Book Review: Summer in Tintagel by Amanda James

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Synopsis: Journalist Rosa Fernley’s dying grandmother, Jocelyn, has told her a secret—in the summer of 1968, fleeing a bullying husband, she visited the mysterious Tintagel Castle. Jocelyn wasn’t seeking love, but she found it on the rugged clifftops in the shape of Jory, a local man as alluring as the region itself. But she was already married, and knew her husband would never let her go.

Now she begs Rosa to go back to Tintagel. Rosa is reluctant—she has a job and a deadline that won’t wait. Nevertheless, she agrees to go. Once in Tintagel, Rosa is challenged to confront secrets of her own. Will the past remain cloaked in tragedy, sadness, and the pain of unrequited love?

Or can Rosa find the courage to embrace the secrets of the past, and give hope to the future?

Author: Amanda James

Title: Summer in Tintagel

Publisher: Urbane Publications

Date: 2016

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I have to admit, I was drawn to this title because of the Arthurian reference. I wasn’t disappointed that the plot didn’t involve the legend apart from a few references – it never claimed to. What I was disappointed with, however, was the book as a whole.

Although romance isn’t my normal genre, I was prepared to give this one a go. It wasn’t their stupidly fast love story (seriously: they hate each other, they jump into bed, have multiple rounds of sex and suddenly he is shopping for engagement rings!), it was the characterisation and the realistic development of their relationship that I had problems with.

I had issues with Rosa. She acts as the innocent one who can do no wrong because she is there for her grandmother. But she is rude, acts superior over local matters and expects everything to revolve around her.

There are lots of stories. Truths and legends all intertwined like a tangled vine, my love. Nobody really knows. But one thing I know for sure, it is a place of magic and mystery all right.

For example: her first date with Talan. After their conversation is interrupted, she, in no-uncertain terms, tells him that she just wants to know about the area and use his historical knowledge. She is blunt in saying it as well – no wonder Talan doesn’t think she has any romantic notions towards him.

I could not connect with Rosa’s character the entire way through the novel. Frankly, she annoyed me. When you can’t empathise with the main character, even if they do suddenly realise they can talk to ghosts, the book lacks any true meaning.

There were moments where other character expectations also irritated me. Willa is in love with Rosa: fair enough. But she knows that Rosa doesn’t return those feelings. So why, for goodness sake, does she suddenly start moping around because she thought turning up unexpectedly would suddenly make Rosa love her? She knows Rosa is heterosexual – why did she suddenly expect a change and then sulk about it? So infuriating!

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It wasn’t just the characterisations. The romance genre can make some exceptions when it comes to flowery language: they have to set a scene, after all. But James’ writing was too flowery for me: phrases such as “mid-May delicately introduced herself via the purple Campion, yellow buttercups and bluebells along the hedgerow” are fine the first time. But when that style of writing is repeated throughout, it becomes jarring. The pacing falters when you have to navigate through personified weather and explorations with all the senses.

That being said, I was left with the desire to visit Cornwall, so something in there got through to me.

There were some characters who were fun and enjoyable. Scenes of Rosa with her grandmother were also quite moving, as was the moment between Rosa and Daisy after the big reveal.

For me, personally, there were too many streams of consciousness, too many moments of Rosa feeling like the world was against her and too many desired-but-unattainable relationships occurring to feel the eventual relationship between Rosa and Talan was realistic.

If you enjoy romance, then perhaps you’ll read deeper into this book. Not for me, however.

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