Julianna's Reviews > One Summer

One Summer by Karen Robards
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Jul 27, 2016

it was amazing
bookshelves: contemporary-romance, desert-island-keepers, read-2016, romantic-suspense, heac-small-town-setting
Recommended for: Fans of Romantic Suspense
Read from July 01 to 07, 2016 — I own a copy , read count: 1

Reviewed for THC Reviews
One Summer has been sitting on my TBR pile for quite some time, and I’m so glad I finally got around to reading it. I’d heard great things about it, and I’m pleased to report that they’re all true. The story is a nice mix of contemporary romance and mystery/suspense. I’d say that the romance is definitely more prominent, but the mystery is always there, lurking in the background and slowly unfolding. It just doesn’t overwhelm the romance, which to my way of thinking is a good thing. The author does a great job of developing the relationship between the hero and heroine as they navigate the treacherous waters of potential scandal that could be brought about by him being an ex-con convicted of murder and her being his former high school teacher, as well as her being five years older than him. The mystery was well done too, with the author dropping little clues along the way, except it was done in such a subtle way that I almost didn’t realize it. Apparently my sub-conscious did, though, because I managed to figure out who the killer was just before it was revealed, which is a rarity for me. The author did surprise me with a nice little plot twist right at the end, which I didn’t see coming. The story contains many of my favorite romance tropes too, such as older woman/younger man and opposite sides of the track, so all the elements came together to make One Summer an excellent read for me.

Straight out of high school, Johnny was convicted of the brutal murder of a girl with whom he was romantically involved. There was little physical evidence to connect him to the crime. He basically got railroaded because his semen was found inside her body and he admitted to being the last person to see her alive. Not to mention, he’d been a bit of a troublemaker in his teen years and everyone in his small hometown considered him and his family to be white trash from the wrong side of the tracks. Johnny ended up spending ten years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, and the only reason he’s out on parole is because his former high school teacher agreed to give him a job in her family’s hardware store. Johnny had a terrible life growing up, so it's no wonder he fell in with the wrong crowd as a teenager. None of the “decent” people in town would even associate with him. He went into prison little more than a kid and comes out a full-grown man with a bad boy attitude and a major chip on his shoulder. Rachel is one of the few people who believed in Johnny, and not just in his innocence, but also in his goodness, intelligence, and humanity. He’s been in love with her from afar since high school, but always thought he was far beneath her and that she would never take notice of him in the way he wanted. It’s Rachel's kindness and patience that gradually gets Johnny to open up and trust her, and throughout that process he shows some deeply moving vulnerability. He soaks up her love and acceptance like a sponge and discovers that he’d do just about anything for her. That includes transforming from his bad boy persona into a more respectable young man.

As I mentioned Rachel was Johnny’s high school English teacher. She got to know him pretty well in that capacity and they even formed a friendship of sorts over their shared love of poetry and literature. Before Johnny’s life fell apart, they spent hours discussing the written word and other deep topics. Rachel was always aware of Johnny’s attractiveness and that many of the girls in school admired him, but as his teacher she never would have dreamed of becoming involved with him. When Johnny was convicted of murdering his girlfriend, Rachel was one of the few people who staunchly believed in his innocence, which is why she offered him a job so he could make parole. The intense, brooding man who returns home after ten years is far more dangerous and sexy than the teenager who left, affecting her in unexpected ways. Even though she’s now wildly attracted to him, she’s keenly aware of his status as an ex-con and hers as his ex-teacher and what that might look like to the residents of their small town. She also can hardly believe that a gorgeous man like him would even give an ordinary woman like her, and an older one to boot, a second glance. I could totally relate to Rachel as the introverted bookworm who doesn't feel like anyone fully understands her, as well as her having friends but still searching for that one kindred spirit. She definitely finds that in Johnny. I especially love that her belief in Johnny's innocence never wavered. Even though he does intimidate her a little at first, she’s strong enough to not let him get the upper hand, and I think he respected her for it. I also like how she stands up for him, defending him to her family and even the whole town, anytime someone tries to put him down.

Rachel and Johnny share a beautiful and deeply emotional romance. Rachel has been in a few previous relationships, but by and large, they were dull and boring, never truly lighting a fire of passion within her. She lost her first serious boyfriend to her younger sister, although as it turns out, in hindsight, that wasn’t much of a loss. She wants to get married, settle down, and have kids, and she feels her biological clock ticking. Rachel is convinced she’s going to have to settle for a lackluster marriage in order to fulfill her dream of being a wife and mother, until Johnny comes back to town. He’s everything she wants in a man, but he comes with more than a few complications and a whole lot of baggage. Once she overcomes the idea that he might only be using her to fulfill his own high school sex fantasies, she’s willing to brave those issues with him for the excitement and passion he engenders in her just by being around. Johnny was known as a bit of a player in his youth, but there’s no one he truly wants more than Rachel. So when he finally gets her, his single-minded focus on her and his willingness to do anything for her is very romantic to me. There’s a wealth of emotion in their every interaction. Their love scenes are deeply sensual and also rather steamy for a romance written in the mid-90’s, which was the icing on the cake.

