One Summer's Night
by Mary Alice Kruesi, paranormal (2000)
Avon, $5.99, ISBN 0-308-81433-1

Author Mary Alice Kruesi, who also writes as Mary Alice Monroe, is carving a niche for herself writing whimsical, sweet romances that combine magic and love. Unfortunately, this time around, One Summer's Night lacks a tight plot, making the whole story meander. And the Double D strikes hard - I'm referring to the hero Dale and his half-sister Daphne - almost ruining the whole story for me.

Twenty-one year old Laurel Carrington isn't happy with her lot. Her father has raised her on a dry diet of Genetics and High Expectations. She puts her foot down when she is "persuaded" to marry a dull male friend, and she hies off to the country home of Maybelle Starr. Maybelle is an artist who draws beautiful fairies, and Laurel has been a fan since her childhood.

She becomes Maybelle's apprentice in art, which is exhilarating as she is discouraged by her father to daydream. Things get more fun when Dale the reclusive hunk working on Maybelle's gardens sniffs around her personal space. But there are troubles, of course, like Dale's evil daddy, some gruff bears, Maybelle's Big Secret, and that dull boyfriend of Laurel.

Now, I don't like field trips. My one experience camping in a mosquito-infested mangrove swamp with friends when I was 15 was one that I wouldn't recall fondly, hence when Laurel discovers an outhouse instead of a toilet, I echo her thoughts - "Get out of here!"

But slowly the author draws me into this nice, idyllic place where fairies exist and the whole world's beautiful and bright. I begin to rejoice in Laurel's thawing as she delights in dancing among the flowers at midnight and rediscovering life. Laurel has an effervescent and infectious joie de vivre, watching her bloom is the best part of One Summer's Night.

But there seems to be no focus or direction in this story. Which can be okay if the romance is compelling, but alas, it isn't. Dale is a complete twit. He has the cheek to chide Laurel - "Not everything is at it seems" - while already sizing her up as a dumb, judgmental, ignorant city girl at first sight. Worse, throughout the story, Dale displays no chemistry, no charisma, and the worst if you ask me, no sense of humor. Why would Laurel, a bubbly girl, even look twice at Dale (I'll allow the first look since he is so handsome) I will never know. It seems a waste that she must end up with such a dour fusspot who seems to have a ten-inch pole shoved up where the sun never shines on him.

Then there's his half-sister Daphne, never a more STUPID brat I have ever read. She and Dale should just hike off to Ignoramuses Anonymous before they show up in a romance novel again.

And Maybelle? She's weird. Really weird. Even in a fantasy, her "we don't follow a schedule, follow your heart, etc etc" nuggets of wisdom makes her one of those dotty elderly family members everyone mentions in an embarrassed tone. As the story progresses, she crosses the line from being fae and whimsical to Poor dear, should we call the Doctor? material.

One Summer's Night is at times too awkward and too saccharine. Laurel is the one thing that keeps this story readable, but even then, she's only twenty-one! Laurel, go see the world some more, and you'll meet some nicer men than Dale, I assure you. Men who can laugh. One Summer's Night is like a nice midnight walk through a countryside, but be warned there is quite a lot of corn one may encounter in the walk.

Rating: 69

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