The Girl from Summer Hill (Summer Hill #1, Montgomery-Taggerts) by Jude Deveraux

The Girl from Summer Hill is Jude Deveraux’s answer to the question: Does the world really need another Pride and Prejudice retelling? And that answer is: YES! YES! YES!

The Girl from Summer Hill Front Cover (Ballantine Books/Random House)

The Girl from Summer Hill Front Cover (Ballantine Books/Random House)

THE PLOT: In the small Virginia town of Summer Hill, Kit Montgomery is putting on a stage version of Pride and Prejudice. He’s enlisted one of his relatives, Hollywood star Tate Landers, to come and play Darcy. Through a misunderstanding, he gets off to a rocky start with chef Casey Reddick. (Well, she was watching him shower outdoors when he thought no one was looking, but she was also in her own house, so…) With all the town ladies mooning over Tate, no one can play a convincingly disdainful Elizabeth to his Darcy, except the girl on whom he made a really bad impression.

In the meantime, Tate’s ex-brother-in-law, TV actor Devlin Haines, shows up to play Wickham, and Casey finds his company preferable to Tate’s. But as she and Tate are thrown together, they begin to bond despite themselves. But Devlin’s lies and manipulations might drive Tate and Casey apart for good.

MY TWO CENTS: There are really three layers of Pride and Prejudice going on here. First, there’s the knowledge of the original that’s in the reader’s mind. (And seriously, if you don’t know the original story, just get off my blog.) Second, there’s the stage version the characters are practicing, which reminds readers of the nuances of the story and underlines the echoes of what’s going on with the characters in Summer Hill. Finally, there’s the version that the book characters are fulfilling throughout the course of the book.

It wasn’t long before I was grinning ear to ear. I LOVE Pride and Prejudice. I did my high school senior thesis on Mr. Collins many a long year ago, I love the definitive version with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle, and liked the Keira Knightley version well enough (she was too giggly as Lizzie, but Matthew MacFadyen…tolerably dreamy). This novel does a fine job of retelling the story and capturing the essence in a modern way. (Yet it never overlaps into Bridget Jones territory, at all.)

The secondary characters are also interesting. Casey’s sister Gizzy and Tate’s friend Jack are a cute Jane and Bingley. Hopefully Casey’s family will be explored further in the next books. Then there’s Olivia, Kit’s lost love, who has a secret connection with the Montgomerys.

Finally, while this is a Montgomery book, it’s not overwhelmingly Montgomerys. You have Kit, who you met during Ever After (previously reviewed here), and whose back story is uncovered here. Tate is a Montgomery from his mother’s side, but there’s not a lot of explanation of how he connects to the family tree. Which is kind of nice; just opens the door for all kinds of Montgomerys and Taggerts to pop up in Summer Hill in the future.

BOTTOM LINE: A cleverly written retelling of Pride and Prejudice that still seems fresh and compelling. Lizzie is spunky, Darcy is hot and misunderstood, and Wickham is more deluded and devious than ever. Jude Deveraux continues the modern renaissance she started with the “Nantucket Brides” series.

TEACUP RATING: Five out of five teacups.

ON SALE DATE: Now available in hardcover and e-formats.

Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Ever After (Nantucket Brides #3) by Jude Deveraux

The final book in Jude Deveraux’s fantastic “Nantucket Brides” series is a Taggert-focused book, and it’s another keeper! (The first two books were True Love, reviewed here, and For All Time, reviewed here.)

ever after

Ever After Front Cover (Random House)


THE PLOT:
 Hallie, a physical therapist, has sacrificed over and over for her beautiful, manipulative stepsister Shelly. Her father and stepmother conditioned her to always put Shelly’s many needs first. But Hallie finally reaches her breaking point when she finds out Shelly was impersonating her, poised to steal a house on Nantucket that Hallie didn’t know she’d inherited, and ready to masquerade as a physical therapist for an attractive client. As soon as she learns the truth, Hallie is whisked away to Nantucket by Jared Montgomery Kingsley, who’s hired her to care for his cousin.

