Desperation is what drives Karen to call her sister Val in Chicago with a plea that Val return home to small town Washington, Missouri. Karen knows Val's life is more glamorous; in fact, her sister is more glamorous. Hasn't their mother told Karen for years that Val is more beautiful, more talented, and more successful while Karen is just - just plain Karen? But still reeling from a recent divorce, her teenage daughter Kristen's gymnastic injury, and Kristen's constant pity party, Karen is overwhelmed when her mother is released from the hospital following a stroke.
When Val receives the call to come home and oversee her mother's convalescence, her first reaction is that she can't leave Chicago. But she knows that is an empty excuse; there is nothing truly keeping her in the Windy City. Plus she knows she "owes" Karen the help. Karen has been the dutiful, caring daughter all these years while she abandoned home and family. At least, that is what her mother has told her every chance she has, so reluctantly Val returns to the small town and her demanding mother.
That Certain Summer reminds me of one of those old Doublemint gum commercials, two young women on the swings enjoying the summer days. Along come two guys. Okay, I simplify, but Hannon's novel is the parallel story of the two sisters, each "reshaping" herself over the span of the summer months, finally establishing a healthy sibling relationship, and coming to gripes with their mother's demands. Add in two new men, each starting over in Washington, both sure that relationships are out of the question, and of course, you have "doublemint" romance.
The "meat" behind the romance in That Certain Summer is one quite common in Christian fiction - second chances and forgiveness. Clearly Val has a secret she has kept hidden from the family for years - a secret that readers will have no difficulty figuring out, but that does not detract from its impact. Karen's second chance encompasses many aspects - her weight, her job, her self-esteem, and her relationships with others. As I already mentioned, both love interests (Scott and David) have second chance stories, and later in the book, even the girls' mom has a forgiveness/starting over thread.
That Certain Summer is a perfect read for a summer afternoon or anytime when you need some down time. My only criticism is that there were a few too many accidents/catastrophes driving the plot (a stroke, a bus accident, a young paralyzed football player, a broken leg, a diabetic coma death, and cancer). On the opposite spectrum, it seemed that "perfect" new jobs just appeared at the perfect moment for several characters. Yes, those things happen, but the short time frame of the summer months treaded heavily on my realistic button! But if you're in the mood for double romance, pick up That Certain Summer and enjoy.
I received an e-copy of this title from NetGalley for my honest review. All opinions are mine.