REVIEW: Sweet Summer Days (The Grays Family & Friends Book 1) by Sheryl Lister
Celeste Williams has finally gotten her life back on track and the last thing on her mind is dating again. Then she meets Thaddeus Whitcomb, a man as caring as he is handsome. The chemistry between them is instant and irresistible. Celeste thought no man could move her as deeply as her late husband, but Thad rekindles a passion she never believed she’d feel again.
Since his divorce years ago, Thad has lived a full and successful life. The moment Celeste crosses his path, he realizes she’s the piece he never knew had been missing. As friendship blossoms into more, Thad discovers a second chance at romance. But Celeste begins to retreat. Once he uncovers her reasons for becoming distant, he’ll do whatever it takes to convince the sensual beauty that nothing matters more than their love.
Dear Ms. Lister,
After reading the blurb for this longer novella, I thought it sounded interesting. There’s an older couple – she widowed, he divorced. Though there are more older MCs than there used to be, I’d still like to see more so yay for this.
Part of what I really liked in this story is that as an older couple, Celeste and Thad are direct and don’t play games. She had a loving marriage for decades but after her husband’s death, she hasn’t put her heart on a shelf. Thad’s early marriage went sour quickly but in the intervening years, he’s never thought all women were horrible and has dated and had several longer relationships.
The parenthetical part of the title was soon in evidence as past characters from the Kimani “The Grays of Los Angeles” series were suddenly all over the place. After initially trying to keep them all straight, I quickly gave up and waited for them to appear singly or in duos as the story progressed. These characters did mainly serve this story and I didn’t feel as if I was trying to be sold on buying their books.
There are lots of issues raised in the story. Returning to the dating scene after the loss of a beloved spouse, feelings of adult children about their parents dating, PTSD in military veterans, a disabled veteran, an ex-spouse dealing with anger remaining from a bitter divorce, and the daughter of a breast cancer survivor facing iffy radiology results. Any two or three of these could have filled out a novella. But even though all these issues were baked into Thad and Celete’s lives, after a while I began to feel as if they were all being resolved too easily.
For instance Celeste’s son gets sulky when he discovers she’s dating Thad. Celeste calls him on the carpet about it and after a five minute discussion, he agrees, apologizes, and that’s it. Celeste’s nephew has been struggling with PTSD for months refusing all help or interventions. Thad shows TJ his prosthesis and instantly TJ is willing to talk and unload all his trauma issues and start attending therapy sessions. Thad has been dealing with pain and anger from how his ex-wife fled from his PTSD, took their daughter and filed for divorce. In one short scene, she tearfully apologizes for 28 years of hell for Thad and he feels the weight of his anger slide from his shoulders.
I did enjoy the relationship between Celeste and her sister, Deborah. Deb might be up in Celeste’s business but she knows Deborah has her best interests at heart. The scenes of Thad and his recently rediscovered daughter are great, especially when Thad meets his new granddaughter.
In the end, I liked Celeste and Thad and their relationship. They pretty much knew what they wanted and quickly realized how much they meant to each other. After an initial character dump, the family relationships were handled well and I didn’t continue to feel overwhelmed trying to keep everyone straight. I do wish that there had been fewer issues and that these had been explored a bit more deeply. It’s nice that it all becomes smooth sailing, and wouldn’t we all want our lives this way, but it’s not quite believable. B-