As I was reading THAT SUMMER a Kentucky saying kept floating through my mind, "If he (she) had a brain, he'd (she'd) take it out and play with it." Anne, the heroine of THAT SUMMER, acted brainless throughout much of the novel. The word juvenile also comes to mind with regards to this heroine. I almost wished Anne had taken her brain out and played with it at times. Might have been more interesting than this story.
Anne had come back to Virginia for her father's funeral and to spend a month with her grieving mother. So what does the heroine spend her time doing? Accepting dates almost every night to make Liam, the hero and the man she has loved since the age of six, jealous. She even dates one suitor, a local cop, to learn particulars (to help Liam, of course) about the murder that happened ten years before. A murder in which Liam and his cousin were prime suspects - even though the body wasn't found at the time. A young, beautiful heiress disappeared the same night as a bloody baseball bat - a bat belonging to Liam - was found in the summerhouse of the hero's family's horse farm. The body conveniently turns up during Anne's month long visit - ten years later.
THAT SUMMER didn't work for me on several levels. One, the romance is plain bland. There is no real intensity between the hero and the heroine. Anne is too busy scheming to gain Liam's attention for the couple to spend any quality time together throughout most of the book. Two, the murder is too shadowy to really be interesting. This mystery is relegated to the back burner through most of the story and solved too hurriedly toward the end of the book. Finally, the horse racing aspect of the story was also glossed over. None of the atmosphere surrounding, say, the Kentucky Derby was evident in That Summer, partially because of Ms. Wolf's use of first person point of view. Anne was too obsessed with Liam to take note of or to describe details of the Derby's pageantry.
THAT SUMMER was hampered by that first person point of view. I personally have never liked first person narrative because I find it restrictive to secondary characters. My sentiment is evident in the one-dimensional, shadowy characters peopling THAT SUMMER. Liam can do little more than scowl when Anne purposely mentions her many dates to him. Oh, and he whines really well, too.
My biggest grip with this story though is Anne. She is a shallow, selfish, obsessive character who tramples over other character's feelings without much thought. She convinces other characters to lie to the police about the murder ten years before. She knows Liam couldn't have murdered anyone. Why? Well, just because. She has the same sentiment about his cousin - another suspect. And then in the next breath is ready to throw the cousin to the wolves to save Liam. Not exactly the sort of character I'd want to narrate a story. This Wolf piece doesn't flow well because Anne tends to meander. For instance, while she is working with horses, she gives the reader rather lengthy instructions on how to train horses.
reviewer, Romance Reader At Heart