Review of 'The Summer Harvest' by Georgina Penney *****
I suppose it's possible, but I don’t really know of any true-life romances that have blossomed into anything more than that in a two-person bubble. Falling in love seems to involve falling in love with the whole person in their 'family and friends package' - whether you want the packaging or not. In other words, it takes a village to raise true love. That was the theme that resonated with me in Summer Harvest. Beth Poole has had a bad run. She and her sister Valerie were the recipients of dodgy genes that meant breast cancer for both of them. When the disease struck Beth she had a total mastectomy; her sister wouldn’t survive her own bout of cancer. But the story opens with Beth’s life having moved on since Valerie’s death. With both of her parents gone too she now lives with her gran and her ‘step-grandad’ who stifle her with love and attention. Worried that their grandaughter’s life has stalled since her illness and the breakdown of her marriage, Violet and Louis shout Beth a holiday to Australia. Carrying deep emotional and physical scars from the devastation cancer brought into her life, Beth is soon on her way to the beautiful Margaret River wine region of Western Australia, unaware she’s about to meet a man whose overbearing but well-meaning 'family and friends package' will rival even hers. Clayton Hardy is your classic ‘eldest-child citizen’. Taking on a powerful sense of responsibility for his family from the age of five when he lost his mother to cancer, he’s managed to grind himself down into a deep rut on the family farm. He’s now reached the point where although he loves his family, he feels trapped and restlessly discontented in his adulthood. Meeting Beth, stranded with a flat tyre on the way to her holiday cabin, the two of them find they’re soon being thrown together within the rough and tumble of his family and the Rousse family next door where Beth’s staying. But amongst the rough and tumble, Clayton and Beth discover a space with each other that is quiet and sensual and healing. Only when the pressure of Beth’s imminent return home starts to build does their unresolved emotional baggage threaten to derail their relationship before it’s barely begun. Summer Harvest is a gentle love story written with Georgina Penney’s usual hallmarks of humour, sensitivity and flair. Throughout, you get a strong sense of ‘family - can’t live with them, but definitely can’t live without them’ which feels completely true to everyday life. But always central to the family dimension is the private relationship developing between Beth and Clayton that looks like it could be the making of the two of them, and might one day have a soothing and settling effect on the shenanigans of their two families as well. Summer Harvest is, like Georgina Penney’s earlier books, a highly recommended read. And as always, she doesn’t disappoint with her ‘world’s best’, first impression descriptions of her protagonists, in this case Beth's first impression of Clayton: ‘His face had looked like something someone had carved out of granite with a blunt knife…” - Love it!