Jamie Taggert claims to have been injured in a skiing accident, which immediately makes Hallie think he’s a just a rich playboy. In reality, Jamie is hiding his war experiences while also coping with PTSD. His family is making things worse by tiptoeing around him instead of treating him like they always do. Tons of Montgomerys and Taggerts have flocked to Nantucket for the wedding of Jilly Taggert, so with housespace limited, Jamie stays with Hallie in her “new” house. She begins to help him heal, mentally and physically, while also realizing the power of her own self-worth, with the help of some friendly ghosts.

MY TWO CENTS: This is a sweet story involving the less-refined Montgomery cousins, the Taggerts. If you’re a Montgomery-Taggert expert, you already know Jamie and his twin, Todd, who are the sons of Kane Taggert and the nephews of Mike Taggert. In typical Taggert fashion, this story is more earthy than royal, and it’s a good change in tone for the series.

Jude delivers her typical ultimate wish fulfillment in the form of “ghost food,” which the main characters gorge on constantly for weeks only to find that they’re losing weight instead of gaining. Don’t think too closely about this; just enjoy it in the vein of the shopping spree of Sweet Liar.

I do think that the reader will get more out of this book by reading the first two books in the series first. (There’s no explanation of Caleb’s background, for example, or how he’d know the ghosts.) It will also make fore a more complete reading experience of the reader already knows the supporting characters, like Jared and Jilly, and what events have led to Jilly’s wedding and the televised royal wedding.

I wish the ghosts and supernatural element had been a little more pronounced. I feel like they only touched the story instead of were ingrained as an important part of it. I like that in this book, “the one who can tell the twins apart” is more implied than hammered home once again. It’s a nice wink-wink for knowing readers, but isn’t explained again in detail.

If you’re not familiar with the Montgomery-Taggerts, I also recommend the following to enhance this reading experience: “Matchmakers,” the story of Jamie’s dad Kane and his stepmother Cale, which is found in The Invitation; Sweet Liar, the story of Jamie’s uncle Mike (and an awesome book), Twin of Ice, the story of the original Kane Taggert (one of my favorites) and its companion, Twin of Fire, and of course, the story that brought the Montgomerys and Taggerts together, The Raider.

BOTTOM LINE: A good romance made even better if you read the first two in the series first. Not as magical as For All Time, but still a winner. Hope we get a book about Jamie’s twin Todd, who was pretty grumpy in this novel!

TEACUP RATING: Four out of five teacups.

ON SALE DATE: Available June 23, 2015, in hardcover and eformats.

Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Change of Heart (Montgomery-Taggert/Edilean) by Jude Deveraux

Ooooh, Jude Deveraux, you sneaky little devil. I see what you did here. You’ve combined the worlds of Edilean with the monolith known as the Montgomery-Taggerts, and now those series are joined forever. For those of us afraid we’d never see our favorite Edilean characters again, it looks like we’ve been granted a reprieve…plus, the M-Ts are moving into Edilean. (And why not? I don’t think they had a major presence in Virginia. Maine, Colorado, California, Washington State, Florida, Nantucket, England, and Lanconia, but not Virginia. Unless I’m drawing a blank, which is always possible.)

Change of Heart Front Cover (Pocket Books/Simon & Schuster)

Change of Heart Front Cover (Pocket Books/Simon & Schuster)

THE PLOT: Once upon a time in 1994, a Taggert novella called “Change of Heart” was published in an anthology of romance stories. This story featured a duo of precocious children: Eli, a super genius, and Chelsea, who was rich and spunky and smart enough to hang out a with genius. They worked to solve various social injustices, including the problem of Eli’s mother, a soft-hearted pushover who let anyone and everyone walk all over her. The plot was to hook her up with Eli’s hero, Frank Taggert, a cold-hearted businessman (who also happened to be the brother of super-Taggert Michael, of Sweet Liar, and his twin brother Kane, of the novella “Just Curious”). And of course even though it took Michael, his wife Sam, and the kids to give them a push to an isolated mountain cabin, Miranda and Frank figured it out in the end. Got all that? Mother + Taggert = happily every after.

