It Happened One Summer is written by New York Times Bestselling author Tessa Bailey and is published by Avon Books. Before reading this, I knew very little about Tessa Bailey and her brand of fun, smart, and sexy happy-ending romance. This year, I wanted to open my reading arms to more genres I tend to avoid and having binged Schitt’s Creek with my boyfriend. I was sure this would be the book for me. Marketed as a Schitt’s Creek-inspired rom-com, readers are introduced to socialite Piper Bellinger.
Upon starting, Bailey introduces Piper through the lens of a breakup. She is characterized as a sensitive person who doesn’t understand why people think she’s a privileged air-head. It’s through this mental anguish that Piper decides to throw an extravagant party that involves breaking into a hotel and skinny dipping. It’s fun and simple. The real meat of this story is when Piper’s Hollywood director step-father sends Piper to the fishing town of Westport, Washington to stay where her mother is from as punishment for her hotel stunt. He believes that Piper needs to be stripped of her wealth and learn the value of money.
Unfortunately, I don’t think the exploration of Piper’s relationship with money is thorough enough. It does not have the care and nuance you can see clearly in Schitt’s Creek. The writing is weak and Bailey has Piper’s step-father give her a small set of money that she can use to start up in that town. It feels like an easy way to offer surface-level comparisons to the hit show without really exploring growth in Piper. There are some mentions of budgeting and not eating out often sprinkled throughout the novel but it was severely disappointing that it wasn’t a focal aspect of the narrative like readers are lead to believe.
When in Westport, there is a burly, strong fisherman named Brendan who is the other protagonist. He seems to be a stereotypical example of masculinity. Although, Bailey characterizes him as someone who is incredibly flawed, sensitive, and caring. There is a small inkling of the enemies to lovers troupe from the first moment Piper meets Brendan. He sees that Piper is not cut from the same cloth as most people in this town and dismisses her as a waste of space. While reading their initial sequences, it was thoroughly enjoyable to see Piper stand up for herself as she learns how to work and do things for herself. Bailey makes sure to put readers into both Piper and Brendan’s heads so we can view their growing feels for each other.
What ensues is a great exploration of hurt, healing, and steamy intimate scenes. As Piper and Brendan fall for each other, Bailey explores the concepts of true love versus earned love. Brendan has many emotional barriers that are broken down throughout the novel. Before Piper, he was married to a woman who was the exact opposite of Piper and had died. Brendan has lots of external forces still expecting him to honor his ex-wife and not move on. The connection that Bailey writes between Brendan and Piper is as addicting to readers as they are to each other.
Their chemistry is impeccable. They experience yearning, lust, and love. The bickering at the beginning of the novel showcases Bailey’s ability to write quick and quippy dialogue between Piper and Brendan. Strong “when will they just kiss already” energy is brought to the table with how much Bailey invests into their character dynamics. You root for Piper and Brendan before they even realize they want to root for each other. There are a couple of extra steamy romance scenes throughout the book that balance out the emotional depth and growth between our two love interests. They were fun to read and I believed every second of their romantic inclinations.
Each page makes you support the main couple more and more as they approach the main conflict of Piper needing to go back to California at the end of her punishment. With such a ticking time bomb inserted into their relationship, the third act of It Happened One Summer is organic and moves quickly. Many romances usually have a central conflict whether it is a misunderstanding or their first argument, but having both Brendan and Piper grow as people together who discuss what their options are is refreshing. There is still a misunderstanding that occurs between them but it isn’t because of what they say to each other, but rather a circumstantial monkey wrench.
Aside from their character growth, the atmosphere and secondary characters of It Happened One Summer are as delightful as the main romance. Since Westport is a fishing town, there were multiple locations Bailey had her characters explore. We were treated to a fishing trip with Brendan and his crew. Piper’s sister explored the local town’s business strip and volunteered at a record shop (since she was very fond of music). Her sister even has hints of a budding romance with one of Brendan’s crewmates that could make for a very promising sequel (I hope that’s what those interactions were written for). The townsfolk, while initially skeptical of the Bellinger’s, accepted and integrated them into their life and culture of Westport. There were instances of Piper renovating the living space she was staying at—the town bar called No Name. And she connected to her past through familial locations and memorials to her father. Bailey had fun writing her characters and as a reader, you can tell.
All in all, It Happened One Summer is a short and sweet whirlwind contemporary romance that mostly delivers on the promise to make a steamy and happy romance novel. Piper’s journey is not as deep as I would have personally liked but it was still an enjoyable ride to see her and Brendan fall in love with one another. If you are looking for a guaranteed happy ending in a romance, this book delivers.
It Happened One Summer is available wherever books are sold on July 13th.
It Happened One Summer
It Happened One Summer is a short and sweet whirlwind contemporary romance that mostly delivers on the promise to make a steamy and happy romance novel. Piper’s journey is not as deep as I would have personally liked but it was still an enjoyable ride to see her and Brendan fall in love with one another. If you are looking for a guaranteed happy ending in a romance, this book delivers.