By Milly Johnson
** spoiler alert ** **The third paragraph is very very spoilery**Reading a Milly Johnson book gets almost too much sometimes. So far, I have noticed that she really piles on her bad guy characters until you hate them with a passion. You not only can’t understand why they are put up with by their victims (wives or girlfriends) but you actually start to feel contempt for the female protagonists who do so. This is what mars A Summer Fling. Of course, in “Women’s fiction” you almost always have a heroine who is beaten down, or who has some flaws to overcome, but who finally emerges victorious and happy at the end. To a greater or lesser degree, these are the journeys of the 4 unhappy women in this novel. They are office mates whose new boss is a strong wise leader who directly or indirectly transforms their work and private lives.
Two of them, Grace and Dawn, are truly in dire and dangerous straits. Grace is in a bad marriage which has gotten worse and worse now that her beloved stepchildren have left the home. Her turning point comes relatively early on in the book, and it’s all uphill from there. Shortly after Grace turns the corner, we find out what Raychelle’s deep dark secret is (it’s not what we were led to believe, thank God!) and her emotional life takes a turn for the better. Readers of The Yorkshire Pudding Club will be delighted to get some answers to a mystery left unsolved in that novel.
But Dawn’s story is one of unremitting horror until the last chapter. She has gotten herself engaged to a drunken useless lout with a big family because she is an orphan and wants a family of her own. Almost right away we see that not only is her fiance an evil bastard, but his family is even worse, if possible! And she knows it! Every time the story turns to Dawn she suffers another painful shock at the hands of her fiance or his family. She is given sign after sign that she needs to run for her life but she just denies denies denies until the reader is totally frustrated with her. Not only that but she meets and falls in love with a wonderful guy who begs her to marry him and come with him back to Canada. Dawn’s part of the novel just makes no sense at all. In my opinion, it would have been much more effective if Milly had given Callum and family some redeeming qualities that would help us understand her better. I mean, when her beloved Dead Parents practically come back from the dead to try to save her from herself…and their message is ignored…Well.
The fourth of the friends, Anna, has a much lighter story. It is a straight up romance with a very unusual man who also helps her gain her self-esteem and move on from her cheating ex-boyfriend. It is delightful.
This 3rd novel I’ve read by Milly Johnson and has the humor, wit, depth, and great characterizations I am coming to expect. She is a wonderfully talented writer who deserves to be ranked with the most popular and respected light(ish) women’s authors. But this book is flawed in that she just goes too far with one of the threads. Still…**almost 4 stars**
Bonus: A favorite funny quote: “she doubted Lynette Bottom’s palate could have appreciated anything fancier than chicken nuggets. She probably thought Asparagus Spears was Britney’s younger sister.”**4 out of 5 stars**
May 8, 2019