Country At Heart
Harlequin MIRA AUS
Copy courtesy the publisher/TheReadingRoom.com
Summer has just finished the business degree she completed to please her father but her dream is to open a yoga studio. Before she begins work on that, she has promised her parents she’ll spend a holiday with them at the family’s beach house – luckily she has her best friend Fiona along to keep her company. When they arrive, Summer discovers her father has invited Marcus, Summer’s former teenage boyfriend and the son of her father’s best friend. He’s made no secret of his desire to see Summer and Marcus married and although Marcus is attractive, Summer isn’t interested.
Dean is in the Australian Army, stationed in Afghanistan working with his explosive detection dog Indy, a blue cattle dog. On leave and back in Australia for Christmas, Dean meets Summer one morning on the beach near her father’s beach house and it’s love at first sight. During Dean’s leave they get to know each other, knowing much stands in their way – their parents have a mysterious past, Summer’s father doesn’t think Dean is good enough or successful enough for his little girl and the sneaky, criminal actions of Summer’s friend Marcus may have long lasting repercussions.
Please note: In order to discuss my feelings on this book, I have had to allude to things that happen in the story. I’ve done my best to avoid directly spoiling but it may be easy to figure out from my words, so ***POTENTIAL SPOILER WARNING***
I’m not the world’s biggest fan of love at first sight but I think there are some instances with careful writing where it can work. Unfortunately, this story was not at all convincing and given so much of it hinges on that apparent instant connection between Summer and Dean, it means for me that lots of things didn’t work out.
Firstly, the timing makes this seem like all kinds of wrong. Without going into too much detail so as not to spoil, something happens to Summer and she’s confused and upset. She meets Dean pretty much right after that and I just found those two things so very difficult to reconcile. Summer has no idea how to deal with the potentially bad thing that has happened, instead she is passive and weak. She basically ends up apologising to the person that has wronged her and takes no action against them, doesn’t even attempt to stand up for herself and her rights. I get that there are some reasons why she would be reluctant to assert herself and remove this person from her life but for heck’s sake, Summer gives new meaning to burying your head in the sand. And then when Dean asks her a direct question possibly indirectly pertaining to the issue, Summer lies about it. She’s not entirely sure what the truth is but she doesn’t make any attempt to tell Dean what happened and what the possible repercussions might also be. This brings me to another point – it’s all part of Summer burying her head in the sand but she thinks that this certain thing might have potentially happened to her but she doesn’t do anything to either confirm it or have it refuted. Nor does she attempt to protect herself at all from any potential repercussions. It’s the sort of stupidity that doesn’t fly in this day and age and honestly made me so exasperated with her.
Secondly, the dialogue is utterly unconvincing for me and I’ll use this quote as an example:
Summer’s heart swelled as Dean’s declaration of love filled her with absolute joy. “I love you too Dean, and I think I always have, even before I met you. I feel like I’ve been searching for this missing piece of me, believing with all my heart that you were somewhere out there, looking for me too. And now I’ve found you, now that we’ve found each other, it’s even more powerful than I had ever imagined, this love I have for you…. (p129).
Bear in mind Summer and Dean meet on about p65 and they’ve spent possibly about 1-2 days together before these declarations, most of which are just summarised for the reader. They take a motorbike ride and then Summer spends time with Dean and his father Tony helping Dean paint the house on his father’s property. That’s pretty much the entire summation of their interaction together, before these declarations come spilling out. Their dialogue from there on in is mostly peppered with variations of the above with lots of ‘baby’s’ thrown in for good measure. It read as utterly unbelievable that people would actually speak like that, especially a 24yo university graduate no matter how airy fairy and hippy-ish and a soldier in the Army stationed in Afghanistan. It felt more like how 14 year old girls imagine that they and their boyfriends will be like.
Although I really enjoyed reading about Dean’s job and his bond with his detection dog, Indy. They have a great relationship and Dean sees her as a vital part of his life. I think the details about his life in Afghanistan gave a bit of an idea what it must be like over there, the futility of what they’re doing at times when all their progress is destroyed in an instant. Those snapshots were my favourite parts of the book but unfortunately whenever Dean and Summer were together, I could never really see how they fell in love from their limited interactions. I think both of them were probably nice people – Summer is clearly different from her wealthy, snobbish father who tries to buy Dean off. I liked Dean’s family, they seemed very genuine and down to earth, the sort of people you could imagine knowing and being involved with. However Summer’s mother was an inconsistent character and her father was pretty much repulsive and his abrupt turn around towards the end of the book is once again executed without any real attempt to make it at all believable. It’s not often that I say this but it almost feels as if this book was too short – not enough time and care is taken in establishing relationships as well as orchestrating believable conflict. The way in which the Marcus situation is resolved renders the entire plot utterly unnecessary to the story at all.
Book #220 of 2014
Country At Heart is book #82 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2014