Author: Shannon Greenland
Release Date: May 10, 2012
Publisher: Speak, Imprint of Penguin
Source: Publisher through Netgalley
Buy It: Amazon
Add It: Goodreads
Elizabeth Margaret—better known as Em—has always known what life would contain: an internship at her father’s firm, a degree from Harvard and a career as a lawyer. The only problem is that it’s not what she wants. When she gets the opportunity to get away from it all and spend a month with the aunt she never knew, she jumps at the chance. While there, Em pursues her secret dream of being a chef, and she also learns that her family has kept some significant secrets from her, too. And then there’s Cade, the laid-back local surfer boy who seems to be everything Em isn't. Naturally, she can’t resist him, and as their romance blossoms, Em feels she is living on her own terms for the first time.
I am on a major contemporary romance kick these days, not to mention book that take place in amazing locations (which is why I asked the author to talk about it in her guest post below my review!). I am SO ready for summer, and traveling, and sitting outside reading in the sun. I'm tired of being cold! This book warmed me inside and out, and had me smiling like an idiot while I read it. As always, my main points are bolded! :)
1. Let me live in this novel. Seriously. Most of it takes place in and around an adorable, picturesque B&B in the Outer Banks, North Carolina. I loved it. Pepper House has a very tropical feel with lots of flowers and warm breezes blowing through the open shutters to ruffle the bed canopies. Sandy beaches, mysterious caves to explore, a quaint little town where everyone knows who you are and what you're up to, mopeds, waves crashing against craggy cliffs, expensive yachts tied to the dock, and yummy aromas flowing throughout it all, of food and the ocean and the flowers and the soap Mr. Sexy used after his day of surfing. Can I please go!?!
2. The writing is my favorite. I loved the descriptions of everything. Shannon's writing drapes you in a flowy gauze dress and sits you on a beach towel in the sand, rocking big sunglasses and a smile. If only I could live in this world!
3. I fell in love with the characters. Elizabeth Margaret (or Em) is so much fun. She's feeling stifled by her parents and her rich life. She has to wear polos and plaid shirts, always act ladylike, and never do anything fun. Does she want to go to Harvard to be a lawyer? No. She secretly wants to be a chef, but she could never tell her parents that. Cooking is not the kind of life Em is to have. Em jumps at the chance to go stay with her aunt Tilly, who I love. I want a cool aunt like her! She's so sweet, caring, loving, funny and cool to be around. She owns the B&B Em heads off to, which is like a dream of mine. Tilly's cook, Domino, is the coolest fatherly guy ever. He takes Em under his wing and gives her advice on life, as well as cooking. Frederick, Tilly's son, is the kind of guy you can confide in without feeling like you need to hide anything. Beth, the "domestic engineer" (maid) is like the big sister you've always wanted. And, of course, we have Cade. Ahh... Cade *swoons*. He's a sexy, slightly broken jack-of-all-trades with a smart, sensitive side and great abs. Oh man. Totally love this guy.
4. The family environment at the B&B is amazing. Everyone loves each other, even though they all carry scars from difficult pasts. Their trials brought them together, though, into this tight make-shift family. I loved reading all their conversations, their silly jabs at each other, their "family" outings, and their past lives. I'd love to insert them into my own family. I can just picture holiday dinners laughing around the table with them. I also like Em's sister, Gwenny, who stayed back home while Em went off for the summer. You can tell how much she loves her sister. Em's lucky to have her for support.
5. The story flows naturally from one thing to the other. As we learn more about each person, we figure out exactly how they fit into each other's lives. I love Em's character development. She grows so much over her month at Pepper House, and learns about who she is and what she wants with her life. It truly is the summer of a new beginning for her, as well as many of the other characters. The romance is totally believable, and happens naturally. I loved the tension between Cade and Em. And oh my. Their first date is straight out of a fairytale.
6. This book kept me guessing! I had no idea all the cool twists and turns it would take, but I loved every minute of the ride.
7. I love the message of this book. Stepping away from your current life allows you to evaluate and see where you're headed. It gives you a chance to stop focusing on the mundane events of life and focus only on yourself. Em had a lot of time to think and ponder. She got to taste a new side of her life. She got to cook and play and learn and fall in love. This book teaches us that we can always change. Nothing is ever set in stone. It also reminds us to have fun, which I know I need to be reminded of sometimes.
I can't stop thinking about how perfect this book was! It was like a much needed vacation. I placed myself right in the middle of it, grabbed the bedroom next to Em's, and made myself a home in this book. I never liked coming of age novels, but I'm starting to discover the messages you can learn from them. I'd definitely recommend this to people who love contemporary stories, coming of age moments, sweet romance, and trips to gorgeous tropical islands.
It’s funny the things that inspire you. When I was a kid growing up in Tennessee it seemed as if the beach was such a faraway place. Even though my family is from Florida and our vacations often centered on trips south, I thought of the beach as sort of a take it or leave it type of place.
Now that I’m older, I can’t think of any place I’d rather be. So when my publisher approached me to step away from my spy series, The Specialists, and write a YA single title, I thought, definitely the beach!
Rather it be the sands of Hawaii, the beaches of Bermuda, the waters of the Bahamas, the shores of South America, or the Florida coasts, my life seems to navigate toward the warmth and yumminess the ocean offers.
In The Summer My Life Began much of what Em experiences are taken straight from my first time surfing, riding a moped along the coast, visiting a Farmer’s Market in the ocean breeze, sailing, and kissing a boy with the waves crashing around me.
The ocean is a romantic, adventurous, dangerous place that Mother Nature has given us to enjoy. And I intend on making use of it! So what’s on the docket for me this summer? I’m trying my hand at paddle boarding on my next Florida visit. I can’t wait!
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