Book review: That Scandalous Summer by Meredith Duran

That Scandalous Summer (Rules for the Reckless, #1)That Scandalous Summer by Meredith Duran

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have a high bar for Meredith Duran, because she’s shown that she can deliver a hell of a romance novel while also dealing with some incredibly weighty subjects, such as war crimes and PTSD (The Duke of Shadows), or social class conflict and stolen children/identity issues (A Lady’s Lesson in Scandal), all with excellent historical detail, as realistic as you can possibly expect within the genre.

So I will say that this book was highly entertaining and a good read, but it did not completely meet my expectations.

The set-up was wonderful. The prologue, with the scene between Michael and Alastair, took my breath away, it was so masterful: introducing two characters, their current situation, their background, bringing two normally composed and dignified men to the point of violence, followed by estrangement. It punched all my family-issue buttons. I was sold.

The First Encounter of the hero and heroine was also both amusing and promising — so many issues going on! Liza with her recent heartbreak and trouble coping, how bent she is on a distraction, and her larger pressing money problems; Michael’s own determination to keep proper distance and not get too entangled, and his conflicting money issues. I also really like how Duran is expanding on each of the characters in this particular decade’s social circle, it’s fascinating to get a more complete picture of Liza after what we saw of her in Bound By Your Touch (note: as much as a fan as I am, and for all I can remember pretty clear the main characters and plot of each book, I would dismally fail a matching game between characters/plot and title. I have to check her list of published books every time I talk about them. Now some of the latest few have been a little more distinctive and particular to their book, such as “Scandalous Summer” and “Fool Me Twice,” but “Bound By Your Touch” is one of the worst offenders in blandness).

Anyway — the unexpected handling of their first time, in the cabin, with the addition of Liza’s grief over her mother, was really sweet too. And I really liked and was interested in the complication as they both realized their contrary circumstances, and their initial arrangement to help each other secure a mate with someone else.

In fact, I got a little too interested in Liza’s flirtation with Hollister, and the idea of such a match — for convenience, not love, seeing how that would work out when she’s used to running her own household and he has his own mysterious motivations — got way more interesting to me than Liza and Michael. (For all that I love Meredith Duran’s writing and more authentic take on romance novels, she’s never hooked me on the couples’ love.) Now that’s a book I’d like to read, even though it might fall outside of the romance novel genre.

But my biggest issue with this book was how it failed to deal seriously at all with Liza’s drinking problem, which has been long-established from the first mention of her in Duran’s other books. I would think that Michael especially, as a doctor in that era, would be wary of committing himself to someone who could well be an alcoholic. Liza’s line “I don’t drink when I’m with you” was an entirely too flippant dismissal. I can only hope we’re going to get a sequel to this one, in their married life (though I know that’s highly atypical for romance novels), where the issue comes up again in very real ways, and they have to find a way to deal with it.

Also, the plot with Alastair was wrapped up *way* too easily. Not buying it at all. You can do better, Meredith.

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