classmates (the good girl, the flighty one, the successful one, and the popular one) – enemies in the way of typical high school.  Ten years later they have reunited as friends with a caveat:  as the Enemies Club they vowed to always tell each other the truth and nothing but the truth, no matter what.  In many ways the conventions of high school have followed them forward.  However, they are able to create a friendship in spite of their previous differences.  Every woman wants friends like these.

Totally enamored of the Enemies, I went in search of more information.  Thanks to all mighty Google, I was quickly able to find the author website.  I was delighted to find there are books planned for each of the Enemies.  The second Sweet Kiss of Summer (SKOS) is in stores now.

SKOS is about Nina and Mick.  Nina is a free spirit with lots of trust and faith in people; she’s the flighty one.  Mick is an Army veteran who served in Afghanistan with Nina’s brother Walt.  In the course of their service, just before Walt died Walt wills Mick his house.  Two years later Mick shows up to claim his inheritance and fulfill Walt’s last wishes.  Only problem is that Nina is living in Walt’s house.  After spending two years trying to track Mick down Nina believes she’s fulfilled the terms of Walt’s bequest and is ready to move on.  As with all good romance, this is not quite so easy.

In a similar vein to the first book, SKOS is not the standard sweet small town romance lauded by the back cover.  This book is complex and multi-layered and deals with serious issues including family, PTSD, how one returns from war, and how best to honor those who served.  The story is well crafted and moves along at a nice pace.  The characters are well developed and go nicely with a sunny afternoon and crisp glass of wine.

If there is one flaw, I have to say I wanted more of the Enemies.  Nina tries to solve the problems of her brother and Mick by herself instead of relying on her friends for help.  As we all know, friends make things much easier.  Yes, there are some nice Enemies meetings, but I really wanted these women to be much more active in their support of Nina.  I’m hopeful the remaining two books focus more on the complex relationships of these women instead of relegating it to a side plot.  There is much more to be learned about these women and their unusual friendship and I can only hope they are allowed to take center stage where they belong.

If you are a fan of Kristen Higgins, Susan Mallery, and Debbie Macomber you will slide right into the world of Sophie Gunn.

Note: The original version of this review first appeared at http://bettyverse.com/, an online community started by author Lucy March.

Toni is an historian and published technical writer who is slowly venturing into the blogosphere with thought-provoking reviews on romance and mysteries.  One day she hopes she will be able to turn her attention to writing the Great American Novel.  Toni lives with the most spoiled cat on the planet (Lincoln) and his sister (Abby) in a house filled with wine, chocolate, and, of course, books.

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