Slow Summer Burn
Loveswept / August 12, 2013 / $2.99 digital
Cameron Stahl has everything, so why does she feel like her life is incomplete? A beautiful Boston socialite and a successful entrepreneur, she’s just opened her second boutique in Star Harbor and business is booming. But one searing look from Val Grayson sends fire through her body and shows her exactly what’s missing from her life: a real man who doesn’t play games and who makes her feel like the most desired woman on earth.
DEA agent Val Grayson has always looked after his brothers. Now it’s his turn to find love—though Cam is the last sort of woman he ever dreamed he’d fall for. When courageous Cam realizes she has the insider connections to help Val take down a major drug player within Boston’s political elite, he can’t stop her from putting herself in danger. But as the drug bust of his career looms, all Val cares about is saving the woman he loves before it’s too late.
Elisabeth Barrett’s Slow Summer Burn is the fourth book in her popular Star Harbor series. If only Star Harbor were a real place; the town is charming and Barrett perfectly captures that New England beach town feel (her bio says she grew up spending summers on Cape Cod). Since I now live far from the Massachusetts coast, after reading this book I watched The Vineyard, a new “reality” show based on Martha’s Vineyard. I think I should stick with the more entertaining and personable people of Star Harbor.
This is the story of Boston society girl Cameron Stahl and the eldest of the Grayson brother, Val, a DEA agent. A cop and society girl romance pushes all of my buttons in the just the right way and this one did not disappoint.
Cam has all the good qualities of a woman who has grown up in Old Money; she is hard working, philanthropic, and takes casual pleasure in the finer things in life. She also has a new business—a couple of boutiques that are consuming her life. Between her charity work and her work work, she hasn’t had much fun in her life for quite a while. Heaped on top of that, Cam has a controlling mother who wants Cam to conform to society’s expectations.
Cam and Val are acquaintances in the way that everyone in a small town knows each other, but they each made false assumptions about each other based on appearances. When Val sees Cam in an unguarded moment, he realizes that everything he assumed he knew about this cool, poised woman was a front. As he pursues her, Cam discovers what has been missing in her comfortable, predictable life: passion.
I loved how once Cam decided she was interested in a relationship with Val she was very much his equal. Although she’s quite a bit younger, she is no shy, timid virgin who he has to coax into bed. She is a woman comfortable in her sexuality. Her relationship with Val makes her feel bolder and braver and even more the woman she wants to be.
Cam’s parents are less an actual obstacle to the romance than a representation of the expectations and prejudices of the world around them that both Val and Cam have to come to terms with as the romance unfolds. A trust fund baby and a blue collar guy is not the sort of story ending Cam’s peers expect for her.
Luckily she has other, better friends on Star Harbor who see better things for Cam and Val. Characters from the previous novels in the series pop up throughout the story providing a great community on Star Harbor as well as occasional comic relief.
Cam gets an opportunity to test out her new-found courage in the face of Val’s investigation into a family friend. This leads to one of my favorite scenes—Cam and Val have a fight over his investigation. And then they talk! No slamming doors. No tears and yelling. It’s a real, honest conversation about their actions and feelings. It’s a great moment that made me believe that if they could manage that, they could get through anything together. And they do that before the end of the book!
The drug investigation is important to the story, but doesn’t overwhelm the romance and had a nice little twist at the end just when I thought I had it figured out. Love that!
On top of that there is small subplot about the hunt for a shipwreck’s treasure tied to the town’s history. Who doesn’t secretly harbor dreams of finding buried treasure? I found myself almost hoping that the treasure hunt would entail its own book, and its own romance for the treasure hunter! But in the end, although I have been known to skip baby-filled epilogues, I thought this one was just perfect.
According to Barrett’s website, this is the last book she has planned for Star Harbor, which in my head is a beachy kind of Stars Hallow, filled with people whose company make everything seem more special. I wouldn’t mind going back again.
Learn more about or pre-order a copy of Elisabeth Barett's Slow Summer Burn before its August 12 release:
Julia Broadbooks writes contemporary romance. She lives in the wilds of suburban Florida with her ever patient husband and bakes ridiculous amounts of sugary treats for her teens' friends. Find her on Twitter @juliabroadbooks.