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Topic: Theresa Weir / Last Summer

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Subject: Theresa Weir / Last Summer
Date Posted: 8/31/2011 10:47 AM ET
Member Since: 1/11/2007
Posts: 1,646
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Just finished this book and wrote the following review.  As you can tell, it completely blew me away.  I'm thinking of either submitting for the PBS blog or sending the review to the author.   What do you think?

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I have had great difficulty finding any contemporary romance authors with whom I can connect. While I love historical romance, the contemporary stories seemed too similar; the characters perfect individuals with (nearly) perfect lives meeting the loves of their lives.   I just did not connect with them.   The characters were cardboard cutouts and the plots were similar and superficial---seemingly just a vehicle for the romance.   I picked up and put down about a dozen novels.  They all left me cold.   I had no interest in their perfect lives and petty everyday problems.  That was until I discovered author Theresa Weir.   If you like character-driven romance, you will adore Theresa Weir.   She is now writing thrillers/mysteries under the name Anne Frasier and many of her romance books are unfortunately out of print, which is a shame.  PBS and used bookstores or websites are the only way to find them.   My husband has read a few of her thrillers and tells me they are also quite good, but from the excerpts I’ve read, they’d be too upsetting to read right before bed-time when I do most of my reading.  Ms. Weir writes flawed, quirky characters that make mistakes, stumble and fall but get right back up again.  Some refer to her heroes as “anti-heroes.” Not only are these imperfect characters much more compelling than the near perfect individuals we usually read about in romance, they are much more real.  You feel as if you know them intimately; you will find no cardboard cutout characters here.  She doesn’t make an effort to “pretty up” her characters but reveals them to us warts and all.    I find Ms. Weir’s writing refreshingly different and comparable to some of my all-time favorite historical romance writers like Laura Kinsale, Judith Ivory, and Penelope Williamson.  She writes what are, in my opinion, timeless contemporary romance classics.  

 

Johnnie Irish is the local bad boy who made it big in Hollywood.  After the local Sherriff ran him out of town at the tender age of 16, he somehow made it to Hollywood, where he became a successful comedic actor.  His life feels empty, however. His most recent film was a disappointing flop.   He has only two friends in the world—his agent Sherman and his high school drama teacher, Harriet, the only person who treated him kindly growing up.  She became almost a substitute mother figure to him. He’s invited back to his home town of Hope, a small west-Texas town, to be the “star” of the local homecoming parade.  The idea of returning to the scene of his troubled childhood fills Johnnie with trepidation, but he reluctantly agrees.   Johnnie plays the clown and uses humor and bravado to disguise his pain.  He plays the part of the spoiled, debauched Hollywood star to a T. Wild parties, drinking binges, near overdoses and an endless string of women who are nothing but an evening’s entertainment are the norm for him.  Upon his return, he finds that the same people who treated him like dirt while he was growing up are now in awe of him and treat him with a nauseating sort of hero worship.  This only makes him despise them even more; he has a major chip on his shoulder. 

 

Johnnie grudgingly agrees to return to Hope for the parade.  As the head of the parade committee, Maggie Mayfield, a young widowed schoolteacher picks up Johnny from the airport and drives the parade convertible in which he rides.   Not having grown up in Hope but familiar with his notorious reputation, Maggie disapproves of Johnnie and thinks he’s a poor role model for the town’s children.   Determined not to fall at his feet like every other female within a 100-mile radius, Maggie makes her disapproval known and wears her most conservative clothing without a touch of makeup when she goes to pick him up. Instead of the triumph the parade is supposed to be, what ensues is a totally unplanned comedy of errors that completely derails the parade and ends with Johnnie in the hospital.  Feeling partially responsible for the debacle, Maggie visits him in the hospital and Johnnie says “there isn’t room enough here for you and your disapproval,” so she leaves. 

