Title: All Summer Long by Susan Mallery
Fool’s Gold Series Book Nine
Imprint: Harlequin HQN
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Length: 384 pages
Book Rating: B+
Review Copy Obtained from Publisher Through NetGalley
Former underwear model turned entrepreneur Clay Stryker has loved, tragically lost and vowed that he’ll never risk his heart again. After making his fortune, the youngest of the rugged Stryker brothers returns to Fool’s Gold, California, to put down roots on a ranch of his own. But he’s frustrated to discover that even in his hometown, people see him only for his world-famous…assets.
Firefighter Chantal (Charlie) Dixon grew up an ugly duckling beside her delicately beautiful mother, a feeling reinforced long ago by a man who left soul-deep scars. Now she has good friends, a solid job and the itch to start a family—yet she can’t move toward the future while she’s haunted by painful memories.
Clay finds an unexpected ally, and unexpected temptation, in tomboyish Charlie, the only person who sees beyond his dazzling good looks to the real man beneath. But when Charlie comes to him with an indecent proposal, will they be able to overcome their pasts and find a love that lasts beyond one incredible summer?
In All Summer Long, Susan Mallery brings the Stryker brothers’ trilogy to an outstanding finish and tantalizes her readers with a teasing glimpse of their sister Evageline’s upcoming story. While this latest novel in the Fool’s Gold series is a bit more serious than the previous two novels, it is a romantic and fairly light-hearted read.
Well drawn and true to life, Charlie Dixon and Clay Stryker are fabulous characters. Straightforward, blunt and to the point, Charlie is a refreshing breath of fresh air. She says what she means and she means what she says. Never mean or hurtful, she is sensitive to others’ feelings and she gets her point across with an great deal of tact. Finally ready to put her painful past behind her, Charlie entices Clay with a proposal he finds impossible to resist.
Ahh, Clay. I confess. He is my favorite of the three brothers. Former underwear model and butt double with spectacular looks that routinely inspire numerous propositions from legions of women both young and old, he is surprisingly blasé about how gorgeous he is. More than just a pretty face (and butt), he is a kind-hearted, down-to-earth, intelligent and surprisingly insightful man. He has arrived in Fool’s Gold with a well-researched business plan and a strong desire to contribute to the local community.
While their relationship is originally based on their mutual sexual attraction, there is true friendship, mutual respect and genuine affection between Clay and Charlie. Clay’s patience and understanding with Charlie adds to his character’s depth and appeal. Their sex scenes are quite sensual and reveal a lot about their emotions and feelings for one another.
The secondary story line with Charlie’s mother, Dominique, provides most of the conflict in All Summer Long. Dominique is vain, shallow, amazingly self-centered and highly critical of Charlie. Absent for much of Charlie’s childhood due to Dominique’s career as a world-renowned ballerina, they have been estranged for quite some time and for Charlie, their relationship is a minefield of hurt feelings and unmet needs. With a whole lot of advice from May Stryker, Dominique tries to heal past mistakes and become the mother that Charlie deserves.
Ms. Mallery presents some very interesting contrasts in All Summer Long. May Stryker is the epitome of the perfect mother (at least for the Stryker men) and Dominique, well, we know where she falls on the parenting spectrum. Instead of the heroine being judged based on her appearance, Clay is the one who is objectified. But the difference I found most striking and fascinating is the vast and completely opposite effect fame has on Clay and Dominique. It is absolutely amazing how differently the two react to their respective careers and how they view and interact with other people around them.
All Summer Long is a moving and heartfelt story about healing the past. It is also a beautiful romance that is slow-growing, sweet and most important, realistic. Susan Mallery handles a difficult and sensitive topic with exquisite care in a believable and forthright manner.
All Summer Long is another magnificent installment in the delightfully charming Fool’s Gold series that old and new fans are sure to enjoy. The intriguing glimpses of old and new characters leave readers eagerly anticipating their next visit in the lovely town of Fool’s Gold.
Find my reviews of the other books in the Fool’s Gold Series HERE.