*I received an ARC of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*
Margaret ‘’Maggie’’ Beringer has a troubled past with Courtney Carrington, heiress of Carrington’s retail store. The two were madly in love during their teenage years, yet they parted for a poignant reason. Now, Courtney comes back into Maggie’s little town known as Tanner Peak. Will their love survive the issues of the past or crash once again?
I picked this book on NetGalley as soon as I saw it was a lesbian romance. I had never read one and I think it’s cute; unfortunately, there are not enough of them around without being erotica. Plus, the description of a past love and now they find themselves still in love yet struggling against those past issues is just perfect to me. Of course, I had to request it and I was more than thrilled to see the publisher had granted my request.
There are so many good points about this novel that I don’t know where to start yet I’ll try to do my best! The most prominent one is how much emotional it made me in general and how much I cared about Courtney (mostly) and Maggie. I wanted them to have a happy ending and I could barely put this book down–I yearned to learn what next would happen with them! Another point worth mentioning is how I couldn’t find typos or mistakes of any kind in the writing. That got me quite pleased as many of the ARCs and even some published books are full of them. But not this one so it’s a bonus. The sarcastic and humoristic main character (Maggie) makes for a welcome touch of humour. I have found her humour to be really funny, which made it all the more interesting to read.
I swear this bittersweet romance has got me in for highs and lows (ouch, my poor heart!). I bet it will no doubt do the same to you. The romance is also playful and teasing, which is highly amusing for us. There is a good and cute evolution of Maggie and Courtney’s relationship–it is even adorable, I have to admit. I’d also like to remark that Maggie knows and accepts she’s a lesbian which I love, even though there is a funny scene of her coming out. In fact, I thought this part was plain hilarious! The MC (Maggie) is strong, and the writing is vivid–it comes to life. Some scenes in this novel made me think I was a teenager again with how Maggie was acting in certain flashback chapters. The author, Melissa Brayden, has a knack for making the teens pop and look real on the page. The feelings of high school and popularity were realistic (up to a point where most of the popular kids befriended Maggie) along with a realistic account of life and diverse people in it.
As for characterization, it is present and good but it takes a long while to take effect. I still haven’t figured out if it’s because of Maggie’s personality or the author wrote it that way. I am still struggling with that one… Nevertheless, it was there and mostly brought about by friends and family members towards the end. Do you want to learn something fun? There are some twists in this story! I enjoyed them, actually. There was even one I hadn’t seen coming, which is so rare with me (I always figure out plot twists well in advance). I had to add that the drama is well built-up, a point that I genuinely adored! I’m one for angst in stories (even my own) so I thoroughly enjoyed the drama in this one (I even cried out of sadness AND cuteness overload later on).
The timeline was impeccable and shown to us in a clear manner. I’ll forever be grateful for that. Another point I appreciated is the fun and developed insight into the MC’s thoughts. I just want to say that I loved Courtney Carrington. I know she isn’t the main character, but she is so sweet and caring! I couldn’t help but root for her during all the book. Seriously. Both characters were well-done, of course, but let’s say I prefer Courtney because of her kindness. On another note, there are many events (which reminds me of a good adventure or fantasy book thanks to the action), which is quite surprising in a romance novel (and much appreciated on my part, too). I didn’t find any long, boring parts, which is a relief. Lastly, we get to read about every important character’s life (where they are now and what is their job and relationship status) and the epilogue is a nice follow-up. It is like a neat little bow on top of a present!
Here come the bad points. There were too few descriptions and not enough insight into Maggie’s emotions–it was more telling than showing although one could guess through her humoristic and sarcastic lines. But it was not enough. I wanted to feel what she was experiencing. I could never truly connect with Maggie because of that; I always felt like a nosy neighbor knowing all about her life. It’s sad because I wanted to connect. Also, the popular kids are perhaps too nice to Maggie (most of them, that is)–it’s usually not how it works in high school with popularity (and I experienced it first-hand). Last but not least, I believe the sex scenes are not spaced enough–there were about four of them in less than 60 pages! Fortunately, they are short (just a few pages, if not a few lines sometimes) and sweet in a way. Even though I understand the focus on sex at such a young age, I’d have preferred the emphasis to be put on their feelings and emotions, mostly Maggie’s because she seems to me like lacking in that department.
I would love to tell you what types of fans this book is perfect for but this is the first lesbian romance I ever read. However, I can assure you that if you love a good emotional roller coaster ride and cute but poignant romances, Strawberry Summer by Melissa Brayden is for you!
I give Strawberry Summer a rating of 4 out of 5 because of how emotionally invested I became with this novel and because it made me cry (I love it when I cry because of books, that means they get to me), and the lack of emotions on Maggie’s part – or so it seems. I was delighted to win this ARC and I must say it hit home with me. I recommend it in a heartbeat!