|The events in Summer of Roses take place immediately following the conclusion of Summer’s Child, so readers are advised against picking up this book without first reading its predecessor.
Nine years after her mysterious disappearance, Lily Malone is headed back to her Connecticut seaside home accompanied by daughter Rose and boyfriend Liam to help her beloved grandmother Maeve, who lies comatose in the hospital. Lily knows that she’s risking everything by leaving behind the life she’s made in Nova Scotia, but she’s tired of running and suspects that Maeve won’t recover without her support. By reappearing in Connecticut, she is reunited with many loved ones she has missed, including Bay McCabe and Tara O’Toole (from Rice’s earlier novel The Perfect Summer), but she is also forced to confront Edward Hunter, the man who crushed her dreams and sent her into hiding for almost a decade. Lily is a lot stronger than she was nine years ago, but she knows that Edward will set his sights on a new target – her daughter Rose.
Meanwhile back in Cape Hawk, Nova Scotia, Marisa Taylor helps run Lily’s needlepoint store while also recovering from an emotionally abusive and dangerous relationship. She finds herself missing Patrick Murphy, the retired police detective who came to Cape Hawk searching for Lily, but she’s reluctant to become involved with another man who might hurt her or her daughter Jessica. She also misses her younger sister Sam; their close relationship was a tragic casualty of her disastrous second marriage. Her tentative steps to reach out to Patrick result in greater rewards than she has ever dreamed, including the chance to repair the damaged bond with Sam through the musical talent the sisters share. And when Lily Malone’s worst nightmare is realized and she has to fight Edward in the legal system, Marisa knows she has to be at her side to help, despite her own lingering fears and nightmares.
At slightly more than 300 pages, the hardcover Summer of Roses is a much more expensive read than the 400 page paperback Summer’s Child, but since so many issues are left unresolved in the first book I suspect many readers will invest in the sequel. The characters are the same – the angelic Rose, noble Lily, long-suffering hero Liam – but the second novel is more suspenseful than the first. There are several creepy flashback scenes to Lily’s relationship with the charming but immoral Edward, giving the final inevitable showdown between the two greater intensity and charge. I knew Lily would emerge triumphant in the end, but that didn’t stop me from biting my nails along the way.
Summer of Roses contains more of a focus on Marisa, her slowly developing relationship with smitten Patrick and her reconciliation with wary but loving sister Sam. While at times she seems almost a carbon copy of Lily, Marisa’s love of music and the method she utilizes to reach out to Patrick are very touching.
The issue of emotional abuse as a legitimate form of domestic violence is a very real one that deserves attention, and Rice lays on the sisterhood solidarity message so strongly that I almost expected Wonder Woman to show up in her cape any minute. Still, even a cynic like myself would have to have a heart of stone not to be affected by the numerous reunion scenes that populate the story. Wouldn’t it be a nice world if all women stood together like they do in Rice’s novels?
My concerns about Rice’s recent work and its lack of subtlety and complexity remain the same as stated in my review of Summer’s Child; I still think she’s not the same author she was five years ago. But for an engaging beach read with a bit of whimsy and a heavy dose of sisterhood in a well-written Women’s Fiction package, Rice remains the go-to girl.