Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

REVIEW: Summer’s End by Kathleen Gilles Seidel

In keeping with the Olympic spirit, Amy Legend is a former Olympic gold medalist in figure skating. Not the summer Olympics, but still.

“To their respective families, Jack Wells and Amy Legend are outsiders. A free-spirited man-of-all-trades, Jack takes life as it comes—not at all like his supremely organized mother, the admiral’s widow, and his methodical lawyer sister. Amy, a professional athlete with exquisite taste and golden beauty, has a glamorous career a world apart from her bookish older siblings and college professor father.

When Jack’s mother marries Amy’s widowed father, they invite all the children to spend the summer at the Legends’ retreat in northern Minnesota. They never imagine just how well Jack and Amy are going to get along—as affection unexpectedly flares into a burning attraction that threatens to damage already fragile familial bonds. Agreeing to deny their desire until the vacation is over—caught between long-simmering conflicts and clashing personalities—Jack and Amy find, nonetheless, that they are falling deeply in love. And passion this strong couldn’t possibly wait until summer’s end . . . no matter what the consequences.”

Dear Ms. Seidel,

Summer's End by Kathleen Gilles SeidelA couple of weeks ago, one of my reviews about a female athlete was posted here at DA. People commented about how rare it is to find a female athlete in a romance and that “Summer’s End” is one of those rare books. My eyes widened in amazement as I looked down on the (awful clutter) that is my computer desk and fished your book out (from under some piles of paper). Here’s to serendipity.

The back cover blurb might make this sound like it focuses on the romance but I found that to be just one of many things happening. This is a lovely group ensemble book that probes the dynamics of multigenerational issues. Things have always been a particular way at the lake and Legend family seems stuck in a serious rut about it. Some has to do with Hal’s first wife and her aristocratic English lack of care about cobwebbed corners + insistence on tradition. Some is the overspill of grief at said mother’s death. Some is hunkering down and protecting “the way we’ve always done it” in the face of new stepmother Gwen. But they all need a stick of dynamite exploded to lift them out of all this. Which is what happens.

Lots and lots of changes take place over the course of the book but for the most part, I can believe them. Phoebe finally deals with her reluctance to part with her grief for her mother and her resentment of Amy for seemingly not feeling the same way. These two work this out and hopefully will have better communications in the future. Jack lays to rest his unfinished feelings of failing his father’s expectations and comes to peace with the fact that he is and isn’t like his father. They both hate(d) rules and regulations but his dad worked them to his advantage while Jack has to find something that lets him avoid them. Giles wants space for his family away from a location he’s never felt physically comfortable in. The new house will be built to suit them and its location will give them some privacy. Ian is still working with a counselor as to why he felt drawn to his critical wife. This part still feels underdeveloped to me but then it also helps the book avoid a totally neat and tidy wrap up of all issues. And Afterthought Amy wakes up to the fact that her distance from her family isn’t totally their fault then starts to arrange her schedule some to fix that.
There are a lot of characters to be introduced to, learn about and keep straight in the book. Most of these people have scenes from their POV except for Ian – I don’t recall any from him. I found this no loss as what the others see and what he does show his feelings well enough. So why then have one or two scene with the POV from more secondary characters which adds nothing to the story? Did we need Maggie and Joyce? No, I don’t think so, especially as they each had only one. More of Gwen? Yes, please and Hal too.

Taking a months vacation every year? Jeez, who does this these days? Lucky for the Legend family that they’re mainly professors who can take the summer off but how about lawyers Phoebe and Giles? Yeah lawyers can take some time off but I think this shows the book’s age. I did enjoy the time devoted to Amy’s skating career and the detailed descriptions of what it takes to reach that level and attain those dreams.

Hal and Gwen: the book starts with them, but then – for Hal at least – for the most part they step back out of the action. Gwen is seen more as she’s trying to fit into her new role at the lake and into this family but for pages and pages on end, Hal disappears. I would like to have read how these tensions were seen by them as a couple and not just by Gwen. But her organizational skills are a product of her history as a Navy wife while maybe Hal is used to stepping back for the strong women in the Legend family.

The romance between Jack and Amy is slow yet also, I know I’m being perverse here, fast and underdeveloped to me. They skirt around each other for weeks then suddenly give into temptations then pull WAY back almost immediately and have little contact until WHAM! they decide to get married. Sorry but as much as I like these two it just isn’t enough for me. I’m told they’re in love and that there’s no dabbling in a relationship for them – it’s all or nothing – but why? I don’t get the reason they can’t take some more time with it.

