A DNA test tells you who you come from, not who you are.
All her life, Summer Sutherland felt like the missing piece in a puzzle, left out and looking for the place she truly belongs. And when an at-home DNA test reveals her selfish mother and well-meaning grandfather lied about her father, Summer sets out to discover the truth.
Her new instant family comes with two half sisters: one who accepts her with open arms, the other resistant to the stranger staying in their house. But somehow Summer senses this is where she is meant to be—so she settles into her father’s Carmel home, ready to get to know them and find her place in the family she always wanted.
But while her newfound parent is thrilled to get to know Summer—and her romantic connection to his business partner, Cody, heats up—tensions rise within the family.
Will she ever fit in? Or should she return to her other life before tearing all their lives apart?
If there was a competition among authors for queen of dysfunctional families, Jennifer Ryan would definitely be in contention for the title. This talented writer is an expert at guiding her characters through the many peaks and valleys of this particular situation, as evidenced by her newest novel, Summer's Gift.
Imagine you've spent your entire life believing - being told - your biological father wants nothing to do with you. Imagine discovering in your early twenties that he never knew you existed. Now imagine a happy, successful family unit - father, mother, two teenage daughters - whose lives are turned upside down with the discovery of the existence of a previously unknown family member. How would you feel discovering your husband had a child with another woman (before you met him), a child now competing for his love with your own daughters? As the previous (spoiled) first child, how would you handle a new sister not only stealing the spotlight from you on the eve of your high school graduation but also the affections of your secret crush? And what about Summer? Not only does she need to navigate the shark-infested waters of a new family but there's also the feelings of betrayal for the family members who lied to her for so many years.
I love how Ryan drops this bombshell into the lives of these characters then deftly navigates them through the debris as they each begin to slowly stitch the pieces of the fabric of their family back together. Will it ever be the same? No. Will it be better? Stronger than before? Quite possibly.
I really liked Summer. She's smart, accomplished, and well respected in business. She's a kind person with a good heart, the mediator in her family, taking care of everyone else while never having known true unconditional love herself. She's so deserving of love. I couldn't help but be in her corner rooting her on the entire way. While Summer is the central figure of the story and the character most fully explored, each of the surrounding characters impacted by the DNA test is also explored individually. It's fascinating to follow their reactions as their new reality sinks in. Some react better than others. Some create chaos. Ryan does a wonderful job of developing each of them, so much so that I feel as if I actually know them, became invested in them, in their growth and happiness. They are just all so real. There's also a strong romantic thread in the story (with a HEA) that I thoroughly enjoyed. This is Summer's story of growth and change with her romantic relationship being a key element of that evolution.
If you enjoy women's fiction with well-defined, relatable characters, strong romantic elements, and family at its core, check out Jennifer Ryan's Summer's Gift. I highly recommend it.