Review: Summer by the Tides and Lake Season by Denise Hunter
I’ve been a huge Denise Hunter fan for about ten years. If she writes it, I read it. I actually delved into Summer by the Tides, a stand-alone novel that comes between the Blue Ridge and Bluebell Inn Series, back in July of 2019 while I was on vacation, but I never got around to reviewing it. I’m actually glad, because I think the two books are good to review together, since both represent new literary angles for Denise Hunter.
Okay, you know the drill by now. I always try to let you know my biases up front so that you can judge for yourself how seriously to take my review. 😊 I was fortunate enough to begin my Denise Hunter journey with The Convenient Groom. It was exquisitely magical. I followed it up almost immediately with Surrender Bay. It was perhaps even more enchanting. I loved the books so much that I, as a high school senior, broke surreptitiously into my mom’s Christmas stash, where I knew a copy of Seaside Letters was just sitting there, waiting for me, unread and lonely. I had a third of it read between getting home from school and driving to volunteer at a Kids of the Community Christmas event. Needless to say, the Nantucket series set the bar pretty high for me. It has, unfairly, always been the measure by which I judge every new Denise Hunter book.
Now, you should know that I devour every new Hunter book as soon as I get it in the mail. They’re always eminently readable, another reason she is one of my favorite authors. But for me, there are tiers of Denise Hunter Books. In the top tier are those in which what I have termed “Denise Hunter Magic” are present and include: The Convenient Groom, Surrender Bay, Seaside Letters, Dancing with Fireflies, Falling Like Snowflakes, and The Goodbye Bride. There’s just a little something special to these books, a certain tightness of plot, deep romantic chemistry, and a little fairy dust. The second tier are those books which are still better than any other modern books and have a great romantic plot, but which are lacking in said fairy dust. Those include: Sweetwater Gap, Sweetbriar Cottage, Blue Ridge Sunrise, On Magnolia Lane, Just a Kiss, and Married ‘til Monday.
The third tier are those in which there is less romantic chemistry for me. I still buy them, I still read them quickly, I still enjoy them – they’re just not soul-stirring. Unfortunately, both Summer by the Tides and Lake Season fall into the third tier for me. That being said, I want you to keep in mind that this is all just a matter of taste. I could really see a lot of people going crazy over these two books, especially Lake Season. We all come to the table with different backgrounds and biases, and I’ve already told you that my bar is extremely high, and I’m guessing you’ve realized by now that I’m also an extremely picky reader. Neither of these books should be easily written off, and that’s why I’m going to give them both a review. Here we go!
Summer by the Tides:
When I picked up this book by the pool in Florida, I read it really quickly and enjoyed it quite a bit. Summer by the Tides is Denise Hunter’s first foray into Women’s Fiction, which is characterized by putting all or most of the emphasis on the female protagonist, with a lot of attention paid to female friendship or family relationships. There is usually a romantic thread, but it takes a back seat to the woman’s journey or growth. I love Women’s Fiction. I think it’s actually more realistic for most people than a heady romance. I loved that Denise Hunter was flexing her writing muscles in this modern direction – go Denise! But because of the biases I discussed above, I want romance from Denise Hunter, doggonit! 😊 I fully acknowledge that this is not fair at all.
There was romance in the book, and I actually remember liking the male lead quite a bit. But…that’s about all I remember about it, to be honest. I has been only about nine months since I read the book, and I couldn’t remember a single thing about the book or the female lead, which is very unusual for me. So I had to go back and refresh myself.
Once I did that, I was actually quite impressed. There was a lot of work put into the characters and into the storyline. I think it was just that I was longing for the romance to be the focus, coupled with the fact that, while the Women’s Fiction element was good (the female lead’s relationship with her sisters), it actually felt a little formulaic to me, like a plot from a Women’s Fiction generator. By that, I mean that I’ve seen very similar things done in Women’s Fiction books several times; there wasn’t a fresh angle.
But if you get a chance to go on vacation this summer, take it, read it, enjoy it. Your reading experiences might be so different from mine that it will be your perfect book. It will be a great summer read, either way.
Lake Season represents another departure from Denise Hunter’s norm. This is actually a time-slip novel, in which we alternate between present day and the 1960’s. Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but, while we’ve seen flashbacks in a character’s own life, I don’t think there has been a Denise Hunter book yet which follows a historical thread of different characters. I also thought there was a general difference in atmosphere: this book was a little moodier, almost putting you in mind of a Nicholas Sparks book.
Speaking of Nicholas Sparks…the male lead, an author, definitely draws some inspiration from him, and there are references to The Notebook throughout. I liked Adam. He is a beta hero, which is always endearing. I also liked Molly. However, I don’t think Molly was ever three-dimensional for me, and there was just something lacking in the chemistry between the two. The kissing scenes were great. Other than that…no sparks.
I think the modern story line put too much dependence on the historical storyline. Even though the modern portion really constituted the bulk of the book, there just wasn’t enough substance there, not enough emphasis on the emotional things of the present day. It focused almost entirely on the historical mystery, and, frankly, I guessed the secrets, all of them, about the historical storyline almost immediately. The historical part suffered from being a really predictable plot.
The beginning of the book plods along, but the second half is, admittedly, quite a bit better. Every one of the elements for a really moving book were there in the strong finish, but somehow, it just didn’t all come together for me. But again, it might for you!
There are going to be two more books in the Bluebell Inn Series, with one set to release on May 19, and another this October.
Featured Image By: Tara Cowan
Photo Credits in Body: DeniseHunterBooks.com