In brief: In their teens, Juliette, Anna and Sera were the best of friends. But one summer that all changed…now that Juliette has called in the pinkie swear (come and help, no matter what), can they rekindle their friendship before it’s too late? (Read more about the book here).
The good: A lovely, if sad story, about three women who are also strong and willing to accept the unexpected.
The not-so-good: Some very sad moments!
Why I chose it: The cover intrigued me – thanks to Harlequin Australia for the copy.
Publisher: Harlequin Mira
Setting: New South Wales north coast, Australia
My rating: 9 out of 10
I think everyone knows that I’m a sucker for a good cover and Summers With Juliette is no exception. Who could resist a gorgeous coastal scene with three women who all have perfect beachy wave hair? Plus, as you can’t see the women’s faces, there’s a certain sense of mystery about it… I also love a good friendship story and this book doesn’t disappoint. Remember those pinkie swears you made with your friends as a teenager? Summers With Juliette takes that one step further – calling in that promise “no matter where, no matter when, no matter what”. It’s a delightful story, full of warmth, delicious muffins and scones but also a bit of a heartbreaker. (Fortunately, there’s more than a couple of hot men in the narrative to help the reader recover). It’s a wonderful summer read that won’t disappoint (but wear your sunglasses for the sad parts).
The story centres around three women, all friends as teenagers but after a scandal rocked the small coastal town of Ellesmere, Anna and Sera no longer speak. Their only connection is through Juliette, who is now terminally ill. Juliette calls in the pinkie swear for help and Anna and Sera are reluctantly reunited. They both want to help their friend, but it turns out that Ellesmere has more on offer for them than just a good friend. There’s ‘city slicker’ lawyer Jack and the new mayor Patrick. When Juliette alludes to a man called Noah, Anna and Sera decide that they need to find him to ensure Juliette doesn’t leave without love in her life. Can they work through their differences to help their ever kind and generous friend?
Emily Madden is a debut author, which I found a little hard to believe at first! Her writing is so assured and confident, plus she has the knack of great dialogue that sounds realistic and juggling a multilayered plot with ease. The story flows effortlessly and although you know ultimately what is going to happen, it’s an emotional and engaging journey. I enjoyed how the story focused on the friendship between the women rather than focusing on Juliette’s physical decline due to cancer. It lets the reader see the person Juliette is rather than turning her into a bunch of symptoms and a disease. Juliette herself is also a tower of strength – getting about her daily business, doing all the things she normally does and ignoring her disease. She’s someone to admire (although I wish she had documented her grandmother’s recipe for vanilla and almond scones so I could recreate it)!
I’d also categorise this book if forced as ‘life lit’ or the dreaded ‘contemporary women’s fiction’. Sure, there is romance but it’s just one of the many plot threads. The strongest element is friendship and support during hard times. It’s a touching story, one that will remain with the reader long after the book is finished. You’ll laugh, cry and also be tempted to make some of Juliette’s delicious-sounding muffins. But most of all, you’ll be reaching out to your friends and family to tell them how much you love them.