SUMMER BY THE SEA is a delightful summertime story of star-crossed lovers, Rosa Capoletti and Alex Montgomery. Their story begins with Alex having just returned to his beloved summer home, and Rosa, who is determined to forget the love of her life, finds herself still attracted to her childhood flame.
In chapter one, Rosa, who is working in her own restaurant "Celesta's by the Sea," is watching as her best friend Linda is being proposed to by her soon-to-be fiancé, Jason. Rosa is filled with happiness for her friend, but also feels a bittersweet ache inside. She soon finds herself arguing with her employees, who also happen to be some of her closest friends, about her own love life. They are worried about her --- that her relationships are going nowhere and that all she does is focus on the restaurant. Rosa, however, sees nothing wrong with her life. She's at a good place financially and owns her own restaurant that has garnered rave reviews from the New York Times. Celesta's is her dream come true, and a tribute to the mother who lost her life at such a young age.
While Rosa is contemplating the status of her love life, into the restaurant walks a customer who she recognizes immediately, and she's not very happy to see him. It is Alex Montgomery, who had spent his summers in Winslow along with his mother and their servants. Alex was once the love of her life, a childhood sweetheart and best friend. But somewhere along the way their romance turned sour, and for reasons still unknown to her, Alex left town without a word. Since that last summer together with him, she had decided to forget him and move on with her life. She felt that their love was never meant to be, because their social backgrounds were so different. Her father worked as the Montgomerys' gardener, while Alex and his family were from "old money." The two families would never fit in each other's lives.
Alex, however, is now determined to make amends for the past mistakes he has made, and tries his best to get Rosa's attention. But Rosa doesn't want anything to do with him. He had hurt her deeply at a time when she needed him more than ever. It had been twelve years since he left her, and she never forgave or forgot him.
The book then turns to the past and the reader returns with Rosa to her childhood, when Alex was a very sick boy with asthma and Rosa was a tomboy looking for a friend. Every summer the two of them were the best of friends, and every September Alex would return to his own world. They were friends only during three short months of each year, but they were special months filled with fun and adventure. One summer Rosa and Alex fall in love, and something magical happens between them. But as soon as they profess their love for each other, the romance ends abruptly after a serious accident changes Rosa's life forever.
Now, back to the present, the two of them are a part of each other's lives again. There's no telling what's in store for the two of them. Rosa sees that the past needs resolving in order to move forward, and is willing to work at it until she can get closure to her past. And Alex is desperate to explain to Rosa the reason why he left her so abruptly twelve years ago.
SUMMER BY THE SEA is a light, fluffy read, but at the same time delves into a few serious issues. In between chapters, Wiggs intersperses wonderful delicious-sounding Italian recipes, which help give the book a very summery type of feel, as if one is on holiday at a quiet summer resort. It lends to the mood of the book and is a very clever idea that works. The story itself could have been written in a tighter fashion. At times one is not sure if one is reading about the past, or is back in the present. Some chapters are marked with the year in which it is taking place, while others are not. Outside of these inconsistencies, the romance reader will enjoy SUMMER BY THE SEA. It's made a new fan out of this reviewer.
--- Reviewed by Marie Hashima Lofton (Ratmammy@lofton.org)