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.

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)

 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.

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