Let me begin by saying that writing a novel is a terrific achievement. I know, having written one ~ and only one. My hat is off to anyone who can complete a novel.
That said, here is my honest opinion of Summer Winds, a story by Wanda P. Smith about “life, love and living” in a Tennessee mountain farm community which I finished reading Friday night.
Characters: This epic story is narrated by protagonist Sunshine Westland, a happy, healthy country woman looking back on her life from childhood to early adulthood. Family is paramount in this tale, so father, mother, brothers and sister play large parts.
Like Sunshine, the Westland family is a good-hearted, hard-working group, always striving to do the right thing, and usually succeeding. Her father, for instance, is positive and supportive:
Dad’s smile was priceless. It had always given hope for whatever ailed me in life. When the pain had grown from missing Will his smile often delivered hope. I would feel better one day he’d say, trying to smile the blues away. He always spoke with a smile to anyone saying a frown is a wasted effort when you can smile and make others smile with you. True it was in a funny way being hard to frown with a big smile glaring at you. Thinking now of the times I had been sad or disappointed and his smile made me forget my problems of the moment. That smile hadn’t helped much in longing for Will but he presented it often regardless in the hope it would help in my misery.
Wanda does a nice job in bringing Sunshine’s family out by deed and dialogue, but she reserves most physical description for co-star and love-interest Will.
My attention was drawn to his eyes mixed of blue and green. His raven hair dark and wavy was tossed softly from the summer wind. His voice caught my attention as instantly as his features. The first time a boy or a voice had gotten my attention this way.
He extended the glass of lemonade which I took without hesitation. Sipping it slowly, glancing at him once or twice hoping not to get caught in a stare. His build was slim but wasn’t boney. He was well mannered and friendly, sitting down beside me drinking his lemonade.
Will is conspicuous by his absence for much of the story, after a tragic accident separates him from Sunshine. How Sunshine copes with her loss defines her well, and is a highlight of the book.
Plot: Farm girl Sunshine Westland grows up, falls in love, and experiences and shares the trials and triumphs of life, love and loss in the Tennessee mountains.
Setting: Rural mountainous Tennessee is the setting for Wanda’s tale. It’s clear the author knows and loves this area of the country.
Going to the north field at the top of the hillside on a clear day, I could see the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It was known for its amazing beauty and elevation. The mountains were endless rolling their tops across the skyline in a smoky haze. I needed only to glance at them to understand the beauty of my own home place.
Tall oaks and maples mixed with pine trees outlining property lines better than a surveyor. Property markers were trees not a steel stake driven into the ground. If a neighbor needed an extra acre to plant for crops it was given freely. In turn things from firewood to crops yielded were dispersed to the lender of land. The only things carved in stone here were grave markers.
What I though could’ve been done better: Summer Winds needs some attention paid to grammar. There are grammar problems throughout the book. Misplaced modifiers are common. For instance:
Hearing the sound of a car walking toward the Jeep I paused a second. In this sentence, a car walks toward a Jeep. I’m pretty sure that’s not what Wanda meant to write.
I’m guessing it should be more along the lines of “I heard a car on the road as I walked toward the Jeep. I paused for a second.”
Other awkward constructions include sentence fragments and wrong or unclear attributions such as “All babies smell good,” I transpired. “Transpired,” of course, means “occurred.” The best attributive is usually a simple “said.”
Most of these problems can be caught and solved with a thorough editing.
What I thought was good: Though the grammar calls for a good editor, I found no spelling errors.
Wanda does a nice job describing Sunshine’s environment as part of her character development, like this annual community social:
There was a cornucopia of canned goods the ladies had made throughout summer displayed and shared. Quilts, pies and jellies to name a few made it a virtual wonderland fair for me. Everything home made from butter to applesauce. There were no fancy rides or carnival games just food and fun. We rode ponies, horses and played hopscotch while the boys played football or other sports passing the day away. A day enjoyed together by everyone.
Greased pigs were chased around in a pen made from hay bales and a tub filled with water to mock a fish pond, receiving prizes of a ribbon not a toy for winning. Cake walks where you could eat your prize! Pie eating contest and a dunking booth where we enjoyed trying to dunk a teacher from school, the town Mayor or the Sheriff. A day longer than any other in summer it seemed. When the daylight began to fade and twilight set in, so did the big dance of summer. Singing and dancing to the tunes people made with fiddles and bows, banjos, guitars, harmonicas, not those from a radio. I could listen forever to the folk music played in perfect melody.
Although Wanda’s story seldom strays from her localized setting, the story has a grand, epic feel in the detailed way it covers the span of years from Sunshine’s childhood to young adulthood.
It also has a sweetness and kindliness that I felt transcended the book’s grammar errors. Sunshine looks back, perhaps through rose-tinted glasses, at the world and sees people at their best.
Wanda does a good job showing how 14-year-old Sunshine moons for her lost Will.
Watching Jill and Steve sit together on the porch swing holding each other grieved my soul. I envied her the opportunity she was given. She loved Steve and I could see the love between them I shared with Will. Watching them walk through the field saturated my thoughts of him.
There were times reality would kick in and I would grab a book heading to the barn to read in the loft avoiding all thought if possible. Passage of time only made me miss him more and it wasn’t getting better as the passing of time only grew the anguish of missing him.
Wanda’s tale doesn’t shy away from love’s physical, passionate side, though, as Sunshine becomes an adult.
The summer winds kissed our skin with its soft cool touches, soothing the fire in our bodies. The continuation went on into the pits of passion never known imaginable as the stars twinkled in the night sky. He climaxed with a deep thrust unleashing his own growled passion, leaving him momentarily weak, the hotness of his love burned deep inside as he nibbled at my neck. His mouth was hot, wet as it brushed across my skin lowering his head to my chest.
I especially liked the first line of the preceding passage.
Overall: Though burdened with some poor grammar, Summer Winds is a sweet, kindly love story. Wanda weaves her simple, though not necessarily easy themes of love of family, love of place, and love between a good man and a good woman into a satisfying tale of charm and grace.
Good job, Wanda!
And for a sexy superheroine paranormal sci fi romantic adventure thriller, check out my own novel American Goddesses ~ thanks for visiting Honest Indie!