Onyx, $6.99, ISBN 0-451-41082-3
Contemporary Romance, 2003
When they were kids, sisters Kate, Ashley, and Caroline McKenna joined a yacht race around the world. They won, but today, the sisters are haunted by one secret that destroyed their dreams and drive the father Duncan into near-bankruptcy and into being a drunkard. Today, Kate is a bookstore owner, Ashley a photographer, and Caroline the “bad” hairdresser who turns out to be anything but bad. Reporter Tyler Jamison begins to delve into the nature of this Big Secret and therefore triggering a chain of events that make up Barbara Freethy’s Onyx debut Summer Secrets. Oh, and Tyler falls for Kate, Ashley falls for an old childhood friend, and Caroline overcomes a drinking problem.
This book is pretty well-written, but I suspect the reader’s enjoyment of this book hinges on how much one could accept the heroines playing doormats to a father who keeps destroying their happiness. The Big Secret – don’t worry, no incest or anything similarly nauseating in this book – tore apart Ashley’s friendship with her eventual Mr Nice Guy and caused the three sisters to live a life best described as an IKEA Doormat Bargain Bin Clearance Sale. They display no grudge towards their father, just eternal undying love that see them doing really gruesome (to me) acts of self-immolation to keep Daddy Dearest Happy. The sad thing is, Daddy isn’t happy. The sisters are just wasting their lives catering to Daddy in a desperate attempt to keep Daddy happy. Even the scene when the sisters finally experience an epiphany see them trying to make Daddy’s dream come true, a dream that has pretty much ruined their lives.
Factor in uninspired underdeveloped romance (Kate and Tyler), some really eye-rolling plot contrivances and coincidences and Summer Secrets is a well-written tale of just how far stupid codependent romance heroines will go to make their jerk patriarch happy. In this case, it’s also a test on how far and how much the reader can accept the heroines’ behavior in being loyal to their father no matter what even if this means that their own world crumbles around them in pieces. They have psychiatric wards for these sort of severe Electra complex cases, you know, Ms Freethy.