It Happened One Summer

by Tessa Bailey

This was Piper’s career. Partying. Being seen. Holding up the occasional teeth-whitening product and getting a few dollars for it. Not that she needed the money. At least, she didn’t think so. Everything she owned came from the swipe of a credit card, and it was a mystery what happened after that. She assumed the bill went to her stepfather’s email or something? Hopefully he wouldn’t be weird about the crotchless panties she’d ordered from Paris.

“There’s just nothing to you, okay? There are thousands of Piper Bellingers in this city. You’re just a way to pass the time.” He shrugged. “And your time has passed.”

This light rom-com by Tessa Baily was a lot racier than I am used to! Whew! If you like the kind of romance where the author doesn’t discretely draw a curtain soon after things get physical, I would highly recommend this one.

This has been compared to Schitt’s Creek by many including the author. I don’t know about that, but it was funny, sweet, and had a lot of heart. For me, Piper, the star of our show, was more of a Paris Hilton-type character especially as she portrayed herself in The Simple Life with Nicole Ritchie. She is a rich, famous, and gorgeous social media influencer who is addicted to parties, fashion, and her phone. When she is arrested during a bacchanal that gets seriously out of hand she is banished from L.A. by her stepfather to the small fishing village in northern Washington where she was born. Her heartbroken mother had left Westport with her and her younger sister when her biological father was killed at sea. She is tasked to stand on her own two feet without the luxury of her stepdad’s checkbook and prove she can be a responsible adult. Her only source of income will be the bar that her father left her in his will. Fearful for Piper’s welfare, and doubtful as to her ability to even survive, her loyal, loving, and more down-to-earth sister, Hannah, goes with her.

Despite her shallowness and initial cluelessness, people are drawn to her. She is unfailingly cheerful with a good heart. She had gumption. I liked her. She wins over the town and a certain gruff fisherman in record time. I liked him too. They quickly fall hopelessly in love with each other. I liked their relationship for the most part though he did tend to be a little too possessive and needy. They were honest about their feelings and fears. Despite their differences, they appreciated each other and understood each other. They were solid. Plus phenomenal sex. Although the attraction was quickly established, the falling into bed, or dining room table, didn’t come until around the halfway point.

And besides the romance, it had some engaging side stories: the renovation of the ramshackle bar, the discovery of a grandmother, getting to know her late father, and a promising love interest for Hannah. There were some wryly funny lines:

The unthinkable was happening. Her longest relationship on record . . . over in the blink of an eye. Three weeks of her life wasted.

Later that night, Piper stared down at the package of ground beef and tried to gather the courage to touch it with her bare hands. “I can’t believe meat looks like brains before it’s been cooked. Does everyone know about this?”

We could pull this board down, but we’re either going to end up with splinters or a herd of spiders is going to ride out on the backs of mice, holding pitchforks.” 

“Not so much you. More like your work ethic. I don’t even know if I’m pronouncing that right. That’s how not often I’ve said ‘work ethic’ out loud.”

I figured the problems and challenges would come from the outside: their clashing backgrounds, Piper’s mother and father, her fan base, the paparazzi, or widower Brendan’s still grieving father-in-law. What I wanted was for Piper and Brendan to weather the inevitable storms and conflicts together with an “us against the world” mentality. I was looking forward to her showing her mother and stepdad how she’d changed and grown and their meeting with Brendan. What I got was the stupidest misunderstanding and ultimate betrayal for no reason that I have come across in a book in a long time. It was almost like Brendan was sick of being happy and in love, and had to do something, anything, to sabotage it. It came out of nowhere. I have never seen a hero work so hard to screw things up. What was looking to shake out to be a solid 4-star read, despite it generally being too romance-focused for my taste, went to a shakey 3.5. And it only maintained that because he really suffered for his stupidity, and went to great lengths to redeem himself.

So I was satisfied by the happy ending and am tentatively looking forward to reading Hannah’s story sometime in the future. Tessa Baily made me like this book against all odds. Although I didn’t approve of all the turns this book took and didn’t take, she is a very sharp writer.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

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