As for epilogues and last chapter wrap ups, I can usually take them or leave them. Here the last 20 pages are too detailed about some things – the dress up Thanksgiving feast – at this point, who cares? – and skim over others such as Nick’s fight to discover his father and Ian’s family working through massive changes of the past year.

A passage at the end of the book says everyone changes and that is the truth. Some of these people annoy me to no end when the book starts while others have been doing the long suffering martyr thing. Most of the changes come slowly over the month long stay at the lake or take even longer up til the Thanksgiving gathering. The exception being the change in Ian’s marriage and relationship with stepdaughter Maggie which is an overnight blowup. But the mix of the two time frames makes the whole thing more believable. Some change is due to actions while others are due to long simmering feelings and resentments that are finally expressed. I might not have started out liking some of the characters but by the end of the story, you made me care for them and relish the improvement in their lives.

Yes, I have some issues with the book but the characters come alive for me. For the most part, detailed descriptions are eschewed in place of showing who these people are and their relations to each other. I can feel the love, the tension, the resentment, the peace, the misunderstandings as if they’re playing out in front of me. Juggling this many characters and still maintaining that is a feat. I never lost interest in either the characters – who are flawed but react believably – or the story and am glad to see this book reissued for more people to enjoy. B

~Jayne

Goodreads | Amazon | BN | nook | Sony | Kobo

Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.

18 Comments

  1. Jane
    Jul 30, 2011 @ 13:05:20

    When I first read this book, I didn’t love it. I re-read it a couple of years later and thought it was great. When people talk about wanting flawed characters in their books, I wonder if they’ve ever read KGS because her characters are as flawed and multidimensional and real as they come.

    I agree that the whys around Jack and Amy’s relationship are a little glossed over. But they both admire the skills the other have and it made sense to me that they belonged together.

    It was more than a romance between two people but a romance between the families. The Legend daughters coming to appreciate Gwen and her kids and Gwen and her kids coming to appreciate the Legends.

  2. Ros
    Jul 30, 2011 @ 13:35:06

    I love this book. I read it for the first time earlier this year on a recommendation from a friend and thoroughly enjoyed it. I liked the ensemble feel of it and I agree that it would have been nice to have had a bit more of Hal and Gwen. I liked Jack and Amy’s romance too. Yes, it would have been good to have seen a few more steps but I felt that Seidel did a good job of showing how difficult their circumstances were because of their families. And I did believe that they could move that fast – both Jack and Amy are good at knowing what they want and making decisions.

    Mostly, though, I love this book because I love Amy. Yes, she’s flawed but in a very real way. She chooses to be an ice skater, in part, because she gets to wear marabou. She cares about her appearance a lot. She’s very single-minded and because she’s so different from her family, she ends up excluding herself from them. I love how she learns to be part of the family again and it seems important to me that it’s Jack who helps her do that.

    I cared about the Thanksgiving party! I cared about everything and I would happily have read twice as many pages about this normal, complicated, interesting family and their many relationships.

  3. Janine
    Jul 30, 2011 @ 13:48:21

    I loved this one too, even though it’s at least as much an ensemble piece as a romance. The most impressive thing to me about Summer’s End may have been that there are so many characters yet each one feels so distinctive and real.

    @Jane:

    When people talk about wanting flawed characters in their books, I wonder if they’ve ever read KGS because her characters are as flawed and multidimensional and real as they come.

    Agreed. I kept thinking of KGS during the recent discussion of flawed characters and whether or not they can work in a romance. Seidel has a few weaknesses in her romances — too much exposition and occasional stereotyping — yet her characters themselves are always fully fleshed out and distinctive.

    Her books are quiet, but they suck me in so strongly anyway. In my review of Don’t Forget to Smile, I described them this way:

    Your books aren’t flashy, but down to earth. They take their time to get where they are going. There is however, a welcome realness to the characters, surroundings, and events. At no point do I ever have to suspend my disbelief in some unlikely plot twist that comes out of nowhere or roll my eyes because a character’s behavior is not in keeping with his or her personality or profession.

    There are times when I find myself thinking that since the pace is sedate and there are no werewolves, serial killers or dukes, I should be bored, but in fact I’m rarely less than wholly absorbed in your stories. The writing isn’t gorgeous, the words don’t melt on the tongue or gurgle pleasingly in my ears, but somehow I am quietly seduced, perhaps by the wealth of detail, perhaps by the conversational tone, or possibly by the fact that there is usually something going on with your characters that goes beneath the surface.

    I really hope that more of her romance backlist will be reprinted or at least digitally released, and that more readers discover her.