 

After the parade, Johnnie decides to spend a couple of weeks in town and he and Maggie get to know each other a bit better.  Despite their initial friction, there’s a palpable attraction, but Maggie knows she can never be more than a forgettable summer fling to him, so she resists getting involved.   Until now, Maggie has lived a very predictable, safe, if boring life in Hope.  Although she loves children, she is childless due to her late husband’s illness and premature death.   She enjoys teaching and sponsors a summer children’s theater workshop that produces an annual play.  Johnnie blows into town like a whirlwind and turns her predictable life completely upside down.  She learns he has a serious medical condition and is alarmed about his cavalier attitude toward his health—it’s almost as if he has a death wish.   He can’t stay in town long, however, because his childhood ghosts begin to close in on him in the town he refers to as “Hopeless.”   He leaves, telling himself she is better off without him. 

 

To say that Johnnie had a troubled childhood, is putting it mildly.  His mother, the town floozy, never wanted him and blamed him for ruining her life. His father is unknown.   When he is very young, she begins giving him sedatives and locking him in the closet while she entertains men at home because “men don’t like ladies with a kid.”   Sometimes she forgets to let him out, and he starts to prefer the shelter of the closet compared to his mother’s tirades and abuse. When he is older, he must frequently sleep outside on the doorstep in all kinds of weather; as a teenager, he begins to wander the streets at night and get into trouble.   His mother rarely properly feeds or clothes him and he becomes the object of scorn and derision by the town’s residents.  They are oblivious to his plight and fail do anything to stop his abuse and neglect at the hands of an evil, cruel woman without an iota of compassion or motherly instinct.

 

One would expect such an abusive, neglectful childhood to create a monster, if not a serial killer.   Instead of the hard-hearted man you would expect Johnnie to have grown into, he remains an idealistic, sensitive and compassionate man beneath his hard shell of an exterior.   He’s kind and even tender to those that are kind to him, except when he is pushing them away to “protect” them from his bad influence. 

 

Unlike most romance novels that take place over a period of weeks or months, this novel takes place over a period of years.  During this period, Johnnie spends most of his time in California while Maggie is in Texas.  The author covers separations briefly, however, and the book concentrates on the times they are together.  Back in California, Johnnie can’t forget Maggie and keeps returning to Hope. He comes in and out of Maggie’s life unexpectedly, but seems to have some sort of sixth sense and turns up when Maggie needs him most.   Like many men, he has a tendency to show his feelings through his actions rather than his words.  He takes care of Maggie in the most selfless, tender way, yet still thinks she hates him.  Never having experienced a parent’s love, he believes he’s a bad seed who doesn’t deserve love or happiness and thinks Maggie is better off without him.  He’s truly a tormented hero.   The love scenes are perfect---spontaneous, tender and sensual without being overly graphic. 

 

While I found Johnnie most compelling, Maggie is also a strong character.   Tough but compassionate, she stands up to Johnnie and demands that he treat her with respect.  She also sees past all his acting out and bravado to the wounded soul beneath and loves and accepts him as he is.  Harriet, Johnnie’s high school drama teacher, is an endearing character.   Now an elderly woman with the beginnings of Alzheimer’s disease, she has moments of intense clarity followed by periods of confusion where she is lost in the past.  She loves Johnnie like a son and he repeatedly rescues her from whatever scrape she’s recently gotten herself into.  He is exceptionally patient and understanding with her. 

 

This is so much more than a love story.  I’ve intentionally omitted most of the plot and concentrated on the characters because I don’t want to create spoilers.   It’s a book about owning one’s past, self-acceptance and the healing power of love.  It has the ideal mixture of humor, heartache and real, flawed, imperfect characters to which we can relate. Ms. Weir not only makes us feel as though we know him intimately; she gives us glimpses into Johnnie’s soul.   Ironically, in the town he once called “Hopeless,” Johnnie finds love, acceptance, healing, redemption and hope for the future.  I give it an A+ rating. 

