It’s a labour of love to hunt down the local Blaze release by my favourite contemporary romance author, but it was definitely worth the wait.
I love Kathleen O’Reilly’s writing voice. Love. So if you’re looking for a non-fangirly review of her latest Blaze release, you’re reading the wrong blog.
But stay with me. I wouldn’t recommend the book if it wasn’t good.
Times journalist Jenn Dale is facing the sack—her biggest rival is sleeping with the boss—and she’s on the hunt for a big story to save her dream job. Except she’s stuck in possibly the worst cabin accommodation, to cover a festival that has no hope in hell of making headlines.
Meanwhile, she meets the tortured writer—‘Mr Habitual Scowler’—staying at cabin number three. And discovers that he has great finger technique. Must be all that frantic typing.
Aaron Barksdale is like Dr House, except he’s a bestselling novelist who hasn’t published anything since his first book twelve years ago. Despite his misanthropic ways, he’s drawn to Jenn—initially to her nakedness, but it’s a start—although he resists the pull at every turn.
Jenn isn’t an idiot, and despite the great sex and Aaron’s curmudgeonly charm (i.e. non-existent except it’s charming that he even makes the effort), she cuts her losses when he finally reveals his identity, expecting Jenn to betray him.
What makes the story heartbreaking is Jenn’s complete faith in Aaron and his complete lack of faith not just in her but in pretty much every other person, with the exception of his long-suffering agent. Although there are moments when Jenn veers dangerously into martyrdom—because seriously, Aaron is a bit of a clueless dick—O’Reilly makes Aaron work for his happy ending. He has quite a few issues to work through, not the least of which is a son he practically abandoned at birth.
Writers writing about other writers
Anyone who knows my reading pet peeves knows that I am loathe to read about writers. Not only does this story have a journalist heroine, O’Reilly pairs her up with a novelist hero. And amazingly enough, it works. It works because O’Reilly doesn’t overindulge her characters’ writerly ways. From the beginning, there’s a sense that Jenn is a little bit over the ruthlessness of her profession. And even though there are occasional glimpses of Aaron’s writing, he is often self-deprecating and ends up throwing the thing out.
The first night she was gone, Aaron wrote himself into a frenzy. Pages and pages of rambling tripe that was hokey and contrived. He was trying for the best sort of Joyce, a meandering stream of consciousness to fully show confusion and frustration, but ended up with the bad merging of a schoolgirl’s diary and Penthouse Letters. He told himself that he was better off without her, better without the distraction, but then he wrote the words surging passion and nearly slit his wrists.
And later, this:
Who was he fooling? It blew great chunks of sugary cheese, coating his fictional world in a pink cobweb of Utopian joy. Ew.
If nothing else, two writerly characters in lust provides the perfect setting for a game of strip Scrabble, which may just trump the naked limo ride in Breakfast at Bethany’s for my favourite O’Reilly seduction scene.
Modern heroine meets coffee snob hero (I squee)
O’Reilly blends the somewhat rustic setting at the start of the book with a very modern heroine: Jenn sees her first starry sky and does what any citysider would—she looks up the constellations on her iPhone. ‘It’s a GPS, a coffee-finder, a time-management tool and a calorie counter,’ she tells Aaron, who, of course, doesn’t believe in a word processor, let alone telephones.
Aaron also doesn’t believe in coffee makers. Score one for Aaron. He woos Jenn with fresh coffee beans. Be still my heart.
The very last page of the book (yes, it’s part of the Epilogue) made me laugh with its exuberant embrace of popular culture.
Romance, literature, escapism
So certain parts of the plot seem a tad contrived, and obviously there are sexcapades galore, some in itchy sounding surrounds, and maybe the I-love-yous feel a little underdeveloped, but in general O’Reilly doesn’t seem to believe in spoon-feeding the reader. And I love that.
Even taking into account Aaron’s navel gazing, there’s a bit of a literary feel about O’Reilly’s writing that I don’t often find in category romances, as authors try to fit back stories and plot and character motivations in so few pages. O’Reilly allows the story to breathe while still retaining the sense of melodrama that, let’s face it, category romance readers expect and love.
Actually, let’s go back to the underdeveloped I-love-yous. On one hand, it’s hard to understand how Jenn falls in love with Aaron when he was still so emotionally unavailable. On the other hand, part of the romantic fantasy in the story is the inexplicable connection they feel for each other, which gets them to take risks, however small, out of their comfort zones. Whether or not this works for you will, I think, depend on how well the author’s voice captures your imagination.
Yay or nay?
Long Summer Nights is a bit funny, a bit dramatic, a bit sexy—what’s not to love? Buy this book … and the rest of O’Reilly’s backlist while you’re at it.
This is the third book in the Where You Least Expect It miniseries, although I don’t think the characters are related in any way. You can buy the ebook bundle from Diesel (includes an anthology with Julie Kenner). If you want a print copy, you have less than a month to find it in a local bookshop.
Title: Long Summer Nights (excerpt)
Series: Where You Least Expect It (Book 3)
Author: Kathleen O’Reilly
Publisher: Mills & Boon (Blaze)
Australia: 9781742552330 (November 2010)
USA: 9780373795451 (May 2010)
Where you can buy this book
AUSTRALIA: Booktopia | Fishpond | Mills & Boon | Click here for more bookshops
EBOOKS: Books On Board | Diesel | Dymocks | eBooks.com | eHarlequin | Fictionwise | Fishpond | Kindle UK | Kindle US
WORLDWIDE: Amazon US | eHarlequin