The Summer We Fell by Elizabeth O’Roark
April 6, 2023- Self-Published
Review by Angela
I think this is the angstiest romance I’ve read in quite a while, and yes, that includes this author’s other works. The Summer We Fell tells the story of Juliet and Luke, who meet while Juliet lives with her boyfriend, Danny’s, family after escaping her dangerous home situation. Luke is the friend from college Danny brings home for the summer. They are more alike than they are different, both with traumatic childhoods, and both stuck to Danny and the Allen family for their own reasons.
This drama-filled romance is told in alternating chapters between the past and the present, strictly from Juliet’s POV. We meet her while she is still in high school and waiting for Danny to come home from college. She has terrible parents and has suffered some pretty horrific events in her short life, but she has a home with Danny’s family, the pastor of the local church, and his stay-at-home wife. Even if they treat her like a maid and make her feel like she owes them for their generosity.
As the story progresses and I got to know Juliet I came to understand her predicament, she feels like she owes Danny and his parents for taking her in, even if they treat her like crap. Juliet is stuck. Thankful, but starting to realize that she doesn’t want the kind of future they are pushing her toward. The more she gets to know Luke, the more she comes to understand that he sees her for who she is, and accepts it all. He’s the only one who protects her, fights for her, and wants her to have a future that works for her.
I don’t think I was prepared for the ups and downs of this romance. From the beginning, when Juliet meets Luke, and on through the turbulent years while she is getting older and coming into her own, I had no small amount of anxiety wondering just what was in store for these messy, but all too real, characters. I kind of wish Luke’s POV was thrown in occasionally to help me understand his motivations and feelings, especially when she continues on with Danny despite her feelings for him growing into something more. I wasn’t a big fan of the cheating, but I understood how torn Juliet was between the debt she felt toward Danny and Donna and what she wanted for her future. But as a romance lover who doesn’t enjoy cheating, it was hard for me.
The present-day chapters are of them reunited with Donna, opening a home for foster children dedicated to Danny’s memory- so you as a reader KNOW that something bad happened in the past, something to bring this love triangle to a head. Which meant I kept furiously turning pages until I got to the end and the big reveal of just what went down. The older Luke and Juliet are just as messed up as their younger versions, Juliet trying to protect Luke and Luke not knowing why she can’t be with him. It makes for some compelling storytelling and a hard won HEA.
This book is loosely connected to The Devils series. I say loosely because while there are characters who appear, but it isn’t until the last several chapters and they don’t get much page time. There is a lovely HEA, but it is a rocky road for this couple to get there. I like to think Juliet has found her peace and forgiven herself for her misplaced guilt.
Elizabeth O’Roark’s words always reel me in and keep me engaged. Her storytelling is top-notch and even though my heart went through all the ups and downs and heartbreak with this couple, this is a book I can see myself reading again.
Content notes- Mentions of parental neglect, rape, child abuse, alcoholism, and drug use—the death of a loved one. Cheating.