Grand Central Publishing, $8.00, ISBN 978-1-4555-5178-1
Historical Romance, 2014
Olivia Sherbourne, the sister of the Duke of Huntford, has always been in love with her brother’s friend, the solicitor James Averill. Alas, he always treats her like a younger sister, and it vexes her, because there is nothing more she wants than be made into a true woman, ravished by desire, blah blah blah. When the story opens, she learns that James is going to Egypt for a few years. He has always been interested in archeology, you see, and finally, he has saved enough money to provide for his family in his absence. His law firm is doing well, and he has a partner who will take of things in his absence. Egypt, here he comes!
She can’t have that, of course. James’s place is with her. Above her, under her, beside her – just never in Egypt! She throws herself at him at a party, gets kissed, and then gets exasperated when he doesn’t propose the day after. When he goes off to settle some matters out of town, she sneaks off to go after him. All kinds of calamity that takes place in a road trip take place here – broken wheel, sprained ankle, forced to stay together in an inn, etc – and finally, she gets her ravishing and the two of them are stumbled upon by her not-pleased-at-all brother.
You’d think this demented stalker will finally be happy that the pee-pee of her affections is now legally hers, but no. She learns that the now besotted James is going to cancel his trip to Egypt, so she decides that she cannot let him do that, as it would mean that he would resent her for forcing him to give up his dream! I’d have thought she would have considered that before throwing herself at him and basically putting him in situations that would force him to marry her if they were found, but I’m sure you can tell by now that thinking is not her strong suit. So, she runs off alone, telling James that she doesn’t love him anymore, to hide in a cabin in the woods. I wish I’m joking about that last bit, just as I wish just as hard for a bear to come eat her up, but no. James goes through another round of trouble just to get her back.
I suppose I’m glad for her that James’s feelings never waver for a woman who (a) ruined his long friendship with her brother, (b) sabotaged his plans for the future, (c) forced him into marriage due to her persistent stalking, and (d) tried to break his heart and subsequently put him through a whole mess of nonsense when she decided that she didn’t want the marriage to take place anymore. If I were him, I would have married her but proceeded to have many, many, many open affairs with the women she specifically hates as payback, while cutting her allowance to a paltry minimum, because I’m so petty like that. My goodness, this man is far more patient with the heroine than any sane person has the right to be.
And unlike previous books by the author that saw her subverting the tropes, in Scandalous Summer Nights she plays everything straight up, Hence, Olivia is allowed to keep making a mess of everything all the way to the end without having to grow up or be held accountable for her actions. The hero actually enables her. I don’t blame Olivia entirely for the nonsense in this story – the slot can’t get tabbed on its own, after all – but she drives the entire story with her self-absorbed, selfish antics, and my irritation with her ultimately negates any pleasure I get from the author’s well-written narrative, occasional humor, and the few admittedly sweet moments between those two when Olivia experiences a rare moment of lucidity.