Open Road Summer is a newly released debut novel by Emery Lord. It’s a sweet and sincere book about Reagan O’Neill, a young woman determined to change her life in the wake of personal trauma. Reagan has agreed to tour the US with her best friend, Dee Montgomery, a country music singer known professionally as “Lilah” Montgomery. The book chronicles the summer between tour dates, bus trips, and the many ups and downs of fortune.
Dee has also been recovering from a break up with Jimmy, a young man she dated for several years. Jimmy decided that he did not want to compete with Dee over her career so he broke it off. Dee, still grief-stricken over the death of their relationship, has channeled her hurt into her music and her ratings and popularity has soared. Now, at the beginning of her tour, a questionable nude photo of her past has been released and her manager is scrambling to pick up the pieces. It is suggested to bring Matt Finch on the tour; a man who came to popularity in a family group, The Finch Four, who is now exploring a solo career. Matt is also going through some personal trauma, but you would never know it to look at him.
Reagan connects with Matt on a personal level – through his music However, their newly blossoming feelings are up against two things. One is Reagan’s determination not to slip back into her old harmful habits. The second is that Dee’s manager has surfaced the rumour that Dee and Matt are an item in order to recover Dee’s tarnished reputation over the bad press of the photo.
Told in first person and from Reagan’s point-of-view we see the events of Dee’s tour unveil secondhand. As such the perspective gives us the ultimate back stage access to concerts, the country music scene, and the rise to fame itself. But the focus quickly shifts from Dee to Reagan when Matt is introduced. Regan simply can’t help herself despite her constant reminder of her sordid past – a broken arm. Despite the token she is drawn to Matt and regardless of her better judgement she falls for him, dubious of his earnestness and fearful that he is the polar opposite of every man she has ever fallen for – a nice guy.
The book has many simple themes in it; enduring friendship, trust, loss and heartache. I enjoyed reading it. It’s not perfect as some of the plot points are a bit formulaic and the conflict at the end lacks tension as a result, but it’s a solid effort from a first published author. I enjoyed watching Reagan get wrapped up in someone other than herself, and other than Dee. It’s a great summer read.
4 out of 5 stars.
*On a cover note I will say one thing – There was never a bike in this book. These people were on tour the entire time jumping in and out of buses. There was a picnic scene and the requisite basket but no bike. I always find this sort of oversight annoying.
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