 

I know her Anne Frasier thriller/mystery novels have been very successful, but I’m hoping Ms. Weir will PLEASE write at least one more romance or romantic suspense novel. She should also strongly consider re-issuing some of her out of print romance novels. Nobody else writes quite like her.  Of her romance novels, I’ve also read Amazon Lily, Cool Shade, Bad Karma, Some Kind of Magic, Long Night Moon, American Dreamer and One Fine Day.  I intend to hunt down her entire backlist, something I know will be a challenge.  While all are excellent, of what I’ve read, Last Summer and One Fine Day are my favorites.



Last Edited on: 8/31/11 10:56 AM ET - Total times edited: 2
Date Posted: 8/31/2011 11:10 AM ET
Member Since: 1/11/2007
Posts: 1,646
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Anybody?

Date Posted: 8/31/2011 1:48 PM ET
Member Since: 2/18/2009
Posts: 234
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Claudia, I would post it and send it to Theresa.  I sent an email to her asking if Last Summer was coming out in ebook anytime soon.  She graciously answered that same day.  Sadly she didn't think so.  She didn't think anyone would be interested and it's very costly to do.  I'm with you.  I like her style of romance writing.  I have a couple of her thrillers on my Kindle, but haven't gotten around to reading them.

 

Margy

Date Posted: 8/31/2011 2:30 PM ET
Member Since: 1/11/2007
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Thanks margy. Do you happen to have or know where i can find her email? I have an old one that I think is out of date.
Date Posted: 8/31/2011 4:30 PM ET
Member Since: 1/13/2010
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Thats the first thing i did too Margy, was see if it was available as an ebook. I wish it was.

Really great review Claudia! I added it to my WL! I read Cool Shade awhile back and Loved it!

 

Date Posted: 8/31/2011 7:01 PM ET
Member Since: 2/18/2009
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Here is the email address I used: anne.frasier@gmail.com

 

Margy

Date Posted: 9/3/2011 2:30 PM ET
Member Since: 1/11/2007
Posts: 1,646
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Thanks again, Margy.  Just emailed her & shared with the PBS blog coordinator too.   We will see if they use it.  I will let you know if I get a response from the author.  

Date Posted: 9/4/2011 12:43 PM ET
Member Since: 5/3/2006
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Claudia, Weir's Anne Frasier ebooks are free at B&N and Amazon today -- oh, and some of her Weir books too!



Last Edited on: 9/4/11 12:47 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 9/4/2011 1:55 PM ET
Member Since: 7/19/2008
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She's on my keeper shelf.  She also has a new memoir coming out this month.   The Orchard

B&N has some short stories under Weir.

Date Posted: 9/4/2011 1:57 PM ET
Member Since: 1/11/2007
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Willa,

 

Thanks for the update.  I will check it out, although in general, I despise EBOOKS.  I blame them for the failure of many bookstores including Borders, which was based in Michigan.  Call me old-fashioned, but I like turning the pages. 

 

Update:

I emailed Theresa Weir and got a reponse within a few hours, to my great surprise.   She said she has very mixed feelings about re-issuing her romance books.  She says they didn't sell well in the first place and she got lots of feedback that they were too dark & realistic.   She thinks most romance readers are looking for light and funny rather than dark and realistic.   She always has humorous elements in her stories, but they are very realistic and sometimes dark.  She did say, however, that she has a half-finished romance that she's put away for the time being and is considering finishing.   Perhaps since she's established herself as a thriller/mystery writer, she could be successul with romantic suspense.  She does romantic suspence extremely well.   Cool Shade is a good example. 

If most contemporaries are light and funny that explains why I despise the majority of them.   I like good character development & realistic, sometimes dark stories.   I think these are perhaps more common in the historical genre, but things are changing.   I think dark and realistic is more common among historical romance and some historical writers, like Lisa Kleypas and Anne Stuart, for example, have successfully made the transition to contemporary and brought their historiclal fans with them.   Anne Stuart's novels have a tendency to be very dark, and while she isn't my favorite, I've enjoyed several of her novels very much and I believe she's been quite successful.  Lisa Kleypas has also written some darker contemporaries, in particular Blue Eyed Devil which deals very realistically with a battered woman and which I found excellent. 

