So Ruth, who is never wrong, told me to read The Summer ofYou by Kate Noble and the way she talked about it made me want to go and buy it immediately. So I did, and then read it rather quickly.
Think steamy Georgette Heyer that plays with narrative device. Observe: I said steamy. This is not one of the squeaky clean historicals you sometimes find on this blog. If you are offended by steamy scenes then you are probably not going to like this book and should stick to your Heyer. You have been warned.
But if you don’t mind, oh I don’t know, perhaps the hottest sex scene I have ever read in a Regency ( made more so because the sexual tension was so wonderful infused and borne outta friendship and the guy---the Rochesterian misunderstood thought-to-be-a-Highwayman guy--- is such a dish ) then you are in for a treat. (Note: this book is more than this scene; but there is this scene, so I am letting you know )
Lady Jane leaves the ton and her society with her boring and horrible brother and retreats to the Cottage: a massive mansion in the Lake District with their ailing father who is suffering from the side effects of dementia.
From the first, Lady Jane is out of place: receiving visitors, planning social events, wandering the town… she has no one who “gets” her and while she enjoys the female company she keeps ( this book excels at painting lovely female friendships ) she wants something more. She finds it, in the figure of Byrne Worth: a wounded war veteran who lives at the edge of her family’s property and is renowned as the surliest most uncouth man in the history of time. When Lady Jane meets him, however, they form an immediate bond ( she may ALSO have noticed his fine figure when she stumbles upon him swimming en dishabille in the cold pond ) and she gives him jam and he gives her a special kind of tea and La! They become friends.
And this, ladies, is where the book gets really good and ends up winning the honourable mention of other books of its ilk ( think The Blue Castle, Venetia, the Black Sheep ): Friendship. Romance borne of friendship. This isn’t “she doth make the torches burn bright” love at first sight crap with no substance. No, Lady Jane and Worth get each other, talk to each other enjoy ---and eventually --- crave each other’s company. The physical ( and it gets physical ) attraction that blossoms out of that does so gracefully, subtly and oh-so-believably.
Who wouldn’t want to marry their best friend? When they finally consummate a passion borne out of similar personalities and traits--- it is seemingly more intense and beautiful because it is not something strewn from objective desire. Certainly they are attracted to each other; but they have a foundation from which to springboard that attraction.
Pepper in some hijinks and familial problems and a few sideline romances and a ball and you have a fun regency getaway that is told by a much more competent pen than many contemporaries. Not only does Noble infuse her story with a careful and impressive knowledge of regency history, she does so in a winking sing-song manner, devilish and deviant, pulling you aside and coaxing you along: nudging you closer and further as excited to tell—as you are to read--- the next portion of the tale.
I mentioned before that I was absolutely smitten with the range of narrative perspectives and I remain so. Noble’s unexpected switches of points of view are nothing short of textbook. She knows how to seamlessly transition and leaves you without a jolt. If she suddenly changes to a secondary character’s viewpoint it seems as easy as pie and natural as all get out.
I know that had I seen this book on a shelf I never would’ve picked I up. But that’s the great thing about bookish people, they share and give you the insider scoop. Someone gave this insider scoop to me and I am giving it to you.
I leave you with a few awesomely fun snippets:
“Later that summer, when the atmosphere was beginning to dip into autumn, Jane would be able to look back and pinpoint this moment in time---the moment of Byrne Worth’s lascivious delicious grin---as the moment that the earth hit a bump and the winds changed their course and the great northern heat wave of 1816 began.”
“There was a moment, so slight Byrne could not count its passing, that those eyes held him rooted to the ground.”
“Jane had infiltrated, her cinnamon scent stale in the air, like leftover spiced tea. He shouldn’t be surprised, but he was. She had wormed her way into his daytime thoughts; his unconscious was simply catching up.”
“There was nothing like a party to remind a person that the world was larger than their own frustration”
“But… a small worry pricked the back of her mind. Those other gentlemen…nothing would change with a kiss. With Byrne, would it change the way they spoke to each other? Would it colour every conversation that was to come, every time they ran into each other between their houses, every look? And, suddenly it mattered to Jane. It mattered, she realized, because he was her friend.”
“He could chalk up his actions last night as a product of stars…”
“new Jane who discovered the ability to be bold and vulnerable at once.”