Tessa Bailey is an author who delivers on romantic comedy with steamy love scenes. Do not let the cartoon cover of It Happened One Summer fool you! This book is spicy. Although the romance gene is huge, Tessa Bailey has found a niche in the genre by crafting a romantic comedy that is also heartfelt and very sensual.
Piper Bellinger is a Los Angeles socialite who lives for posting pictures on Instagram and going to the hottest parties. After being dumped by her boyfriend of three weeks (her longest relationship), twenty-eight year old Piper throws a huge party on the rooftop of the Mondrian hotel. The problem is that she didn’t have permission to throw the after-hours rager and she ends up in jail. Her loyal sister Hannah bails her out and when they return to the Bel-Air mansion they live in with their mother and stepfather, they learn that Piper will actually have to face consequences for her actions. Piper is told that she is cut off financially for the next three months and she must go live in Westport, a small fishing town located in the Pacific Northwest. Piper’s punishment is to learn to fend for herself and learn responsibility at her late father’s dive bar, where she must live and work.
Shortly after arriving in Westport, Piper meets Brendan Taggart, a grumpy but handsome bearded sea captain. Regardless of their initial mutual dislike of one another, Westport is a small town and they keep running into one another. Despite being polar opposites, Piper and Brendan have a hard time denying their attraction for one another.
Piper is determined to show her stepfather that she can survive on her own so that her stay in Westport is as temporary as possible. However, Piper makes connections and starts learning more about her late father and the townspeople that still honor him. Piper starts to reevaluate the empty life she was leading in LA versus the life of purpose she creates in Westport.
The Acknowledgments section at the beginning of the book tells readers that the main character, Piper, is based on another fictional character, albeit one from television, Alexis Rose from Schitt’s Creek. Having this information before reading It Happened One Summer felt somewhat like cheating. Although I am a fan of Schitt’s Creek, I had already formed Piper in my mind before I read her journey—sweet, but out of touch because of her privilege, forced to learn a lesson in humility and figure out her life.
Piper is easy for the reader to like with her sweet relationship with her sister Hannah and her kind and funny personality that helps her make friends easily. It is because of those redeeming qualities that the reader will stay on Piper’s side despite her atrocious and desperate behavior in the beginning of the book.
It Happened One Summer is told from multiple POVs. The first is obviously Piper’s, but the other is Brendan’s point of view. In order to pull off multiple POV storytelling, the author has to juggle different personalities and motivations all while keeping the story coherent and compelling. This works easily and well in this particular story because Piper and Brendan are opposites who fall in love. Their backgrounds and personalities are vastly different, making it easy for the reader to keep their voices separate.
The spicy scenes between Piper and Brendan outshine everything else about It Happened One Summer. The enemies-to-lovers phase happened so quickly, it felt like the character development was implied more than shown. Had I not already been tipped off that Piper is heavily based on Alexis Rose, I don’t know that I would have viewed her in such a favorable light because the storyline felt rushed and half of the novel is told from Brendan’s point of view. Although we are provided with Brendan’s thoughts, he still felt one-dimensional and stereotypical.
Death is a subject within the novel. Specifically, two deaths. Piper’s father was a sea captain in the town of Westport and he passed away during a fishing excursion when she was four and her sister was two. Their grief-stricken mother Maureen wanted nothing more to do with Westport, so she uprooted the three of them and moved to Los Angeles where she met and fell in love with Daniel Bellinger, a successful and wealthy movie director. It felt odd that Piper’s punishment was to return the place where her father died and make something of herself. Yes, it is explained that there is a forgotten bar that Daniel has been paying to upkeep that belonged to their father, but it seemed oddly cruel to force Piper to return to where her deceased father lived as a form of punishment.
As this book is more surface than substance, the possibilities of how the particular location of the punishment could impact Piper’s mental health are not factored into the story. Rather, Piper merely grieves the fashion shows that she will miss over the course of her three month sentence. It also seemed incongruent that their mother Maureen was okay with banishing Piper back to Westport when she had cut ties with not only the town, but also her deceased husband’s relatives. Maureen is barely in the novel, so the reader isn’t really provided with thoughtful reasoning as to why she is in agreement with Daniel, other than her saying, “This will be good for you,” to Piper.
The other death that we learn about involves Brendan. He is a widower. His wife died of an aneurysm seven years prior, but he still wears his wedding ring. We later learn that Brendan was wearing it more out of obligation, mostly to his father-in-law, which is a rather bizarre revelation. As a reader, you must believe that while Brendan is fiercely loyal and rigidly strict about his routine, he still comes to the conclusion rather abruptly that after seven years it is time to take off the wedding ring because he is ready to pursue Piper, whom he has recently met. We later learn in the book that Brendan and his deceased wife were more friends than passionate lovers, again making the seven years of post-death wedding ring wearing seem exaggerated.
What the novel It Happened One Summer lacks in substance and depth, it makes up for in comedy and sexually explicit scenes. If you are looking for a frothy rom-com with the heat turned way up, It Happened One Summer by Tessa Bailey is for you.
Need to cool off? Drink a Westport Water Spritz, a cocktail inspired by It Happened One Summer.
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Rating: 3/5 Stars
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