The Summer GardenBy Sherryl Woods
Release Date: January 31, 2012
Moira Malone and Luke O’Brien met in An O’Brien Family Christmas (2011), the eighth book in Woods’s Chesapeake Shore series. Luke was interested enough in “Maddening Moira” to remain in Ireland when the rest of the O’Briens returned to Chesapeake Shores. But Luke is back home now, and while Moira is still in his thoughts, so is the Irish pub that he’s planning to open in his hometown, and Kristen Lewis, the woman he distracted when she was creating complications in his sister Susie’s marriage, is a pleasurable companion when he needs one.
Moira is in Ireland, working in McDonough’s Pub, finding unexpected success with her photography, thinking about Luke and becoming increasingly frustrated with his say-nothing emails. When her grandfather invites her to accompany him on his visit to Nell O’Brien, the temptation to see Luke again and find out how important she is to him is too great to resist.
From the beginning, Dillon O’Malley, Moira’s grandfather, and Nell O’Brien, Luke’s grandmother have high hopes that Moira and Luke will realize that they are a perfect pair. The extended O’Brien clan warms up to the idea a little more slowly, but they soon discover Moira has changed from the rebellious termagant they met in Ireland. They quickly grow fond of her, and they’re happy to do their bit in matchmaking schemes. But things aren’t quite so simple.
Although Luke is happy to see Moira and ready to admit she has claimed his heart, he is too immersed in his new business venture to make plans for the future on the personal side. As the youngest O’Brien grandchild and the one who has had no clear sense of what he wanted to do with his life, he feels that he has to justify the faith his grandmother has shown in him by releasing his inheritance and that he has to prove himself to his overachieving family.
Moira is ready for forever. While she is pleased with the praise her photography wins in Ireland and in Chesapeake Shores, she’s less interested in a career than in becoming a wife and mother and in creating the kind of family she never had. She loves Luke, and she also loves the exuberant O’Briens and the feeling of belonging they give her. But with Luke saying maybe later and Moira thinking now or never, resolution seems impossible. While the drama of Moira and Luke’s relationship is playing out, Dillon and Nell are enjoying a quieter courtship, at least until Nell has some health problems that give everyone a scare.
The Summer Garden is the concluding book in this long-running series, and it works beautifully in that role. All the O’Briens are present and accounted for, the next generation of O’Briens is increasing, and HEAs abound. I loved catching glimpses of all the previous pairs and seeing their relationships in progress, and I loved Nell and Dillon’s second-chance-at-love subplot. The central romance was less satisfying for me. Luke and Moira are both likeable characters, and the chemistry between them is strong. But they seem very young (He’s twenty-four and she’s younger), and they both have some fairly heavy baggage. I would have liked to see the relationship develop more slowly. I’m generally an HEA reader all the way, but this time, I’d have been glad to see one HFN among all the lifetime commitments.
Chesapeake Shore Series:
The Inn at Eagle Point
Flower on Main
A Chesapeake Shores Christmas
An O'Brien Family Christmas
The Summer Garden
How do you feel about series that run past three or four books? Do they seem to be more common recently? What’s the best conclusion to a series you’ve read?
Kathleen, you are the winner the Reading Questions giveaway. Please email me at jangarho at gmail dot com and we'll get the details straight so that I can get a book to you.