THAT SUMMER
Joan Wolf


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Warner Forever, Sep 2003
Reviewed by Joy Calderwood

Romantic Suspense

Anne Foster canít avoid Wellington Farm any longer when her father, horse trainer for the Wellingtons for twenty years, dies suddenly. Anne takes time off from her veterinarian job to be with her mother. This brings her face to face with her old life, the Wellington horses, and Liam Wellington.

Without Leslieís father, Wellington Farm needs someone to train the new yearlings. For Liam and Anne, both trained by Anneís father, it is natural to join together in the goal of saving Wellington Farm, by turning out horses of high enough quality to attract national attention. Annieís problem, as she and Liam fall back into their old patterns of partnership, is, how can she make him stop seeing her as a sister?

A constant undercurrent to life in Midville is the disappearance of Leslie Bartholomew, a sixteen-year-old mystery which has never been solved. Liam and his friends were all in love with Leslie that year. Her blood on Liamís baseball bat has left Liam under permanent suspicion of murder. Anne, who has adored Liam since childhood, is convinced he could not have killed Leslie, but without a body, there arenít enough clues to find the real killer.

THAT SUMMER signals the killer in the early chapters, so the suspense element in the murder plot is, how will the red herrings be eliminated? The horse plot is a different matter. Anyone even vaguely familiar with American thoroughbred racing knows there hasnít been a winner of all three Triple Crown races in more than a quarter century, so we are anxious to find out if Wolf is going to break away from truth and create a history-making event. We share in the excitement of race-going as seen through the eyes of the owners of a Kentucky Derby prospect. The story is given authenticity by the use of characters currently famous in real-life racing, Author Joan Wolf has spent a lifetime with horses, and her in-depth knowledge shows.

I am disappointed that Wolf has stopped writing historicals. To me, her contemporary novels lack the vivid sense of time and place that her historicals have. Her exotic settings and cultures allowed for plot complications that we cannot accept in our own familiar world. This doesnít stop me from buying everything she writes, because in my opinion a Joan Wolf, even in contemporary setting, still has a living warmth matched by few romance writers of any genre.

One of my favorite characteristics of Joan Wolf romances is the way her hero and heroine trust each other. No matter what anyone else says about Liam, no matter how bad things look for him, Anne knows he didnít kill anyone. THAT SUMMER is a story of rivalries, suspicion, horses, and trust.

December 2003 Review

 

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