It’s fair to say that I was… less than impressed by Sarah Morgan‘s first O’Neil Brothers book, SLEIGH BELLS IN THE SNOW – unfortunately the heroine’s issues with Christmas struck me as ridiculously OTT, and while I developed a soft spot for Jackson’s family and enjoyed the (very) snowy Vermont setting, my inability to understand where Kayla was coming from meant that the romance never quite took off for me. But the O’Neil brothers sequel-bait scattered throughout the story did its job, and when offered the second book in the trilogy for review, I looked forward to seeing how Sean and Élise’s story would play out in SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER.
Fiery French chef Élise Philippe is having a seriously bad day. Not only have the opening day plans for her beloved café fallen apart, but Sean O’Neil is back in town, and looking more delectable than ever. Last summer, they shared an electrifying night together…and the memories have Élise really struggling to stick to her one-night-only rule! Her head knows that eventually Sean will be leaving, so all she can do is try to ignore her heart before she spontaneously combusts with lust.
Being back in Vermont—even temporarily—is surgeon Sean O’Neil’s worst nightmare. For Sean, returning home to the Snow Crystal Resort means being forced to confront the reasons and the guilt he feels about rejecting his family’s rural lifestyle years ago. But discovering that Élise has settled in Vermont and still sets his blood racing is a very welcome distraction! Thinking he can persuade her into a replay of last summer is tempting, but remembering how good they are together is going to make walking away more difficult than he could imagine…
SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER takes place a few months after the first book, I think, and as the title implies, it’s set at the height of summer so we get to see a completely different side to the Vermont resort. Familiar faces are present and accounted for, but handled very deftly – while the extended O’Neil family played their role in the story and there was some groundwork laid for the next book, this one was very definitely Sean and Élise’s romance.
And the two of them had chemistry that worked – it more than worked at times. We started off with a messy back history and with both parties in denial about their feelings (just how I like my romances!), before the pair of them slowly opened up to each other over the course of the book. Their competence in their respective spheres added an extra something as well. Élise’s passion for ingredients and her eye for recipes had me wishing for Pinterest-style pictures of her delicious-sounding creations, and as for Sean’s steely confidence when it came to matters of blood and gore – well, I wonder if Sarah Morgan writes M&B medical romances, because I would be all over them.
However, like the previous book, sometimes things came across as slightly exaggerated – Élise verged on being a stereotype of the “passionate French chef” at times and the rift between Sean and his grandfather dragged on for a tad bit too long. I thought some points were laboured, sometimes to hilarious effect (or I may just have an unfortunate sense of humour) – I felt for poor Élise, as everyone knew she dropped her h’s when stressed and kept on telling her that… I read an digital version so I’m not sure what the page count was, but at times it felt as though there was too little story to fill the pages.
But overall a decent romance with some spark (with bonus points for those O’Neil brotherly dynamics) and despite my niggles, I kept on reading – so while I’m not yet 100% in love with Sarah Morgan’s writing, I’ll certainly be picking up Tyler’s story, MAYBE THIS CHRISTMAS, when it hits the shelves later this year.
Review copy courtesy of the publisher