Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Tuesday Review: When Summer Comes

When Summer Comes  
By Brenda Novak  
Publisher: Harlequin Mira  
Release Date: 
January 29, 2013  

Callie Vanetta has been diagnosed with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Without a liver transplant, she has six months to live, and as an only child whose parents suffer from debilitating diseases, her chances for a transplant are slim. Determined to make what well may be the last summer of her life as normal as possible, she decides not to tell her parents or her friends about her illness. She turns her photography studio over to her assistant and retreats to her grandparents’ farm, ostensibly to prepare it for sale.

Levi McCloud returned from Afghanistan with all the usual psychic wounds of war plus some. He left home and joined the military at eighteen to escape his abusive father, a martial arts master who viewed his only son as a means of achieving the championship status denied to him by injuries. Estranged from his father and rootless, he has spent the months since his discharge traveling the country on his motorcycle, stopping only long enough to earn money at odd jobs sufficient to buy food and to maintain his motorcycle. His motorcycle breaks down outside of Whiskey Creek one night, and he is attacked by two pit bulls. Bleeding profusely from wounds inflicted by the dogs, he seeks help at Callie’s farm.  

At first frightened by this stranger who avoids her questions, refuses to be taken to a hospital, and runs when sheriff’s deputies show up, Callie soon decides that helping him is positive action she can take even if she is powerless to change her own situation. She offers Levi food, work and a safe place to heal and to repair his motorcycle. Ignoring the concerns of her friends, she offers him sanctuary in her home and, a short time later, in her heart. With the help of one friend to whom she reveals the truth about her medical condition, she manages to keep her illness a secret even from Levi, who caught up in protecting his own secrets.  

Callie and Levi are sympathetic, likeable characters. Even readers whose believe their own reactions to the kind of medical diagnosis that confronts Callie will understand why she makes the choices she does. She wants to enjoy what may well be the last months of her life with those she loves seeing her not her disease and she wants to spare them the anguish of an extended farewell. Levi’s troubled childhood and the guilt he carries from a forbidden romance that ended tragically make his decisions comprehensible too. Although romance readers will be prepared for Callie’s survival, the poignancy of her physical and emotional struggles is real, as are the obstacles she and Levi must overcome.  

This is a sweet romance, and it’s a solid addition to an entertaining, emotionally satisfying series. Novak’s lead characters are all distinct individuals with stories that capture the reader’s interest and touch her heart. In a culture as mobile as American culture has become, this circle of lifelong friends who care about one another and whose lives are intertwined will have a decided appeal for many readers. Some readers may find the ease with which they interfere in one another’s lives more intrusive than involved. I confess that I belong in the latter camp. I have lived most of my life in the small town in which I was born. Many of my closest friendships stretch back to kindergarten and grade school. We know a great deal about one another, but I can’t imagine any of us at any point in our lives holding “interventions” because we disapproved of someone’s romantic choices. Although I was less bothered by this kind of behavior in When Summer Comes than I was in When Lightning Strikes and When Snow Falls, it remains an irritant in a series that I have enjoyed otherwise.  

Heroes and heroines with potentially fatal diseases are rare in romance fiction. Some readers find such characters off putting; others find them realistic and sympathetic. What do you think?


irisheyes said...

I don't mind them at all, especially in my romances because I KNOW there will be a HEA. I can't handle them in other fiction books because you know that someone will definitely die. LOL

I also think a death sentence, as it were, really helps the H/H prioritize what is really important in their life and gives them a clarity that they wouldn't have otherwise. I'm sure, as with any other trope, it will get old after a while, but for me it hasn't yet.

The story that comes to mind whenever this subject comes up is Mary Jo Putney's ONE PERFECT ROSE. I absolutely loved that book and I put off reading it forever because of the subject matter. Now, I never hesitate to read about a dying hero or heroine fearing that it will be depressing or hokey. I've seen that it can be a great story catalyst.

quantum said...

I enjoyed 'When Lightning Strikes' and rated it a 4-star read. I also have 'When Snow Falls' on the TBR in audio (picked up cheap in a sale) and may follow the series further in due course.

I find the idea of a novel centred around someone with a potentially fatal illness very interesting. We all die at some stage and this scenario must focus and heighten perception and emotions as the reality of death approaches. In the right character a courageous and positive response could be inspiring. I remember watching some of the para-olympic events and admiring the courage and grit exhibited there.

Stephen Hawking is a wonderful example of the human spirit overcoming almost insurmountable barriers, to still achieve greatness in his chosen field. He could easily have died long ago and I wonder if that drive to understand and achieve, overcame the physical decline. A mind over matter phenomenon.

Does 'When Summer Comes' work as a standalone Janga?
If so I'm very tempted to try it.

Janga said...

Irish, isn't One Perfect Rose wonderful? No matter how often I read it, I never tire of it. It's one of my all-time favorite books.

Janga said...

Q, Hawking is a great example of how the mind and the spirit can overcome incredible obstacles--although I'm not sure he'd agree that the spirit is a reality.

I think you read When Summer Comes as a standalone. The focus is clearly on the H/H.

quantum said...

-although I'm not sure he'd agree that the spirit is a reality.

Hawking was very interested in 'The Mind of God' which may be pretty close to spirit! LOL