Sherryl Woods' Chesapeake Shores series. Fans of the series will undoubtedly love the final installment in the lives of the O'Briens of Maryland, but the book may not fare as well among new readers.
Goodreads summary: Falling for "Maddening Moira" O'Malley was the unexpected highlight of Luke O'Brien's Dublin holiday. So when she pays a surprise visit to Chesapeake Shores, Luke is thrilled
at first. A fling with this wild Irish rose is one thing, but forever? Maybe someday, but not when he's totally focused on establishing a business that will prove his mettle to his overachieving family. Given Luke's reaction, Moira has some soul-searching of her own to do. Scarred by her father's abandonment, she wonders if Luke, with his playboy past, is truly the family man she longs for. Adding to her dilemma, she's offered an amazing chance at a dream career of her own. Deep down, though, Moira knows home is the real prize, and that love can be every bit as enchanted as a summer garden.
My thoughts: Picture a 24-year-old guy saying, "Heavens, no!" or calling himself a "dunderhead." Can't do it? Yeah, me neither, and that's why Woods lost me right off the bat in The Summer Garden. Her characters' dialogue may be sincere, but it's also stiff and outdated. Add in the overly cute setting and an unwieldy cast of characters and you'll understand why I struggled to finish this one. In fairness, I think people who've enjoyed previous books in the series will enjoy this one. The whole premise of the series was too saccharine for me, though, and none of the relationships were compelling enough that I'd want to read the previous books.
I wasn't at all invested in Luke and Moira's love story, and I found their relationship troubles unnecessarily complex. First of all, for as much as everyone called Moira "impossible" or "maddening" (including Moira herself), Luke was far more difficult - now that I think about it, he was a dunderhead! He was often dishonest, or at least disingenuous, when talking with Moira about his romantic future with her and his relationship with his sort-of-ex. At every turn, his excuse was that he was dedicated to his new-found career as a pub owner and that got old quickly. On the other hand, Moira arrived from Ireland on a surprise visit, then seemed shocked that Luke didn't immediately invite her to marry him. In short, Luke and Moira seemed just as young as they in fact were, and while I wish them a happily ever after, I'm not sure it's in their long-term future.
As for the vast array of O'Briens filling the town, it was a challenge for a first-time reader of the series to keep up with them all. Woods offers relevant pieces of their backgrounds throughout the story, but it was hard to become interested in them when they only showed up to stick their noses in Luke and Moira's business and smile condescendingly at their youth. The small town of Chesapeake Shores is meant to be charming and pleasant, but I found it all a bit precious and sadly drama-free. Because of this, the pace of The Summer Garden dragged until it reached its impossibly tidy ending.
Sherryl Woods is a remarkably prolific author, and judging by other reviews I've seen of her books, she's very popular with some readers. This was my first experience with her, though, and I don't think her books are quite my speed.
Publisher: Mira Books
Publication Date: January 31, 2012
Length: 400 pages
*Disclosure: I received this book in return for a fair and honest review.