Since One Summer is a stand-alone novel, there aren’t any secondary characters that are deliberately being built up in preparation for their own stories, but the supporting cast is still stellar. There are a lot of them and each play their own roles. The most memorable ones were Rachel’s family and Johnny's old friend, Glenda, who was also from the wrong side of the tracks, and her son, Jeremy. What I really liked about the supporting players, though, is how they bring the little town of Tylerville to life. Small-town romances have become pretty commonplace these days, but in most cases, the town is a mini-utopia where people are kind and helpful to one another. You may get one or two bad apples in the bunch to stir up a little trouble here and there, but by and large the townspeople are good and trustworthy. In this book, the author takes a look at the darker side of small-town life in which everyone knowing every else’s business isn’t such a good thing. Gossip and rumors spread like wildfire, and in some cases contribute to ruining lives or at the very least, making them difficult. Johnny in particular finds it very hard to live in Tylerville anymore, because nearly everyone is convinced that he’s guilty as charged and even though he paid his debt to society, the townspeople aren’t particularly inclined to let bygones be bygones, which of course, as an innocent man, he doesn’t deserve. So this was an interesting twist on small-town dynamics that I enjoyed exploring.

For me, One Summer ended up being a perfect read. I related extremely well to both Rachel and Johnny. Even though I’m not often a big fan of bad boys in romance, I fell for Johnny, because even though he starts the story with an angry attitude problem, the author builds his character in such a way that it’s easy to see that his anger is fueled by issues in his past. Not to mention, he grows and changes throughout the story, becoming a better person because of Rachel’s influence. The mystery is well-done, keeping me engaged in trying to figure out who the real killer was. I also very much enjoyed the romance, which was my favorite part. In spite of the age difference and the problems they faced, it was obvious that Rachel and Johnny were made for each other. One Summer was my first read by Karen Robards, but it most definitely won’t be my last. I very much look forward to reading more of her books in the future.
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Quotes Julianna Liked

Karen Robards
“Rachel, on the other hand, always had her nose in a book and her head in the clouds.”
Karen Robards, One Summer

Karen Robards
“Thoroughly ruffled, Rachel turned her back on the source of her annoyance and started for the door. She could feel his gaze on her, and the notion that he was watching her made her suddenly self-conscious. In her teetering heels, she could not help but sway.
Just as she reached the door, he made an odd sound that caused her to glance back at him, startled.
“Rachel,” he said in what was scarcely more than a husky whisper, while his eyes drilled into hers, “don’t sleep with him. Sleep with me instead.”
Her breath caught for a moment as the words coiled around her like a seductive snake. Only by forcing herself to keep walking was she able to escape.”
Karen Robards, One Summer

Karen Robards
“Sometimes, in prison, when he’d been lying awake at night staring at the bunk over his head, Johnny had thought that he missed Wolf most of all.
Wasn’t that a damned sad commentary on his life?
The dog whined again. Knowing he was being ridiculous, that he was liable to lose the hand at the wrist when the animal charged, Johnny nonetheless took a step forward,holding out his fingers for sniffing.
“Wolf? Come here, boy.”
Incredibly, the huge animal sank to its belly and slunk forward, behaving as if it wanted to believe but feared a cruel trick. Johnny dropped to his knees to greet it, his hands reaching out, burrowing in the coarse hide, stroking and scratching as the dog whined and licked and pawed him and butted him with its head.
“Ah, Wolf,” he said as he accepted the truth at last, that this one thing that he had loved had been spared in order to greet him. Then, as the big head snuggled into his lap, he wrapped his arms around the dog’s thick neck and buried his face against the animal’s side.
For the first time in eleven years, he wept.”
Karen Robards, One Summer

Karen Robards
“You know what I used to dream about, in stir?" His voice was hoarse, the words low and fast and faintly guttural. "I used to dream about you. You were the only clean and good and decent thing left in my life, and I would dream about you. I used to dream about taking your clothes off piece by piece, and what you would look like naked, and how it would feel to fuck you really good. I used to dream about that in high school, too. In fact, I got off almost every night for the last fourteen years, dreaming about you." Rachel's lips parted with shock. Speechless, she stared at him wide-eyed for what seemed an eternity while her heart suddenly hammered and her throat went dry.
"I'm fucking tired of dreaming,”
Karen Robards, One Summer

Karen Robards
“There's something I gotta tell you," he said in a confidential tone as he leaned toward her. His face was close to hers, too close. He was making her uncomfortable again, as he no doubt intended.
That notion stiffened her spine.
"What?" she all but snapped.
"I had a major case of the hots for you when I was in high school. I still do.”
Karen Robards, One Summer


Reading Progress

07/01 marked as: to-read
07/01 marked as: currently-reading
07/08 page 389
100.0% "Awesome story! Beautiful romance, relatable characters, exciting mystery, just great all around. Review coming soon."
07/23 marked as: read

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