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Book Review: This Summer Will Be Different by Carley Fortune - A Radiant, Unforgettable Beach Read

Book Review: This Summer Will Be Different by Carley Fortune - A Radiant, Unforgettable Beach Read

This Sizzling Romantic Romp on Prince Edward Island is the Ultimate Escapist Delight

I'm still recovering from the sun-kissed, heart-squeezing high of Carley Fortune's absolute revelation of a novel "This Summer Will Be Different." This sublime romantic romp whisked me away to the quaint island paradise of Prince Edward Island and simply didn't let me leave until the final wistful pages. From its sparklingly witty heroine to the swoon-worthy love story at its core, every adorably rendered detail of Fortune's latest literary gem is pure catnip for readers craving the perfect escapist indulgence.

The second I met our protagonist Lucy Fletcher, a whip-smart Toronto florist yearning to shake up her stagnant routine, I knew I was in for a treat. Fortune's sincere yet stylishly zeitgeisty authorial voice brought Lucy to vivacious life as the stable, grounded bestie we all wish we had in our lives. I was hooked from the get-go by her charming quirks, from her deep love for the ups and downs of small business ownership to her understandably complicated feelings about reconnecting with her roots after a lifetime of severed family connections. When a sudden wedding-induced crisis sends Lucy fleeing Toronto for her annual Prince Edward Island retreat alongside her bestie Bridget, the state was set for maximum romantic shenanigans and self-discovery in one of Canada's most idyllic settings.

From there, Fortune deftly weaves in the electric, heart-palpitating presence of Felix, the hunky local oyster farmer whose long-simmering chemistry with Lucy finally ignites into a full-on infatuation once he enters her orbit. Dear reader, I haven't encountered a literary meet-cute as scintillatingly swoony as Lucy and Felix's since safely stowing away my dog-eared copies of Jane Austen's collected works in my adolescence. Their crackling banter and escalating flirtations had me utterly riveted, grinning from ear-to-ear at Fortune's seasoned comedic timing. She truly is a master of the WellTimed Quip as much as the Longing Glance Across a Crowded Restaurant. I was living for every escalating double entendre and blush-inducing exchange of heated tension.

And that's before even addressing Fortune's gift for rendering settings so transporting in their lush, savory detailing that I genuinely had to double-check I wasn't being embraced by ocean breezes while reading. Her loving odes to PEI's gothic lighthouses, rolling meadows bursting with wildflower colors, and carefree nights sipping vinho verde while savoring fresh shellfish quite literally had me firing up travel apps to book my own summer idyll. I'm an unabashed Elin Hilderbrand devotee, but even she was put on notice by Fortune's sun-dappled, mouthwatering immersion into the soul of an iconic New England vacation destination. It made me fall deliriously in love with Prince Edward Island without ever setting foot on its crimson-soaked shorelines.

Of course, there's also the beautifully rendered central romance propelling the breezy plot forward to discuss.

And my god, do Fortune's characterizations of Lucy and Felix sizzle with the most tantalizing romantic chemistry this side of a Barbara Cartland saga. Their escalating dalliances atop that secluded island cliffside, stolen glances in the back halls of country estate weddings, torrid encounters where the oyster shucking knives momentarily forgot their purposes...I was living for every gasping, swoon-worthy interlude that had the tips of my ears burning scarlet. Yet Fortune also effortlessly balances the throbbing romantic tension with an unshakable emotional authenticity that refused to allow Lucy and Felix's connection to ever become mere titillation.

That's because for as intoxicating as their tango of will-they-or-won't-they?, this never feels like mere physical infatuation. Both Lucy and Felix are incredibly well-realized characters undergoing profound journeys of accepting who they are, overcoming lifelong insecurities, and daring to finally grab the brass ring of romantic and professional fulfillment eluding them. More than anything, this novel sings as a testament to how meeting the right person at the right fleeting moment can awaken you to your own untapped potential for change, growth, and stepping beyond the boundaries you've built for yourself out of ingrained fear.

