14 September, 2015

Summer's End by Kathleen Gilles Seidel

Paperback: 432 pages
Original Publisher: Harper Paperbacks (1999)
Reprint edition: William Morrow Paperbacks (May 3, 2011)
Language: English
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Kathleen-Gilles-Seidel/e/B001HCX6S8/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0
Sexual Content: none


To their respective families, Jack Wells and Amy Legend are outsiders. A free-spirited man-of-all-trades, Jack takes life as it comes—not at all like his supremely organized mother, the admiral’s widow, and his methodical lawyer sister. Amy, a professional athlete with exquisite taste and golden beauty, has a glamorous career a world apart from her bookish older siblings and college professor father.

When Jack’s mother marries Amy’s widowed father, they invite all the children to spend the summer at the Legends’ retreat in northern Minnesota. They never imagine just how well Jack and Amy are going to get along—as affection unexpectedly flares into a burning attraction that threatens to damage already fragile familial bonds.
Agreeing to deny their desire until the vacation is over—caught between long-simmering conflicts and clashing personalities—Jack and Amy find, nonetheless, that they are falling deeply in love.

And passion this strong couldn’t possibly wait until summer’s end . . . no matter what the consequences.

My Take

Glowing reviews at Amazon for this one, but it is listed under ROMANCE, and I found it in the ROMANCE section at the local library, but this is untrue.

The inside back cover has a picture of the author and her brief bio, which includes the fact that she has a Ph.D in English Literature from Johns Hopkins.

This is pretty cool, except that even with this knowledge, and despite its having been originally written back in 1999, I had some trouble keeping up with this one due to the strange and unusual sentence structure and/or wording.

There were even type-o's spattered throughout, which seems odd for both the time, the original publishing house, and the celebrated author's resume.

Still, I took this one at face value for all of the above-mentioned hopes and forced my way through the entire thing - which took close to a week - which is unheard of for me and means it was a tough read.

First, it isn't a romance.

It is the story of two families blending via second marriage, and they all converge on the man's summer retreat up in Minnesota.

He and his brood are from Iowa and are of the college professor ilk while she is from . . . East coast/West coast? I got a bit confused because her husband was in the Navy, and the daughter ended up working as a lawyer in New York, and Jack lives in Kentucky. They moved around a lot, but somewhere in the middle of this tale, someone mentioned that it would be convenient to hold Christmas in California since HER side of the family is up the way in Seattle.

Where Seattle came from, I don't know.

Anyway, SHE has the daughter and a son, Jack. And, as cornball as it sounds, he is a Jack-of-all-trades, believe it or not.

HE has a son, a daughter, and a little princess, and it is the princess who becomes an Olympic Medalist figure skater because 'she's different' and doesn't like to 'read books'.

Her mother was gentry but had these weird, redneck ideals about life - I didn't get that, either. But, when the new mom arrives, she's lots and lots better at everything, so it's okay.

Again, I get that it was the time and I'm not supposed to notice (or care about) any of the rhetoric, prejudice, and mentality of the previous century's way of being but . . .

she actually wrote that it was no surprise that Amy's best friends were gay considering their line of work as figure skaters.

But, what the author consistently did was make Jack's ma sound like an angel while Amy's ma was this stuck-up bitch who had weird notions about life, love, and family that worked to screw up the whole clan - oh, and she didn't want Amy, which was why no one paid her any mind after she was sent away to study ice skating.

Amy was a mistake, and while she never knew that, she continued to feel like an outsider and was never surprised when none of her family cared that she won a gold medal or even bothered to watch her on TV, much less attend one of her competitions.

"Because she never liked to read."

As I plodded my way through this story, I started to wonder how much of Jack's mom is actually the author, and how much of this story might coincide with her own experience.

Jack was too perfect even if he kept denying it; his sister, Holly, was too understanding and ideal even if she hated everything outside of work, and the mom? Well, she just always knew what to say, how to behave, what to do, and how to save the day so that everyone was happy.

It was her new husband's family that was screwed up, and it was her job to fix it all.

And, her new husband, Hal . . . I kept seeing Walter Pidgeon at his 1938-1942 best, wearing oxfords, smoking a pipe in some overstuffed arm chair with his long legs crossed at the knees, a thick book in his lap, and just observing everyone and everything around him.

The only MODERN things about this story included unprotected sex, teen sex, and a bit of cussing care of Nick, Jack and Holly's cousin.

Yeah, Nick is also from a screwed-up home; Jack's mom's younger sister's daughter's son. She's another piece of work who screwed up her daughter and now both women are intent on screwing up Nick.

But, don't worry because he's with them on this Minnesota Lake outing for the summer, and with Gwen there, he's sure to get un-screwed up real quick.

Because Gwen is just so, damn perfect!

I will say that the author knows family.

Well, I will admit that the author knows uppity, upscale, professional college-town family life and wrote it quite well in this novel.

However, after the amount of decades that had passed between Amy and her older sister, Phoebe, it was a little hard to believe and stomach the way they transitioned from hating/loathing/despising one over the other to best buds.

The tension mounted and mounted, and it kept mounting until I got a stomach ache, and with Amy in complete denial and making excuses for everything simply by saying "Amy the Afterthought" and it was okay.

When the shit hit the fan and her older brother's caustic, co-dependent wife finally took off with her spoiled, rotten little bitch daughter from another marriage, suddenly everything got better.

I mean, it was suddenly okay, and they started speaking civilly to one another, understood each other, recognized feeling and emotion, and now the family unit was coming together . . . like magic.

Gwen magic, that is.

Now, as for there being a romance category in all of this family angst, trite shit, and we all know how effed up the family unit can be . . . Amy and Jack still manage to hit it off right away and she - again - faked her reasoning into having sex with him inside a tiny tent on a stormy night in the middle of nowhere.

But, it was only mechanically initiated, zero feelings or foreplay: wait, he did take off her sweater, set her back against his clothed chest, and fonder her boobies. Jack did that.

He stared at her naked body, too, and asked about her pubic hair as well.

Then it was the next morning . . .

and Amy was dazzled.

She knew it would be bad if the family found out, so she and Jack decide to keep it a secret until everyone leaves Minnesota and goes back to their uncaring, unaffected, Amy the Afterthought mentality lives and she is free to do as she pleases because no one will know or care.

Jack cares, though. He walks away and gets his sister, Holly, to do everything for him.

But, then he drives from Kentucky to Denver, enters Amy's condo, tells her he loves her, and then he leaves.

Amy cares but doesn't care, because she just 'knows' it is going to work out somehow.

Even when Jack uses Holly to relay his messages, she still knows.

He avoids Amy like the plague, but Amy isn't skeptical or daunted.

Amy just knows and that is what keeps her going.

*** So, if you are interested in reading about the family dynamic from the point of view of a college-town housewife with a twentieth century feel to it, this is the novel for you. ***

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