A Holiday of Love,  copyright 1994

A Holiday of Love, copyright 1994

Fast forward 20 years to find out what happened to Eli and Chelsea. And here’s where things begin to fall apart for me.

Turns out that Chelsea’s family moved out of town when she was a teenager…but not before she went batcrap crazy with her raging hormones, dating every pretty football player she could find, and treating skinny nerd Eli like…well…her best girlfriend. So Chelsea leaves town, stops writing to or even emailing Eli, becomes a supermodel, and basically abandons Eli to bloom under his new Taggert relatives and their endless trips to the gym.

Now a bulked-up Eli works for the government, and he’s never lost hope of getting back in touch with Chelsea. He writes to her and invites her to his biological father’s hometown of Edilean (yep, he’s one of THOSE Harcourts, check the Edilean family tree!) and Chelsea is bullied into going by her parents. What follows includes shenanigans such as mistaken identity, switching identities, attempts to catch a criminal, the realization that eating junk food solves everything, and friending a brand-new generation of Robin and Marian Les Jeunes (hopefully preventing them from following the mistakes of Eli and Chelsea).

MY TWO CENTS: For those who are wondering: the original novella takes up about 40% of the book and the new story is the other 60%. You’re getting more than half new book. One of the only two changes I can find from my old battered book is that Miranda, poor Miranda, was called “Randy” back in the day, and we’re all thankful that’s no longer the case. When I hear Randy now, all I get is this:

No Taggert anywhere ever looked like this.

No Taggert anywhere ever looked like this.

The other “major”change is that in the original, Chelsea was a brunette; now she’s blonde.  And I’m not even going to question why anyone thought that change was a good idea. I’ll just say I think it was completely unnecessary.

As far as the story goes, is it realistic to believe that the Chelsea we knew as a child, the one who worked to fix social injustice and punish bad people, became a self-centered, shallow airhead who only cared about looks? I had a VERY hard time with this. I’ve seen Jude Deveraux post that readers complain when a hero or heroine isn’t perfectly chiseled, perfectly skinny, perfectly buff, perfectly coiffed. And she certainly makes sure not to anger these readers here. We hear often about Chelsea’s long, slim legs and her perfectly golden hair. We see Chelsea’s interest perk up when a mega-hot guy walks into the room, and she’s stunned to eventually realize he’s Eli, who may now be worthy of her attention. We’re treated to great detail on Eli’s transformation to muscled hunk.

To answer my earlier question: Maybe it IS realistic to think that the hot girl discarded her geeky friend, and then only pays attention again once he’s built some muscle. But that doesn’t make her an appealing character. I can’t identify with her. I didn’t root for her. In fact, I pretty much disliked her and hoped she spent a lot of time throwing up from all the bread Eli made her eat. I’m sad that she couldn’t have loved Eli for what he already was, instead of what he had to become (really, she couldn’t even stay his friend? She was just too beautiful?) And I’m glad that two other geeky guys were able to snare their dream girls without first spending quality time at the Edilean gym.

BOTTOM LINE: A must-read for fans of Jude, Taggerts, and Edliean, but be warned: the characters became physically attractive but emotionally shallow. It leaves me feeling sorry for readers who honestly think that only pretty people deserve romance. After all, gentle reader, how long and slim are YOUR legs?

TEACUP RATING: Lukewarm tea, maybe three out of five teacups. The original novella is on the higher end of the grading scale, the new portion on the lower.

ON SALE DATE: Available in paperback and e-formats on October 21, 2014.

Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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