With "Summer in Eclipse Bay," JAK takes us back to the remote coastal town one last time, concluding the trilogy with a fizzle rather than a bang. This time we follow the escapades of Nick "Heartless Harte" Harte, a father who's been burned in marriage once, and Octavia Brightwell, the redheaded "fairy of Eclipse Bay" who has returned to repair the damages caused by her great aunt, only to find the divide repaired on its own. Deciding that she is not needed, Octavia vows to leave Eclipse Bay at the end of the summer, but Nick Harte has other ideas.
The attraction is instantaneous, and though Octavia is hesistant to commit to any sort of relationship in her free-floating status, Nick eventually wears her down and the romance proceeds from there, aided by the mystery of a painting stolen from Octavia's gallery.
The romance element is enjoyable but not exceptional: Nick and Octavia are a pleasant couple that is driven more by chemistry and timing than complimentary personalities, and the plot relies more on romantic cliches than its predacessors. Ideas like "the talk" (of non-commitment) and the "curse" that prevents the hero from staying overnight weigh the plot down, and heavy handed pasts do little to lighten the mood.
So the novel's bouyancy is left to the mystery plot, which carries it nicely. Nick's career as a mystery writer leads to a sleuthing job that draws him head first into trouble and excitement, providing the energy that keeps the pages turning, while Octavia's dealings with the gossip circles in town provide many opportunities to laugh aloud. Rafe and Hannah from the first book return with a renewed vigor, but Gabe and Lillian from the second are noticeably absent.
In the end, however, it is the colorful and quirky townsfolk of Eclipse Bay who give this book its real charm. Old favorites return, bringing with them a delightful new contingent. It is when paired with these offbeat neighbors that Nick and Octavia shine; going toe to toe with the locals adds wit and humor where the romance itself lacks it.
All in all, only a somewhat stale romance keeps this book from a five-star rating. This book earns its place as a contender in the Eclipse bay trilogy with with and humor and wit. For those just picking up JAKs first trilogy, this may not be the place to start; but for those of us ready to fall in love not with Nick and Octavia, but with Eclipse Bay itself, this book is a skillfully crafted delight that rounds out the trilogy nicely.