Samhain Publishing, $5.50, ISBN 978-1-60504-693-8
Contemporary Romance, 2009
Wow, the angst is swirling like a whirlpool in Allie Boniface’s Summer’s Song.
Ten years ago, 18-year old Summer Thompson was kicked out from her father’s house because her boyfriend drove the car that ended up in an accident which killed Summer’s brother. How was this Summer’s fault? Well, I guess we can’t expect all fathers to be reasonable, I guess. At any rate, today the father had finally joined his beloved son, leaving Summer to inherit his house in Pine Point. Summer behaves like coming home to Pine Point will finally push her into a nervous breakdown, but she decides to drop by anyway to look over the house before she sells it.
Selling it won’t be easy – a family is currently renting the old farmhouse on the back acre and she’d either have to kick them out (which isn’t very nice in her estimation) or work out some deal with the tenants and hope that any person buying the property will not mind having that farmhouse being rented out to this family. Our hero, Damian Knight, is renting that place so that his mother and his sister can live in peace away from the alcoholic and abusive whackjob ex-husband of her mother that is stalking them. If Poor Mommy suffering from depression isn’t enough, Damian also has issues about trusting a woman again. Dinah, his eight-year old sister, seems well-adjusted enough, but of course Damian takes it onto himself to feel guilty because apparently Dinah deserves a good daddy rather than a substitute father figure in her big brother.
While I am not averse to reading about angst in my stories, all that angst here feels artificial. Summer is always overreacting to everything, to the point that I am itching to shoot her with a tranquilizer gun. Okay, so the father is an asshole and the brother is dead. Not to be callous, but it has been ten years. Am I supposed to believe that she spent the last ten years wallowing in misery and turning over the past in her mind until she’s a soggy fruitcake at the brink of a nervous breakdown? That’s not healthy. The fact that she is always at the verge of hysteria about everything doesn’t stop her from wanting to stay in Pine Point to figure out what really happened that night of the car accident. I won’t object to this if she was halfway capable of dealing with reality, but no, the whole thing is just an excuse for her to continuously wallow in melodramatic self-pity and guilt. Let’s just say that Damian isn’t the only person wondering what is going on in Summer’s head for her to insist on digging up things in her current mental state. To top it off, she’s completely useless, good enough only for sobbing like a nutcase in times of trouble.
Damian is a better character, if only because he doesn’t have time to play the same hysterical games as Summer – he’s too busy trying to stabilize Summer without having to resort to tranquilizer darts and protecting his mother and sister from the crazy fellow.
But ultimately, Summer’s Song is a mentally and emotionally draining and exhausting read due to the heroine who is determined to be miserable – loudly and hysterically so. Summer is such a drama queen about everything, it’s hard to feel sorry for her, especially when her reactions tend to be blown out of proportion compared to the actual cause of her misery. I’m just relieved when the story is over, because Summer is very good in making me feel a little depressed myself. The saving grace of this story is Ms Boniface’s writing, which is clean and readable. But until she manages to come up with believable and sympathetic character reactions to various setbacks in life instead of just having them being ridiculously melodramatic about everything and anything, all that good writing isn’t going to help much.