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It Happened One Summer by Tessa Bailey

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I love reading and over the last few years, I have set myself a challenge to read more work by authors I haven’t previously picked up. Of course, there have been some blunders, some were amazing, some were average and some have become new favourites that I have since gone on to pick up as shelf-fillers.

In March, despite feeling like someone had stomped on me multiple times, I picked up another new author, Tessa Bailey. I had seen so many recommendations for various novels by her on Bookstagram and I was curious. And that’s how I ended up reading 2021’s It Happened One Summer and the more recently released sequel Hook, Line, and Sinker.

It’s never easy to keep these reviews 100% spoiler-free, but I try.

Piper Bellinger is fashionable, influential, and her reputation as a wild child means the paparazzi are constantly on her heels. When too much champagne and an out-of-control rooftop party land Piper in the slammer, her stepfather decides enough is enough. So he cuts her off and sends Piper and her sister to learn some responsibility running their late father’s dive bar… in Washington.

Piper hasn’t even been in Westport for five minutes when she meets big, bearded sea captain Brendan, who thinks she won’t last a week outside of Beverly Hills. So what if Piper can’t do math, and the idea of sleeping in a shabby apartment with bunk beds gives her hives. How bad could it really be? She’s determined to show her stepfather—and the hot, grumpy local—that she’s more than a pretty face.

Except it’s a small town and everywhere she turns, she bumps into Brendan. The fun-loving socialite and the gruff fisherman are polar opposites, but there’s an undeniable attraction simmering between them. Piper doesn’t want any distractions, especially feelings for a man who sails off into the sunset for weeks at a time. Yet as she reconnects with her past and begins to feel at home in Westport, Piper starts to wonder if the cold, glamorous life she knew is what she truly wants. LA is calling her name, but Brendan—and this town full of memories—may have already caught her heart.

As has already been established, Piper Bellinger is a spoilt, Instagram influencer who has never done anything with her life. She lives off the money that her step-father makes as a successful producer in Hollywood. When she’s unceremoniously dumped by her long-term boyfriend after just 6 weeks of dating while they’re at a very public party, Piper is mortified. And in an effort to show that she’s barely affected and not at all humiliated, she is encouraged by a so-called friend, to break into a hotel and hold a very loud, very destructive party.

The punishment is swift and, for Piper, the worst thing that could ever happen. She is being exiled, sent to the small fishing town that she called home in a time that she only distantly remembers before her mother married money, and long before she became a popular source of scandal for internet gossip sites and red-tops like the National Enquirer.

Though this is Piper’s punishment for having no purpose and breaking the law, she doesn’t head to Westport alone, her younger sister Hannah, offers to go with her, unwilling to see her sister facing this new experience alone. Hannah is incredibly loyal to her sister, going with her despite the fact that it could have an effect on her own budding career. Hannah is obsessed with music and their entire trip is accompanied by the custom soundtrack that she creates. Though Piper is the central character of this book, Hannah is the driving force behind their accomplishments, she is the one who pushes her sister to make things work.

Brendan Taggert lives for life on open water. A widower, he’s never really shown much interest in finding someone else, something that makes his father-in-law happy. However, when Piper Bellinger shows up in Westport things start to get interesting.

This couple is so different that everyone who sees them is positive there is no way that it can work, but there is an immediate and very reluctant attraction that they struggle to ignore. Despite being made to feel as though he’s being disloyal to the memory of his late wife, and absolutely positive that this spoilt LA princess is wrong for him, he can’t stop his own feelings and he cannot stay away from her.

Brendan has his life as a fisherman, a dangerous life that could easily end with one wrong turn of the boat during a storm, but it seems as though Piper is persistent, and his own feelings are ignoring the logic that dictates he should keep his distance.

Throughout the book, we get to learn a considerable amount about the past that led Piper’s mother to leave Westport, primarily the death of her first husband, Piper and Hannah’s father. He, very much like Brendan, lived for his risky career on the water. He was sadly lost at sea and the people in the town have built a statue in his memory, he was a big personality and many people loved him. 

