#aww2021 · 2021 Reviews · contemporary fiction · romance

New Release Book Review: Summer of Serenity by Nicola Marsh

Title: Summer of Serenity

Author: Nicola Marsh

Published: September 29th 2021

Publisher: Mira – AU

Pages: 384

Genres:  Fiction, Contemporary, Romance

RRP: $29.99

Rating: 4 stars

Opposites clash in the addictive new small-town romance from USA Today bestselling Australian author Nicola Marsh.

A slick city boy with a mission. A free-spirited country girl with a cause. Fireworks are guaranteed…

Upstanding principal Jy Atherton dreads the next four weeks. As punishment for crossing his bosses, he’s been lumped with the inglorious task of assessing Acacia Haven’s tiny school with its, dare he say, ‘hippie’ curriculum. With the lowest test scores in the state, it’s no wonder shutting it down is practically a foregone conclusion. But then he crosses paths with a spitfire who knocks him for six – pity he’s already public enemy number one…

Teacher Summer O’Reilly loves her small town nestled along the beautiful coast. Returning was the best decision she ever made. The intentional living community of Serenity is thriving, and the children are its future. No way will she allow a jumped-up suit – no matter how good-looking – to close the school her precious students need.

For Rayne O’Reilly, Acacia Haven has always been serene on the surface, but there’s a dark secret she’s kept from everyone for decades, including her daughter, Summer. But after reviving old friendships and reconnecting with the past, will she finally have the courage to tear down the walls that have kept her trapped?

Review:

A tangle of hearts ensues in Summer of Serenity, the latest contemporary fiction title from USA bestselling author Nicola Marsh. As two opposing characters learn the true meaning of love, Nicola Marsh incorporates themes of small town warmth, secrets and problems to overcome. Summer of Serenity is a vivacious tale that will capture a wide audience range.

Heading this new story from international bestselling author Nicola Marsh is Jy Atherton, a city-based principal who is charged with the difficult task of assessing a country school for its effectiveness. Acacia Haven’s tiny school has experienced low grades but it is known for its alternative programs, which are in tune with the specific needs of the town. But this different mode of teaching is seen as less effective, especially due to the low-test scores the school has garnered. For Summer O’Reilly, her home town is everything. With a different approach to living and teaching, Summer happily embraces it all. Summer will do everything in her power to protect the local community and the school from closure.  But Summer has bigger issues to deal with when her mother Rayne reconnects with her past. Can Summer and the active community members of Acacia Haven find the power to save their beloved town?

It was an absolute honour to see a back cover quote from one of my own previous reviews when I first picked up my copy of Summer of Serenity.  It is always a guaranteed heartwarming experience when I pick up a Nicola Marsh novel and Summer of Serenity was definitely no exception. This story exudes warmth, understanding and optimism.

Marsh expertly transports the reader to a dynamic fictional small-town community, which is modelled on the East Victorian town of Inverloch. Marsh nails the tight knit atmosphere of these communities. With a fantastic mixture of gossip, behind closed doors secrets and community support, this is a strong country-based tale. Marsh devotes plenty of page time to ironing out the positives and negatives of living in tight knit communities, such as the fictional town represented in Summer of Serenity. What struck me the most about this element of Marsh’s new tale were the expectations of living in communities such as Acacia Haven. I was also moved by the challenges faced by these towns in regards to funding and resources. Summer of Serenity is a novel that highlights the need for community members to be quite proactive and creative in helping these places thrive.

The title character, Summer O’Reilly, offers one of three different points of view in this new novel from Nicola Marsh. I must praise Marsh on her full and equally divided presentation of the three main protagonists in this story. I felt like I really connected with Summer, her mother and Jy – the good/bad guy of the tale, thanks to Marsh’s giving prose. I really enjoyed being a part of the daily lives, the past histories and future developments of these protagonists. Marsh presents a good set of primary and secondary cast members, with strong storylines and involving tough conflicts to resolve, which strikes directly at the heart of all human relationships. The road to happiness is not an easy one and it takes plenty of determination, change and resolution before it arrives in the hands of the reader.

Marsh doesn’t shy away from the hard areas of community life and life as a woman living in our country areas. We are presented with an honest and sensitive portrayal of the effects of domestic violence, thanks to one powerful side storyline. Marsh interchanges this heartfelt and meaningful narrative with other community issues, along with an opposites attract style romance. Despite the clear difficulties, setbacks and problems to overcome, the unquestionable warmth that comes from living in a supportive community fold, along with new beginnings are pertinent messages to take away from this connective story.

This is hands down another winning read from Nicola Marsh. I highly recommend Summer of Serenity.

Summer of Serenity by Nicola Marsh was published on 29th October 2021 by Mira – AU. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.

To learn more about the author of Summer of Serenity, Nicola Marsh, visit here.

*I wish to thank Harlequin Australia for providing me with a free copy of this book for review purposes.

Summer of Serenity is book #103 of the 2021 Australian Women Writers Challenge

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