Another Summer is a sequel of sorts to The Beach House, Georgia Bockoven’s touching anthology of stories tied together by their location - a summer cottage. This book opens several years after the events of The Beach House, and the connecting thread is really the man who lives next door, Andrew. It’s his own story that wraps around the three others in the novel.
Andrew Wells is attending his twenty year high-school reunion in hopes of meeting his old love, Cheryl Cunningham. Years earlier, Andrew left her when he discovered he had testicular cancer - a decision he has long regretted. Over the years, he’s followed Cheryl’s marriage to and subsequent divorce from a politician. When Cheryl does arrive at the reunion, she is just as unnerved by Andrew as he is by her. The spark is still there. Now all Andrew has to do is convince Cheryl it can burn.
Andrew lives on the California coast near their hometown of Santa Cruz. He invites Cheryl to visit him, and the wheels of romance are set in motion. Cheryl is intrigued by the cottage next door, which is rented out on a monthly basis by the absent owners. When Cheryl returns to Oakland, the scene shifts next door.
June brings attorney Kelly Anderson, who is taking a month-long holiday at the insistence of her father, who is also her boss. Kelly has another motive. She plans to take a class in environmental issues from noted author Matt Landry, knowing she’ll face him in court if she plans to pursue her interest in environmental law. Matt is a noted witness and researcher. Kelly first runs into him on the beach when it turns out he’s friends with the next-door-neighbor, Andrew. Kelly and Matt meet again and end up spending a day together, where they both feel an undeniable pull of attraction and rightness. But if she plans to face him down in court, how can she ever have a romantic relationship with him? Their mature, clear-eyed interaction is refreshingly realistic.
July is set aside for a family in need of some healing. Craig and Ann Davis and their nine-year-old son, Jeremy, arrive toting a heavy load of emotional baggage. Ann is tormented by the death of their baby daughter nine months before. Since then, she has withdrawn into a cocoon of guilt and has virtually ignored the needs of her husband and small son. Jeremy consoles himself with a stray cat that takes an instant liking to him. An elderly couple also appears and makes friends with both Jeremy and Ann.
This story felt forced in some ways. Ann is so deeply sunk in her guilt that she seemed to cross the line to professional victim. Granted, she’s going to strike readers in different ways - but she didn’t work for me. Her attitude of “In order to feel better I have to stop loving my baby” made no sense to me, and I was exasperated with her. Once Ann decides to get on with her life, problems are solved in a day, even though she’s basically lost a year of her son’s life. Family therapy might have been a more realistic option.
The last story returns us to Andrew and Cheryl in a roundabout way. Cheryl arrives for the month of August and Andrew is overjoyed until he sees that she’s toting three teenaged girls with her. All are in need of a getaway from their environments, and social-worker Cheryl has brought them along for the month. Maria Ramos centers the story. She’s helping to provide for her family, and Cheryl has promised her a job in Andrew’s nursery business in order to get her to the beach. It’s at the nursery that Maria discovers work she truly loves and has a gift for. It’s also where she discovers Paul Williams, who lives in a neighboring cottage and embodies every rich kid Maria has ever loathed.
Only Paul isn’t quite what Maria believes him to be, and if she can let go of her preconceived notions, she just might find a lovely romance waiting for her. Readers who enjoyed The Beach House will remember Paul, who made a brief appearance as the son of a main character. For those who remember Chris, the wrestler who became an unexpected movie star, we’re allowed a glimpse into his life. My favorite characters, Joe and Maggie, make an appearance in the July tale as young Jeremy’s elderly saviors. And Andrew and Cheryl finally bring their romance full circle at the end.
Another Summer is a warmhearted, sometimes poignant return to the beach house where it all started. Georgia Bockoven’s characters are all vivid, and her prose is descriptive and lovely without overshadowing the story. Readers who appreciate some maturity and self-awareness in their characters will be especially taken with Kelly and Matt, two potential lovers who discover the joy of finding the one person who accepts them completely - warts and all. As Kelly puts it,
She was miles from perfect, a work in progress, a lump of clay spinning on a potter’s wheel ripe with possibilities.
Yet Matt wants her anyway. I wish their story had been longer.
Contemporary romance fans will relish Another Summer. Like a real thing, it ends too quickly but leaves such sweet memories. Enjoy.