It’s been more than a decade since Anna Lynne graced the home where she spent every summer of her childhood. Now, she’s back and overwhelmed by memories of her last summer there. One defined by loss, love, growth, and change. A few short months that changed her forever.
Anna Lynne was mourning her father while most of her friends were thinking about college, making her question everything about the life she used to live, and the person she no longer wanted to be. She felt isolated in her grief—until she met Will and his sister, outcasts far outside her normal social circle. Through them, she learned about sacrifice and strength; about loyalty and love. Ultimately, they taught her that tragedy comes in more ways than one.
As she recalls that fateful summer and the reason she stayed away from the only home she ever knew, Anna Lynne can’t help but wonder how the people she left behind managed to navigate the heartbreak she helped create—and if they can ever forgive her.
Sweet Tea and Summer Loving reads like a cross between the quintessential southern romance and a coming-of-age novel. The summer after her father dies, 18-year-old Anna Leigh is with her family to her grandmother’s house for the summer. There she meets Will. Though they are from opposite social strata, with Anna Lee’s late father having been a lawyer and her mother being a socialite, and Will being working class and at 19 is the guardian of his younger sister after having gained custody of her from his neglectful, addict parents, they quickly struck up a friendship that turns into something more. Their summer romance burns hot and deep until it ultimately ends in tragedy.
Now, nearly a decade later, Anna Leigh has come back to the town where her grandmother lived to start up a new business. She and her sister have inherited her grandmother’s house in the aftermath of her grandmother’s passing, and when they come back together, Anna Leigh’s sister Layla convinces her to finally tell the whole story of what happened that summer years ago.
This story has so much potential. In one way, it fits right in with small town, southern romance movies like “Sweet Home Alabama” and “Hope Floats.” The story of that long-ago summer is sweet and compelling, and I loved the characters. However, there are a lot of things about the story that keep it from living up to its full potential. The physical structure of the book is slightly odd. It doesn’t have chapters, only alternating sections labeled then and now that make it really hard to keep up with exactly where you are in the book. That is only really a slight annoyance though. The real problem that I had with the book was that it ended where it should have begun, in my opinion. We only see Anna Leigh and Will in the present in one scene near the end of the book. The entire rest of the book is backstory. To my mind, that backstory could have been better utilized if some skillful editing had allowed it to be woven in to the real story of their second chance romance which doesn’t even really begin until the end of the book, and even then, is barely shown. The book itself is basically an extended flashback. I found myself wanting to know what happens now with these characters, not just what happened 10 years ago and led to their estrangement. The book didn’t follow through with this potential because it ended too soon. It’s an okay story, but it could have been much more than okay with some editing and a better understanding of structure.