While in Westport, the sisters also learn that their paternal grandmother is still alive and well and since losing her son has lived an isolated existence in a small apartment, afraid to leave, not wanting the reminders that spending time outside will provide. Their reunion is somewhat moving and helps to show how far Piper has come from the girl who was obsessed with the latest shoes and their matching purses. 

The biggest problem that Brendon and Piper have as a couple isn’t that they aren’t good for each other, it’s that they don’t realise that their differences are what make them work. 

Piper arrives in Westport with redemption her only goal. She wants to prove herself so that she can return to LA and get back in her step-father’s good graces, while Brendan believes that the only thing he is on earth for is to get a second boat on the water and never step away from the stereotype of a surly fisherman. In getting to know each other, they are realising that they have the potential to be so much more than the people they are perceived to be.

As a reader of primarily British written contemporary romance the steamy aspect of these novels takes a little bit of getting used to, but then I suppose that the majority of the novels by authors like Jill Mansell and Paige Toon base their stories on the situation and circumstance rather than the bedroom antics. And that’s where It Happened One Summer definitely differs. When I was looking for recommendations for something to read last month while I was ill, this came high on the list – and luckily I had already invested in it and, at that point, the sequel was pre-ordered, so it wasn’t difficult to just turn on the Kindle and get reading.

I know that a lot of people commented on how steamy the scenes between Brendan and Piper were, but, and here I am being honest, I almost skimmed them. It wasn’t an intentional “OMG there is sex here” thing, it was more a “this is just filler” thing. Were the scenes steamy? I suppose so, but they also didn’t add anything to the story, at least as far as I’m concerned. I just didn’t feel that these scenes were necessary. The chemistry between Piper and Brendan was obvious through their interactions outside the bedroom and seeing their physical chemistry was just there for the sake of it.

I am not being a prude, I have read my fair share of incredibly steamy novels, some of which I will probably write about here. I guess I’m saying that if you don’t like that aspect of a story and want the romance then you can have that and skip the smuttier aspects!

One of the main things I enjoyed about It Happens One Summer, besides the growing relationship between our two central characters was the bonding we saw between Piper and her younger sister, Hannah.

It seems that Hannah is the more sensible, less spotlight seeking of the sisters, and she has absolutely no reason to head to Westport. She hasn’t stepped out of line and humiliated the family and put their step-father’s future career at risk, but she follows Piper out of a sense of loyalty. Here these two girls are in a bar that needs a lot of work, despite what they had been told to the contrary. They are far away from the home they are familiar with, and though it’s Piper’s moment to prove her stuff, Hannah is there to play cheerleader and help her sister get back on her feet.

For me, Hannah is the true friend that Piper needed all along. So, why wasn’t that the case in the beginning? Simply because, as far as Piper was concerned, they didn’t belong in the same social circle. 

In Westport, the Bellinger girls have the opportunity to get to know each other like never before. They bond as they are learning about their dad, as they reunite with family they weren’t aware existed and build up a business that previously they had no interest in.

As sisters, they have no choice but to spend time together, but this situation gives them the time to truly get to know each other as the women they have the potential to be and finally, they are stepping back from the whirlwind that is their lives are in LA and bond, becoming best friends.

As I am not going to talk about any of the twists in the book – and there were a few stumbling blocks that did their best to get in the way of a Happy Ending – it’s time to rate the book…

Over on Goodreads, I gave it 3 stars and I am sticking with that. The book wasn’t AMAZING, but it also wasn’t the worst thing I have read this year – that honour goes to another book that I will be writing about later on.

Positives

  • The characters remained true to themselves
  • Strong relationship development (sibling and romantic)
  • Likeable if a little shallow central female character

Negatives

  • Clichés, and lots of them, but that’s just a personal gripe
3-star rating

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It’s all about a kilt, a saber or a title!
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Hook, Line, and Sinker by Tessa Bailey

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