Thoughts After Reading:
Anne Avery's Summer Fancy caught my eye because it reminded me of the books I've been reading by Pamela Morsi: both are set in a small American town during the late 1800s, and both seemed to have a similar sweet and endearing romance vibe going on. Well, it turns out I was mostly right. Summer Fancy puts an early American spin on the well used "plain Jane" theme, and almost pulls it off. To the novel's credit, it contained plenty of comedy. The chapters are interspersed with journal entries written by the hero, and his perspective on events can be quite funny. The romance is sweet, starting almost immediately and allowing for many charming moments between the protagonists. There's several meaningful friendships that are formed as well. But the further I read into the story, the less charmed I became. The humor came at the cost of lowering my opinion of the two main characters, and I hated how the main conflict of the romance was handled - a serious problem, when the conflict takes up the last third of the book.
At the age of twenty-six, the heroine is firmly in place as the town's spinster. She's tall, flat-chested, and her overbearing mother scares away any possible suitor by throwing them at her. The heroine tends to have a no-nonsense attitude about life, well at odds with her hopelessly romantic heart. She's extremely attracted to the hero upon first meeting, but is initially disappointed by his passive nature - his personality is nothing like the heroes she's read about. She continues to find him desirable, however, and - after several embarrassing incidences where they accidentally collide with each other - begins to pursue him. For his part, the hero also becomes attracted to the heroine almost right away. He admires her eyes and easygoing attitude, yet is unsure of her affection and doesn't feel he can marry until he becomes better off financially. It seemed implausible how quickly the hero became attracted to the heroine - despite her lackluster looks, she's giving him erections before he really comes to know her much at all. I liked the hero, in some respects. Even though he's considered the most handsome man in the county, he's considerate, shy, and still a virgin. However, his actions took the label "beta hero" to a whole new level. It was annoying when he allowed the local harridans to walk all over him, and even more frustrating when he barely made effort to progress the relationship he wanted so dearly or fix the relationship when it became broken. I was often conflicted: on one hand, it was sweet that the handsome hero was worried about asking the plain heroine to a cup of lemonade. On the other hand, there were a number of times when I simply wanted to tell him to man up. The poorly manged conflict was so cliche: the hero's uncertain about proposing, the couple make love, the couple are discovered, the heroine does not want to the hero to be forced to marry her. Cue the angsty music. This conflict is dragged on and on, until finally the hero tries to make a grand romantic gesture and suddenly the months of unhappiness are fixed. The end.
It's hard for me to put into words exactly what I didn't like about Anne Avery's Summer Fancy, probably because there was so much I did like. I liked the humor, I liked some of the more genuine interactions between various characters, and the protagonists did have their endearing moments. As a whole, however, I felt the book never quite came together: I didn't fully buy into the relationship between the main characters, there was never much holding them apart, and the conflict of the book was a tremendous disappointment. Summer Fancy is not, unfortunately, a romance novel I can recommend.