Barbara Bretton





Berkley, Nov 2003
Reviewed by Sissy Jacobson


When Dr. Ellen O'Brien Markowitz, M.D. OB-GYN, accepts a partnership with Dr. Hall Talbot in his medical practice, and moves to Shelter Rock Cove, Maine, she finally finds a place where she feels she can belong. In three short years, she becomes an accepted part of the community, and today she is buying a big old rambling home just made for a family. Unfortunately, she is bringing with her no family, very little furniture, and a lot of gossip. The gossip concerns her distinctive red P.T. Cruiser that sat in Hall Talbot's driveway all night. No one was ever supposed to learn about her secret crush on her colleague and good friend. Blame everything on the champagne they'd had, even when at the crucial moment, he calls her Annie. Everybody in Shelter Rock Cove knows he's been in love with Annie since he was a teenager, even though she is happily married and has two children. Can Ellen and Hall's friendship survive this catastrophe?

Hall Talbot, the town's beloved OB-GYN, finds himself with a practice growing so fast he knows he needs a partner. He interviews several doctors with impeccable backgrounds, but no one seems to "fit," until Ellen walks in. They share the same caring, compassionate feelings about their patients. Everyone knows Hall's patients come first…even his three ex-wives knew this. He is a wonderful father to his four girls…two in college and two in grade school, but when it comes to his personal life, he hasn't quite figured how to make that work.

Trying to dodge gossip in a small town is impossible, but some of it is unexpectedly deflected when Ellen's half-sister, Deirdre, shows up with a one-hundred-fifteen pound dog named Stanley. No one knew Ellen had a sister until now, but who could miss her? Red curly hair just like Ellen, Deirdre is a free-spirited, talented, Irish harper with a beautiful voice. She's hoping to talk Ellen into dog sitting Stanley for the summer while she works her next "gig." We find out there is another, older sister, Mary Pat, who is so organized, Deirdre swears she sleeps with her Day Planner.

GIRLS OF SUMMER by Barbara Bretton is categorized as a romance, and I find it is that, but so much more. It's the story about people from wildly dysfunctional families who somehow try to make families for themselves in different ways. Ellen's family background is so convoluted, she keeps trying to find a place to belong. Her patients, the residents of the town of Shelter Rock Cove, and the house she buys, seem to be the answer. When Deirdre shows up, she is gradually accepted as part of that family. Hall Talbot is a born and bred resident of Shelter Rock Cove whose parents hadn't a clue about being parents. He became part of Claudia Galloway's clan; the big family who owns the house Ellen is buying. Hall has looked for a real family and home in several marriages; Ellen is still looking for a real family and a home.

I love stories set in small New England towns, and Ms. Bretton's settings and characters are so true to life, I felt I knew them the whole time I was reading this book. GIRLS OF SUMMER pulled me out of the reading slump I had been in, so I have Barbara Bretton to thank for that, too. I'm going out to find A SOFT PLACE TO FALL which I understand is also set in Shelter Rock Cove.

Needless to say, I love this book and highly recommend it. It's one of those books you just don't want to put down. When it ends, you sigh and wish for more.

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