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All Summer Long is the newest book in Susan Mallery’s Fool’s Gold series.  Charlie Dixon wants to be normal.  A disastrous incident in college has left scars that stop her from having a successful romantic relationship.  The youngest Stryker brother, Clay, is known for his “assets” after spending years as a model, but now he wants to do more with his life.  When Charlie and Clay develop an unusual friendship, it looks like they might be the answer to each other’s problems.

I honestly did not expect to like this book as much as I did.  Before you even start reading it you know how it ends – the two come to a no strings arrangement that ends with them both falling in love – it wouldn’t be a romance otherwise.  The premise seemed a little strange and I wasn’t sure what to think of Charlie using Clay to get over her hang-ups about sex, just so that she could move on to having a relationship with a “normal” man.  But it should in no way surprise me that Mallery makes it work.  She deftly handles what could have been something awkward with humor, heat, and most importantly heart.

Charlie is awkward and insecure.  Her issues with herself and her mother are poignant and delivered in her straight-forward manner.  I know women like her who so badly want to show that they don’t need a man and how the more mainstream feminine ideals are worthless.  The trauma she went through, along with her delicate mother, make this attitude understandable.  I like the fact that she isn’t changed into a traditionally female character by the end.  Instead she is appreciated for the woman she is – strong, blunt and no-nonsense – and it is her caring and dedicated personality that draws Clay.

Clay is almost perfect, emotionally as well as physically.  He’s spent so much of his adult life being appreciated for what is on the outside that he now wants to be seen for what is on the inside.  He is afraid he isn’t enough, though, and it is hard, even in Fool’s Gold, to be taken seriously.  But the way he approaches Charlie’s request is very touching and the thought he puts into it shows the strength of his character.  He does research into what she is feeling and how best to work with her to overcome it, showing that he is more than just a gorgeous . . . face.

Once again Susan Mallery brings to life characters so real they feel like long-time friends, in a story that is both touching & funny.  All Summer Long is a wonderful addition to the Fool’s Gold saga and I highly recommend picking it up.

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