The Summer of You
by Kate Noble
(Berkley, $15.00, PG-13)  ISBN 978-0425232392
The Summer of You was so good I read it twice in three days. This story of a duke’s daughter, her ailing father, her feckless brother, and a wounded war hero who wants to shut himself off from the world is an absolute delight. Kate Noble’s last book, Revealed, was excellent and this follow-up tale, which picks up immediately afterward, is even better.

Lady Jane Cummings wishes to get back into Society, so she has brought her father to London with her. Jane’s mother died a year earlier, and her brother, Jason, immediately left for a tour of Europe with his drinking buddies, leaving a grieving Jane to care for their father. Jason promised to return in a few weeks; instead, he was gone for a year. The Duke is gradually losing his memory, and a parade of doctors haven’t known what to do for him. Lonely, frustrated and frightened, Jane thinks London’s physicians might offer some hope.

Jane and the Duke have only been in London a few weeks, enough for her to make a splash in society, when Jason arrives home. He orders Jane and her father off to the village of Reston, on the shore of Merrymere Lake, where the family owns a substantial house called “The Cottage.”  When Jane and Jason were children, they spent many happy summers there. Jane is furious, and she blackmails her horrified brother into going with them. If she’s going to be stuck in the country, he can damn well be stuck with her.

Once in Reston, however, Jane begins to rediscover all of the joys of country living that so enchanted her as a child. She also discovers the headaches, as the family’s status brings callers out of the woodwork. The locals are up in arms over a highwayman who has committed a number of robberies in the area. They are sure the culprit is Mr. Byrne Worth, who is staying in a small cottage next to the Cummings property.

Curious, Jane decides to pay a call on the mysterious Mr. Worth after he rescues a drunken Jason from a pub brawl. She finds him swimming in the lake, which should be shocking but is intriguing, instead. Byrne is a former spy known as the Blue Raven, and a painful injury to his leg has driven him to laudanum addiction. He has come to Reston, to his late grandmother’s cottage, to break his habit and try to heal. When Jane enters his life and his cottage, neither expects the fast friendship that will develop.

The brilliance of this romance is the attachment that Jane and Byrne start to feel for each other.  These are two bright, caring people who have been treated unkindly by life in some ways, but neither wallows in it. Rather, they find refuge from their troubles in their growing friendship.  Byrne has cut himself off from society and is churlish to the villagers. Jane knows he is no highwayman, but his attitude doesn’t help matters. Jane finds respite from her family troubles in her visits to Byrne, but she’s hiding away at his cottage as much as he is. Eventually they will have to face their problems out in the open, and with each other to lean on, it might be enough.

The romance is stellar. There is plenty of heat here, though the author wisely lets things build to a boiling point rather than throwing Jane and Byrne into bed at the first opportunity. She is, after all, the daughter of a Duke, and though he is a war hero, he’s not of her class. It’s a concern, and rightly so. But as Byrne and Jane’s friendship deepens, the sexual attraction catches fire. 

The side characters, including the immature and self-absorbed Jason, add depth to the story. Lady Victoria, a neighbor who has adored Jason for years, has captured the attention of the village doctor. Both she and Jason have some growing up to do. The Duke’s gradual slide into dementia is heartbreaking, as Jane loves him deeply and doesn’t know where to turn. Byrne’s small acts of kindness toward the Duke were enough to make me fall in love with him myself.

Some readers may feel the romance moves a bit slowly, but I am a huge fan of stories where the characters get to know one another and bond as friends before sex enters the tale. It seems to make the romance stronger. Jane and Byrne are wonderful together and by the end of the book, nothing can break their bond. This is one happy-ever-after that is completely believable, and the journey to get there is wonderful.

Kate Noble is now firmly established on my auto-buy list with her clever, beautifully-written stories. The Summer of You might be the best book you’ll read this summer. Don’t miss this joyful, romantic, oh-so-satisfying story. 

--Cathy Sova

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