John is an attorney planning on spending the summer in the south of France working on his book. When he met Matt through a mutual friend a while back, for some reason Matt took a dislike to John, something that makes John a bit crazy considering Matt seems to get along with everyone. When Matt takes a job helping to manage a friend’s home renovation right near John’s French villa, John invites him to stay at his house for the summer. He is wary, given how tense things are between them, but he also hopes this might smooth things over in their relationship.
As it turns out, Matt clears the air almost right away and the two men strike up a friendship. Matt’s open and easy going personality seem a direct contrast to the more rigid and uptight John, but somehow the men get along incredibly well. In fact, as they spend more time together, Matt realizes that underneath John’s arrogance and bossiness, he is a kind, funny, and sweet man. As their friendship deepens, Matt begins to find himself attracted to John. But John has always viewed himself as straight; even worse, John has hopes of reconciling with his ex wife.
As Matt and John spend the long summer together, their bond grows increasingly strong. John begins to realize that he has feelings for Matt, feelings he is interested in exploring. The two men begin a sexual relationship that thrills both of them, while they are connecting emotionally as well. But Matt isn’t sure that John is going to want to come out, and even if he does, Matt figures John needs time to explore his newfound attraction to men before settling down. And John worries that Matt sees him as only a sex partner and nothing more, while John has strongly growing feelings for Matt. Now that the men have fallen for each other, they have to figure out if they can work through their issues and find a way to be together.
I fell hard for Lily Morton’s writing this fall when I read Rule Breaker and later Deal Maker, so I couldn’t resist going back to pick up this slightly older work by the author. The Summer of Us has that intensity that comes from two people spending a long, hot summer together, building a relationship during that magical time away from their regular lives. I loved the connection between John and Matt and the way their relationship bloomed, moving from men who didn’t get along, to friendship, to love. There is a bit of an opposites attract thing going on here too and I enjoyed seeing how despite their differences, Matt and John find a real connection. I also loved the way Matt softened John’s more rigid intensity. But even more, I loved how many layers there are to John and how he is much more than he initially appears.
Overlaying the growing relationship is the fact that John identifies as straight. I appreciated that John really takes his feelings for Matt in stride. It takes him a bit to fully recognize what he is feeling, but once he does, John never second guesses his attraction or whether he wants to be open about it. At times I wish some of the nuances were more careful here; for example, there is a sense that John used to be straight, rather than simply identifying as straight before he recognized his feelings of attraction for Matt. And while I don’t think everyone needs labels, nor did I want to see John flailing around over his sexual identity, I would have liked a bit more introspection at some point. But overall, I really feel like this issue is handled well and it feels like a natural growth of John’s awareness for his attraction to Matt.
Another area that I think needed a bit more development is in regard to John’s ex wife. We are told he wants to reconcile with her, mostly because his ego is bruised that she dumped him. And she ends up being a source of conflict between Matt and John. But I felt like John’s feelings for her, both in the past and what he wants in the future, could have been a little better explored, again given that she is a sticking point in the relationship between Matt and John. I will also say that I think the story relies too much on the misunderstanding conflict for my taste. For two men who are so open in their communication and honest with their feelings, these guys have a lot of times where they have misunderstandings that could be easily cleared up just by talking to one another. As things heated up toward the end of the book, I found myself somewhat frustrated at their assumptions and the fact that they didn’t just talk it out. And last note, the story is told in dual POV with changes within the chapters, and at times I got a bit lost as to whose viewpoint we were in.
The Summer of Us is a spin off story set in the Beggar’s Choice universe. That is a male/female series and Matt appears there as a side character as the best friend of one of the band mates. This story stands alone quite well and I had no trouble following along not having read the other series. We do miss the men meeting (which I assume happens in one of those books) as we hear about their initial conflict but don’t see it here. So it might have been nice to get a bit more information on that. And some of the series characters appear here, giving us bits of their stories but not the full details, so there were places where I could have used more information on them. That said, the romance here feels very self contained and the story worked quite well in terms of the relationship development.
Overall, I really enjoyed The Summer of Us. Morton does a great job making the south of France a big part of the story and the setting plays a nice role in the book. I loved watching the relationship grow between Matt and John and really liked the men together. So if you are looking for a romantic and sexy coming out story, this is one I can definitely recommend.