Friday, June 7, 2024

Melissa Foster - Hot Mess Summer

Who buys a cottage in a New England fishing village on a whim? A stressed-out, twice-divorced romance writer and single mother looking for a fresh start, that’s who. Despite what my besties say about my three-year dry spell, I’m not looking for a man. Or drama. Or sex. I’ve got enough on my plate with writer’s block and a daughter who refuses to grow up. Community. That’s what I need. Unfortunately, it seems the universe has other ideas. Either Chatemup, Massachusetts, has a serious shortage of single women, or I’ve become a hot mess magnet for the male species.
At least I’ve found one funny, good-hearted friend: fish peddler Declan Miller, my brainstorming adventure buddy who stirs my creative juices. I’m his Writer Girl. He’s my Dimple Dude. Just scruffy, granite-chested, deep-voiced, ex-military brawn who happens to be—oh, Nicole, what are you doing to yourself?—stoking a long-neglected fire without even trying.
A self-confessed hot mess, divorced single dad Declan is too old for relationship games. Not interested. Same here. So why do I keep thinking about him? Preferably naked. Because I’m a hot mess, too? At least he’s inspiring me to write. If only real life were like one of my novels. At least then I’d have a better idea of how this was going to end.

Comment: I saw this book in a list of books that caught my attention and after reading the blurb I imagined a cute romance developing between mature characters and the idea of two people disappointed in love finding someone special as enough to convince me.

Nicole Ross is a writer in her late 30s, who has had two divorces, has a grown up daughter and has recently bought a holiday house in Chatemup, Massachusetts. She decides to check out the house with her best friends and hopes the community around the house is welcoming and she can find peace and a group of friends she can get along with. What she finds is much more than she hoped for, since the community she envisioned does exist, the people are great and there are even nice men - and some more than nice - which means maybe one day she can even find a partner. If only best buddy Declan Miller weren't so appealing, and if only her daughter had her life already planned, and if only her mother weren't so far in Virginia... will Nicole be able to manage everything and find what she has been looking for?

This story is told in first person by Nicole, with some chapters by Declan too, which means the plot development is pretty limited in how we, the reader, can get some information. I've said many times already that first person narration isn't the best option most times in romances, and here I maintain my preference. The story itself isn't that complex and Nicole has a pretty linear and easy story to follow, but this also means when she wastes time describing clothes and the drinks she has with her friends, my attention wanders...

The book is labeled as a romance and that was what I expected to find. In a way, the story does have a romance, between Declan and Nicole, but it wasn't the sweet romantic love story I imagined. With this I mean to say that I did like how they, she is 38 and he is 47, are adults who talk, who communicate and maturity here isn't only a question of age, but that certainly help because they are adults and behave as such. I especially liked this because both of them had other romantic experiences in life and this helped them construct their personality, they know who they are now and this makes them much more honest to react to someone else.

However, maturity and life experience doesn't have to make the story boring, and to me the problem was precisely that. The romance between them is steady (mainly after they admit they want to be more than friends), takes time to develop, they communicate and do pretty much everything correctly, which is great but the way the author wrote things, made all these things boring too. I felt happy for Nicole and Declan but nothing about them as individuals nor about their thoughts made them endearing to me. If they had been other type of people perhaps I might have liked them more, but other characters with their features might mean the same to me. It wasn't a very romantic..well, romance.

The fact the story is pretty simple, this is Nicole's summer holidays and anything she does is expected, makes the plot rather repetitive and without much conflict. The only issues are, as predicted, when Nicole and Declan have a miscommunication at some point to make room for a reunion and a change of heart in relation to Nicole's plans, and when Nicole's daughter McKenzie has something she doesn't seem to want to share with her mother.

I would say this is the most interesting element in the story and the one offering more source of conflict. Nicole loves her daughter but she comes across as being spoiled and immature, despite being 20 and being in college. Nicole had her while she was 18, and I thought this relationship would provide more scenes, but that wasn't the case, and McKenzie shows up only twice in the story, and one of them closer to end to maximize, again, the conflict which Nicole needs to overcome to make a decision about what she wants to do with her life.

Some readers commented this seems more a woman's fiction story than a romance, and there are times I would agree. Nevertheless, I'll stick to my general opinion that the issue is how the story was written, and not as much the content or how much time is dedicated to each element. I was still looking for to be surprised by the story and by something that could make it special, but that wasn't my general impression. There were times I felt nothing was really happening in these people's lives, and there were barbecues and small parties and drinks a lot of the time. I suppose I could accept this being there because it was summer, it was an area meant for recreation... but in the end, none of the elements were great for me.
Grade: 5/10


  1. "when she wastes time describing clothes and the drinks she has with her friends, my attention wanders..."

    For my money, this is the curse of so much contemporary romance; there's little believable conflict, but the author has to fill those pages, and there goes all the empty nothing: clothes, drinks, food galore.


    1. Yes.... it was an OK story, but it did not fit my usual preferences in what I like in a romance (or in woman's fiction).

  2. first person narration isn't the best option most times in romances

    So agree with this. A romance involves more than one person, so I want to read about those emotions from everyone involved! First person works the best for me in Gothic, because then the mystery and not getting the full story creates that eerie feeling of not knowing.

    1. Yes, there are times where it's the best option. And there are authors who write first person, including romance situations/scenes in great ways, but in general I don't think most authors do it well.