Book Review: Summer Harvest by Georgina Penney
When Yorkshire based Beth receives a gift from her grandmother, the feisty Violet, of a plane ticket to Australia, she reluctantly accepts. Violet’s idea is a whirlwind tour of the East coast in a style and setting as close to her favourite Aussie soap as possible. The plan goes awry, however, leaving Beth destined for Western Australia, specifically the beautiful Margaret River area. Beth takes full advantage of this mix up, planning to spend her holiday hiding away in a rented farm cottage, alone.
Only Beth’s peace is quickly shattered by the locals, in particular the handsome head of the cottage’s neighbouring vineyard, Clayton Hardy.
The reason for Beth’s pursuit of isolation and relaxation is soon apparent. She’s recently recovered from breast cancer. The disease took its toll on her life in more ways than one. She lost her sister, her breasts, and her confidence after her husband left her as he was unable to come to terms with her new ‘disfigurement’.
Reading that again, I realise this book had such great potential and at the halfway mark I thought it would reach it. Alas, somehow in there Penney lost me (and perhaps the plot).
I was eager to read this book because I love the trope of angst involved with older characters trying to negotiate sex with new partners later in life. Here I was getting the added heartache of Beth’s hang ups and secrets she feels she can’t reveal but in the end must to pursue a sexual relationship. Unfortunately, the premise of Beth hiding the truth about her body was more interesting than how it turned out in print. It didn’t make me emotional at all. Towards the end, their scenes just seemed to drag on and on.
I think I blame the fact I didn’t fall in love with either Beth or Clayton. She was a little socially awkward, he needed anger management. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t hate either of them, but I could have done with less of them. Which isn’t how I’m supposed to feel about a book’s main characters.
Despite the promise, their intimate scenes were not remarkable. In the end, her illness was not a huge factor and their ages were irrelevant (in fact they often read like characters in their early 20s).
Saving the book for me was the inclusion of some real older characters and their older people romance. Clayton’s dad, Robert (the parent from which Clayton gets his fiery temper from) who, right from the start, is obviously in love with family friend, Gwen. I liked their storyline much better and would have preferred the book if they were the main characters (but, you know, publishers insist on force feeding us young love — blah). Their negotiating intimacy and overcoming their past was much better written.
There’s also a sweet subplot of Clayton’s grandmother’s romance that I would have liked Penney to expand upon.
I liked the Aussie setting, obviously, but I feel Penney could have taken advantage of the Margaret River area even more than she did.
All in all I enjoyed the book, but with a few tweaks I think I would have enjoyed it more.
3 ½ out of 5