I think romance is a difficult genre to break into since there are so many authors writing.   Perhaps Ms. Weir was just ahead of her time?   Does anyone else have any thoughts on this?   I'd like to respond to her and share your feedback. 

Thanks in advance for your coments.

 

Claudia

Date Posted: 9/4/2011 3:07 PM ET
Member Since: 7/31/2006
Posts: 14,634
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I have a few of hers after you talked about them a year or so ago but haven't gotten to them yet. I'm in the light/funny crowd..I don't like a lot of angst though one of these days I'll probably give some of hers a try and see. I didn't read all the review - honestly I found it too long..I read enough to get the idea you liked it but I wouldnt' read a review that long unless I was the author I don't think. glad you found an author you love! eta: oops didn't read closely enough in the beginning - it's probably a fine length for a blog. sorry!



Last Edited on: 9/4/11 3:12 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 9/4/2011 9:35 PM ET
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Susanna, Thanks for your comment. The review was intended for a blog & is a little over 1000 words. Didn't feel I could do justice to the book in less. Actually edited down from a first draft of 1500 words. Wordiness is my biggest writing sin ;-D if you check her reviews you will see she has a smaller but very enthusiastic following. She's truly a hidden treasure. I would suggest starting/Cool Shade. Excellent romantic suspense & award winning. I love the way she develops her characters & storylines. Good writing style too. If you check

Last Edited on: 9/4/11 9:38 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 9/5/2011 8:05 PM ET
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Willa, Thanks for the tip on the free ebooks. I downloaded a couple of her thrillers. Its not really a genre i like, but my hubby liked them & I'm sure they're good from what I know of her writing. Anyway, the price was right...what have i got to lose at $0.00? I can read them on my droid phone.

Last Edited on: 9/5/11 8:08 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 9/5/2011 8:38 PM ET
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thanks Claudia - I got Cool Shade in my tbr - that's the one that caught my eye. I didn't realize pbs had a blog so I checked it out and the reviews there are definitely long!

Date Posted: 9/6/2011 9:41 AM ET
Member Since: 10/19/2007
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"I despise EBOOKS.  I blame them for the failure of many bookstores including Borders, which was based in Michigan.  Call me old-fashioned, but I like turning the pages. "

Claudia, I so agree!  I watched both of my borders close and my BN is half empty.  Tables of Nooks in different colors line the shelves when you first walk in.  Are they begging to go out of business??  Also, are you posting or willing to lend Last Summer?  It's been on my WL for ages.  Great review...makes me want to read it even more.

Date Posted: 9/6/2011 6:09 PM ET
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Rose, Sorry but Last Summer is a keeper for me. I think I have a couple of other Theresa weir books on ny shelf tho. Not willing to let LS go since i think it will be difficult to replace & mine is a hardcoverthat i've dog eared the heck out of. I think I saw some used copies on Amazon market tho & they were cheap. I also waited forever for it on pbs. Definitely worth buying.
Date Posted: 9/6/2011 6:42 PM ET
Member Since: 7/31/2006
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there are several paperback copies on half.com for 75 cts plus shipping.

Date Posted: 9/8/2011 8:07 AM ET
Member Since: 10/19/2007
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Thanks girls.  I'm definitely going to purchase.

Date Posted: 9/8/2011 10:54 AM ET
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I just got Cool Shade and loved it - it's very different than your usual romance novel. I always wanted to check out her other books. Loved your review - I'm off to look for her other books.

Date Posted: 9/8/2011 2:27 PM ET
Member Since: 2/18/2009
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As I posted earlier I would love to see her old romances in e-form, simply because my eyes do much better now with my Kindle.  I would think Last Summer would be a great seller in e-form.   Not to go off topic too much but I would like Lvyrle Spencer's Hummingbird in e-book and Penelope Williamson's Heart of the West.  There are many older books that I keep checking... thinking some day, some day... lol

 

Margy