For Lucy, that means finally choosing herself over the countless societal conventions and gatekeepers nudging her down prescribed paths - not just in her dating life, but in summoning the bravery to make bold career pivots and leave her estranged family behind once and for all. Meanwhile, Fortune sidesteps mere love interest cliches in the rendering of Felix as a fully-realized dreamboat on a richly inspiring journey all his own. His quest to honor his roots while forging an identity beyond his family oyster farm's long shadow, all while reckoning with the responsibilities of selfhood after being thrust into becoming a surrogate parent, adds incredible textures to their central connection that elevate the novel beyond mere beach read escapism.

By the time Lucy and Felix's separate odysseys converged and their hesitant circling blossomed into full-blown rapture, I was awash in FEELING. Not only was I swooning into a puddle over the exquisite romantic pay-off (fans of intimately erotic slow burns, this book is FOR YOU), but I was basking in the inspirational character journeys rendering two incredibly specific, lovable souls finally finding the courage to unhesitatingly embrace the best versions of themselves. Tears were streaming down my face by the heavenly final chapters as Fortune brought Lucy and Felix's hard-fought happy ending to an exquisitely cathartic climax of triumphant self-realization and commitment despite the obstacles, both internal and external, standing in their way. It was the grandest sort of romantic escapism I've experienced since first encountering Outlander or The Time Traveler's Wife - transporting me to an idyllic setting overflowing with lush prose while grounding the swoons in profoundly resonant personal truths.

Beyond the sweeping romantic grandeur, I would be remiss not to highlight Fortune's exquisite gift for rendering the bonds of Lucy's female friendships and inseparable sisterhood with Bridget. So often in romantic fiction, the heroine's personal relationships beyond the romantic lead can feel like emotional window dressing, mere ciphers for moving the central love story forward. But the achingly authentic way Fortune depicts Lucy's devotion to being Bridget's "framily" in times of crisis gave these characters a weight and three-dimensionality transcending the page. Every single human connection Lucy navigates, from her fractured roots with her own family to her slow-burning friendship with her gay co-worker Marcel to her quirky rapport with PEI locals, shimmer with incandescent humor and heart. I found myself misting up just as often at the casually profound depictions of how connection and loved ones elevate our existence as I did the grandly swoony romantic epiphanies.

When I finally turned the final page with a contented, overstuffed sigh, I knew in my bones I had been irrevocably smitten - not just with Lucy and Felix's scorching romance, but with Fortune's sumptuous writing voice and astounding gift for reminding us of life's humble beauties and boundless possibilities even during life's rockiest seasons. Her pen has a poet's grace for mining the grace notes of human yearning and our eternal quest for soul-awakening, all while honoring our innate need for effervescent humor and unshakable friendship during the darkest of tunnels. This novel transcended mere "beach read" status to become a bracingly timely salve for unearthing our own inner radiances - a torch to guide us through life's shadowy crossroads where we've forgotten how brightly our true selves can shine once the tarnish of compromise is finally sloughed away.

In short, "This Summer Will Be Different" is a jubilant, heart-stoppingly romantic, summertime revelation. On every miraculous level - from the sumptuously rendered settings to the achingly well-drawn characters to the profound emotional journeys anchoring every grand romantic gesture - Fortune's latest triumph resonates with a generosity of spirit and infectious zest for life's boundless possibilities. For anyone who has ever felt lost, alone, or simply yearning for the rose-tinted escapism of an idyllic summer fling awakening you to the person you were born to become, this is quite simply essential reading. I don't just highly recommend you make room for its transporting joys in the coming months, I implore you to - "This Summer Will Be Different" is both timeless and of-the-moment, a dazzling romantic tapestry for the ages that you won't be able to stop swooning over long after that final fateful sail across the Northumberland Strait fades into the horizon.

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