Summer of You by Kate Noble

21 Feb
I had been looking for Summer of You for ages and ages until FINALLY my gift card to Powell’s came to my rescue. Truly, I could not find this book in my local bookstores. Conspiracy? Most definitely. Kate Noble is too good and there must be a secret fan club in my vicinity who hoards all her books.

Jane Cummings is a rather successful debutante in England – her success is measured in the amount of suitors on her dance card and the excited titters she elicits when she enters a ball. Her outward persona is sassy and a bit reckless, but inwardly she is carrying the weight of the world. After her mother’s recent death and her brother’s defection to Europe, Jane is tasked with looking after her father, the Duke of Rayne, who is showing the first signs of dementia. As members of the Ton, her family’s public persona is extremely important, and when Jane’s errant brother Jason finally returns, he moves the family to their summer cottage (read: giant mansion) in the sleepy village of Reston. Nothing could be further removed from Jane’s stimulating life in London: Reston is full of nosy, though well-intentioned, inhabitants, and as the ranking aristocracy, Jane is left with a staggering amount of duties to fulfill. Add to that her father’s declining mental health and Jason’s lack of involvement, and Jane is about to snap under the pressure. Enter Byrne Worth, an injured war hero and spy who has retired to the house in Reston his aunt left to him. Byrne has not endeared himself to the local populace – his injuries and naturally taciturn and reserved nature are interpreted as antisocial and hostile. Still, the summer that Jane, the accomplished society miss, and Byrne, the resident loner, find themselves thrown together changes the course of both their lives.

Le yay! I loved this book. I’m so glad I used my internet book-buying skillz to finally track it down.

Before I get started on what I loved, let me first address something, or rather someone, that I loathed: Jason, Jane’s brother. Jason got on my very last nerve, which is actually a wonderful element of the book since it served to throw Jane’s struggles into relief. He demonstrated some of my least favorite personal qualities: selfishness and self-absorption. Also, lazy, entitled, and immature. Though Jane tries again and again to communicate to her brother that she needs him, she can’t do everything alone, and the weight of keeping up a facade is crushing her, Jason steadfastly refuses to hear her. He’s not a bad person; there are moments where you can tell that he knows what he is doing is wrong and that he can be better, but he gives up far too easily. In a way, I’m glad that Noble used a major character to highlight both Jane’s evolution and to portray all-too-familiar human flaws, rather than to simply have a baddie in there to harass Jane. Jason loves his sister and he’s not a bad person, he just acts badly. Still, I don’t like him and hope he falls down. A lot.

Jane is a wonderfully complex character – she really felt like a young woman. At moments, all she wants is to sparkle at a ball and flirt with boys, and at others she skillfully manages to fill her mother’s role as the societal head of Reston. That’s absolutely what growing into a woman feels like, mourning for the lightness and irresponsibility of youth but bravely assuming the skin of the woman you’ll become. Noble clearly excels at character development – she builds layer upon layer of motivation and emotion onto her characters, turning them into full-fledged and rounded, though flawed, individuals.

I loved reading about an injured hero; he’s not exactly crippled, as his injury does seem to improve, but clearly he will feel the physical and emotional repercussions of his role in the war for the rest of his life. It’s a bit of a respite from the more traditional, he-man types of heroes whose physical prowess knows no bounds. “Tortured” doesn’t seem like too much of a stretch for an adjective to describe him. But he’s not only brooding and dark, he can be silly, flirtatious, and sensitive as well. Again, hurrah for Noble’s ability to build believable characters. He really provides the breathing space for Jane to throw off the expectations placed upon her and just be herself. To me, that’s the most satisfying kind of relationship to read about, one where the characters don’t necessarily complete each other, but they complement each other. That distinction is, to me, more realistic and resonant.

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3 Responses to “Summer of You by Kate Noble”

  1. Rebecca February 21, 2012 at 2:43 pm #

    “To me, that’s the most satisfying kind of relationship to read about, one where the characters don’t necessarily complete each other, but they complement each other.” I agree completely! I don’t want to read about two characters who need each other to live. That seems too high school, too teenage “you’ll be my everything and I’ll be your everything and the rest of the world can burn to cinders as long as I have you.” I like people who make each other better, stronger, and support each other.

    Also, “le yay” is officially my new favorite saying. 🙂

    • Amanda February 21, 2012 at 3:12 pm #

      Right? Don’t those kinds of relationships feel more adult? I’m not immune to the soulmate vibe either, but I like to see both sides of the relationship spectrum.

      Are you loving your new Kindle?

      • Rebecca February 21, 2012 at 3:19 pm #

        I ADORE my new Kindle. I’m toying with naming it “Extinguisher” kind of like Excalibur, so it’s my Kindle Fire Extinguisher. I call it Guisher for short. Cody refuses to call it that, but he likes “The Sting.” I think it’s important to name mobile things. It makes it easier to reference them and more enjoyable. For instance, my car has a special locktronics thing that won’t allow the car to start without it being plugged in (this is old-school, before key fobs that the car could sense), so we call it “The Thingy.” The water bottle is called “Everything.” The laptop still needs a name. Anyway, this way it’s easy to check to make sure we have what we need. A common question that make no sense to anyone but Cody and I is “Do you have The Thingy and Everything?” It sounds like we’re a little mental, but I like it. I imagine we’ll name our cell phones, whenever we get them.

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