A Summer to Remember
By Marilyn Pappano
Publisher: Grand Central Forever
Release Date: June 28, 2016
Elliot Ross expected his life to fall into familiar lines once his eight years in the army ended. His family’s roots in West Texas were deep; the family ranch had been passed from generation to generation since the nineteenth century. When his parents found it prudent to sell the ranch and relocate to Arizona, it left Elliot at loose ends with no real sense of home. Wandering in search of a new place that feels like home, Elliot and a pit bull puppy he rescued and named Mouse stop in Tallgrass, Oklahoma. Elliot is complaining to Mouse about her prima donna ways while holding an umbrella over her as she takes care of business in the rain when he meets Fia Thomas, who overhears his conversation with his pet. It makes for an appealing meet-cute scene.
Fia, the youngest of the Tuesday Night Margarita girls, has had more than her share of tough times—a childhood without the love and support that should be every child’s birthright, widowhood after a happy but too brief marriage, and a mysterious illness that leaves her unable to continue her work as a fitness trainer or, on the worst days, to care for herself. But she is grateful for the good days, and on one day when she feels well enough to drive, she meets a cowboy who incongruously caters to a little dog with big ideas.
Sharing a burger and some conversation at Sonic might not be anyone’s idea of a perfect first date, but it’s enough to spark an attraction between Fia and Elliott. He falls head over heels in a heartbeat, and when he finds a job tailor-made for him too, he is certain Fia and Tallgrass are what he has been seeking. Fia loves the way Elliott makes her feel, but her health issues make her wary of commitment. Can Elliot convince her that she can trust him in sickness and in health?
This is the sixth novel in Pappano’s excellent Tallgrass series that focuses on a group of military widows as they grieve and move on with their lives. The series has been consistent in giving readers emotionally rich stories with engaging characters. This one is no exception. Elliot is a wonderful beta hero. The product of a loving, close-knit family, he is an optimist and a caretaker, and he is secure enough to be vulnerable. How can anyone resist a hero who rescues puppies, cooks like a dream, and personifies a modern knight in a cowboy hat? He can also be eloquent when the need is there, as when he reminds Fia of what love is:
Fia, the point is, loving somebody and making a commitment to them doesn’t have anything to do with health or wealth or social status or career or any of that stuff. It has to do with who you are and who I am and the fact that we’re better people together than we are apart.
Fia is a survivor, but even her own strength and her husband Scott’s love and belief in her have not healed all the scars of an upbringing that left her feeling like a burden. The diagnosis she finally receives exacerbates her fears. Watching these two reach their version of an HEA was a moving, rewarding reading experience.
Of course, the Margarita girls are there to support Fia, and fans of the series will be pleased to see many familiar faces. There is a heart-tugging secondary plot involving Marti Levin and Dillon Smith, bad-boy twin of Dalton (A Love to Call Her Own, Tallgrass #3). Whether you are a fan of small-town romance, military romance, or just contemporary romance with characters with whom you fall in love as they fall in love with each other, I think you will enjoy this one. I definitely recommend it.