One Silver Summer
Arrogant and distrustful, the horse's trainer, Alex, doesn't approve of the trespassing American. Yet after a few chance meetings, he begins to feel a connection to the curious girl with the sad eyes, and offers to teach her to ride. Sass never expected to feel anything again--least of all love--but the lessons reveal a far different Alex, and soon their friendship turns into something more.
But Alex has a secret--a bombshell about his family that could shatter Sass's trust... and force him to abandon the one girl who made him believe in himself.
The novel starts out well: Sass is a recent transplant to Cornwall after her mother’s death and Alex is a boarding school boy who flees all the pomp to hide out at his grandmother’s Cornwall estate, which happens to be right next to Sass’s uncle’s home. When she wanders onto his grandmother’s property, they recognize in the other a desire to escape from what troubles them and a relationship grows from there.
Hickman’s writing and the descriptions of the land are lovely; more than a few quotes are worth bookmarking so you can come back later and enjoy the luscious language. In addition to Alex and Sass’s love story, we get parallels to the great love between Alex’s not-the-Queen-Mother grandmother and a military man she met during the height of World War II. That ill-fated love story isn’t given much detail, but when the third-person narration shifts from the two young lovers to Helena and other characters, readers can pick up bits and pieces.
Basically, it’s your royal romance when you decide to write it more seriously and less like a fairy tale. Since Sass spends much of the book unaware that Alex is a prince, there are no glitzy dates. They don’t take their relationship officially public either, so there’s no adjustment to the spotlight on Sass’s part aside from what happens when paparazzi take a clandestine photo of them. That’s the kind of book you’re in for.
What Left Me Wanting:
Though One Silver Summer is remarkably short at 263 pages, the pacing moves slowly because of Alex and Sass’s lacking characterization. The book is meant to be character-driven, but the couple at the center of it is so two-dimensional that it’s hard to make yourself keep reading at times. More villainous characters like Alex’s spurned love interest Plum and gossip columnist Cressida have third-person narration sections as well, but their time telling the story fails to make them anything more than evil caricatures. It’s hinted Plum is under pressure from her father to get with Alex, but this isn’t followed up on.
One Silver Summer is for readers who want a dramatic, literary royal romance. Not everyone wants their tales funny a la The Princess Diaries and that’s perfectly okay. Sadly, that also makes it difficult to offer similar titles since this is among the first YA novels to take such a path with the royal romance trope. Maybe in the future, we’ll see more books like this that improve on the novel’s faults like lacking characterization.
*central romance has parallels to the past
*serious and quiet in a way royal romances often aren't