  4. Sunita
    Jul 30, 2011 @ 15:14:57

    Chiming in to agree with both the review and the comments. Yes it’s flawed, yes it’s about the families as much as the romantic MC. But like Jane, I liked it on the first read and loved it on the second and third. I really like Amy’s character and development, and the sequence where they canoe to get help remains one of my favorites ever. It’s so great that *she’s* the strong, athletic one.

    And I like that she stayed committed to her profession but figured out ways to incorporate people and interests and love into her life.

    The ensemble stuff Seidel does here reminds me a lot of British books in which the romance is embedded in a family and/or community setting.

  5. Treasure
    Jul 30, 2011 @ 16:50:56

    I loved this book. I read it when it first came out and then again when it was reissued earlier this year. But then I haven’t found a KSG book that I didn’t love and find worthy of reading over and over again. I found Amy’s struggle to deal with being the “different” one in her very academic family very real, and then tension caused by Maggie and Joyce necessary to move the families along, so I was OK with the characters. I was also OK with the speed that Jack and Amy needed to come together on couple of levels. neither are young, they don’t need to play the falling in love games that teenagers and young adults can. Amy has an established career and is a public figure. She can’t play too much because it will make news.

  6. Keishon
    Jul 30, 2011 @ 19:07:58

    Love this book and this author. Wish she could write romance again.

  7. E.D. Walker
    Jul 30, 2011 @ 20:09:33

    I LOVE this book, and I LOVE KGS. (And I found her through a DA review awhile back, so thanks DA!) Her book, Again is probably one of my top three favorite books of all time. I hope they re-issue that one soon.

    She is so good at creating characters and worlds. Even when one of her characters makes a truly horrible decision (like the heroine in Til the Stars Fall) I always understand what led them there and why they made those choices because her characters are so real and well-developed.

    I agree with the comment above that I could read a book twice as long as this about the Summer’s End characters. I also wish there were more books about female athletes and figure skaters in general.

  8. Janine
    Jul 30, 2011 @ 20:23:06

    @E.D. Walker:

    Her book, Again is probably one of my top three favorite books of all time. I hope they re-issue that one soon.

    Again is probably my favorite of all her books. I would love to have an excuse to reread and review it!

  9. Ros
    Jul 31, 2011 @ 03:12:13

    Janine, don’t wait for an excuse – just do it!!! Again is so much fun, especially for Heyer fans like me. It was my first Seidel and a fantastic introduction to her books.

  10. E.D. Walker
    Jul 31, 2011 @ 18:28:56

    @Ros: Yes, I love all the Regency romance/Heyer jokes. Especially when Alec goes all Duke-y.

  11. Janine
    Jul 31, 2011 @ 19:13:43

    @Ros: I would love to review it, but if there’s a chance that it will be rereleased, in digital as well as paper, then I think it’s better to wait until then. Some readers don’t buy paper at all anymore.

  12. Ann
    Aug 26, 2011 @ 02:04:33

    Thank you. Because of this review I checked out SUMMER’S END from the library and so enjoyed it.

  13. Jayne
    Aug 26, 2011 @ 03:33:03

    @Ann: Good, good, good I’m glad you liked it! My next suggestion would be “Again” if you can find it. The heroine works on a day time Regency era soap opera. I remember it as being very funny.

  14. shauna
    Sep 16, 2011 @ 00:03:12

    I was looking for a book to take with me on vacation.I read the back jacket and was interested enough to buy it. Good story but OVER THE TOP in DETAILS!!!!! This author describes EVERY single bit of minutiae from someone leaning over, blinking,turning their head,putting luggage in the truck, coming back around to the front, rubbing their eye, fastening their seatbelt,turning on the ignition, This kind of second by second blow was on virtually page.I found myself skipping so many pages because I just couldn’t take how much UNNECESSARY detail there was. That’s what killed this book and author for me. She needs to tone it WAY down. To much information that pulls the reader away from what can be told in much less time.

  15. Jayne
    Sep 16, 2011 @ 06:23:43

    @shauna: I think I reached your point of frustration when the Thanksgiving feast arrived. That just seemed endless to me.

  16. GrowlyCub
    Aug 02, 2012 @ 13:17:04

    I’d call it women’s fiction rather than romance and I was pretty bored even though I did finish it. Too many characters, too many story lines and nothing satisfactorily fleshed out (except for unimportant details as shauna mentions).

  17. Leslie
    Aug 04, 2012 @ 13:34:33

    I am loving this book! Thank you!

  18. romsfuulynn
    Aug 12, 2012 @ 14:46:39

    I love all Seidel. Even the newer non-romances, like Keep Your Mouth Shut and Wear Beige an A Most Uncommon Degree of Popularity. I really would recommend the latter to romance readers.

%d bloggers like this: