Sadie Hawkins Sunday Review #16: The Summer Garden

Sadie Hawkins Sunday Review #16: The Summer GardenThe Summer Garden by Paullina Simons
Series: The Bronze Horseman #3
Published by William Morrow on June 21, 2011
Genres: Historical, Romance
Pages: 752
Format: Paperback
Source: Gifted

The Magnificent Conclusion to the Timeless Epic Saga

Through years of war and devastation, Tatiana and Alexander suffered the worst the twentieth century had to offer. Miraculously reunited in America, they now have a beautiful son, Anthony, the gift of a love strong enough to survive the most terrible upheavals. Though they are still young, the ordeals they endured have changed them--and after living apart in a world laid waste, they must now find a way to live together in postwar America.

With the Cold War rising, dark forces at work in their adopted country threaten their lives, their family, and their hard-won peace. To regain the happiness they once knew, to wash away the lingering pain of the past, two lovers grown distant must somehow forge a new life . . .or watch the ghosts of their yesterdays destroy their firstborn son.

The Summer Garden . . . their odyssey is just beginning.

Recommended by: Lisa V.

First Sentence: “Once upon a time, in Stonington, Maine, before sunset, at the end of a hot war and the beginning of a cold one, a young woman dressed in white, outwardly calm but with trembling hands, sat on a bench by the harbor, eating ice cream.”

FINALLY. I am done with this series. I can put it to bed and never think on it again. There are times where the series was quite good, but more times where it was frustrating, puzzling, and rage-inducing. Unfortunately, the latter sort of moments almost entirely comprise the final volume of the trilogy, making this a painful read. And, fuck yes, there will be spoilers and profanity all up in this review.

The Almost Good
Simons obviously knows how to write well. She’s got a great command of language, and can put together nice complex sentences. Of course, being able to write masterfully is worthless if you don’t write awesome things with your pretty sentences. However, I think even the writing has gotten worse in this third book. There were also several typos that hadn’t been edited out, perhaps because even the editor couldn’t stand this shit and started skimming. In one scene, the quotation marks completely disappear for about a page for no reason. Another obnoxious trend in the writing, one obviously intended to be clever, is the narrator’s tendency to get really excited and end sentences with exclamation points for emphasis! Exclamation points are for dialog or first person narration, not freaking third person.

The Bad
By this point in the series, there is literally no plot, just the unfolding of the rest of Alexander and Tatiana’s sex-filled lives, until the last two hundred pages where it becomes another book entirely. In no way do I think of myself as a prude about sex in novels. In fact, I sometimes quite enjoy it, though some sex scenes are giggle and snort-inducing, because of the absurd descriptions. Simons’ are okay in that they mostly do not result in hilarity. However, they’re also not sexy. A little goes a long way with sex in novels, I think. There’s so much more power and tension in novels that have just one good kiss than in this series where Tatiana and Alexander have sex countless times. If you played a drinking game by the number of orgasms had in this book, you would die of alcohol poisoning before you finished. While I cannot say quite for certain, I’m convinced that those two characters don’t have sex a single time that the reader doesn’t know about it.

Keep in mind that they have a young child, and, for much of his toddler years, they have just one bedroom. So they have sex with their sleeping child several feet away myriad times. What fun. I get that their circumstances are difficult, but have someone take care of your kid for a couple hours or something. There will not be enough therapy in the world to take on this kid’s emotional problems.

Describing sex is obviously Simons’ favorite thing, but she does also enjoy describing Tatiana and Alexander, perfect specimens that they are. Here’s a sample out of the hundreds of descriptions offered:

“She’s got a tiny waist out of which her hips extend like two halves of a golden delicious apple. Her flat stomach glistens, her breasts are heaving. He is looking up at her. She is golden delicious.” (390)

If you’re going to read this trilogy, I hope you’re very interested in Tatiana’s breasts, because you get to hear about them A LOT. Also about her tiny waist. Alexander’s described too, so tall and manly and strong, but Simons sure seems to enjoy describing Tania’s nigh impossible figure more. And, in case you didn’t know they were hot, both of them get hit on constantly by everyone. Alexander’s boss’ girlfriend greets him with kisses on the cheeks, but always tries to get him on the lips. A coworker of Alexander’s breaks into their house in the middle of the night to rape Tatiana while keeping Alexander at bay with a gun, but Alexander saves the day, of course. These are just two examples of many.

The Fucking Ugly
Now, in theory, I do support the idea of showing the difficulties in Tatiana and Alexander’s relationship after she rescued him from a concentration camp, now run by the Soviets, in Berlin. Alexander underwent a lot of torture, and would no doubt be fucked up as a result. He’s scarred, inside and out. However, that does not make it okay for him to do whatever he wants, and I do not appreciate the way he treats Tatiana, even if she’s okay with it. While a husband treating a wife this way might have been deemed normal or acceptable at the time, that does not make Alexander any less of an abusive monster.

One of the main fights Alexander and Tatiana have is about the fact that she insists on working at the hospital, even after he’s earning enough money to support the family. All the other women stop working even when they just have boyfriends, so why won’t she stay home, which is, after all, a woman’s place. He bitches at her about her job constantly, accusing her of letting him and their son Anthony down by being away from home so much, even though Tatiana does fucking everything. She cooks all the food, and she’s a great cook, from scratch, she keeps the house spotless, and she has sex with Alexander a million times a day, all while working 40-60 hours a week. Rather than thanking his lucky stars that he married a damn goddess, Alexander accuses her of not caring enough and of having an affair with a coworker.

After they have fights, about her job or about the fact that she has yet to become pregnant with a second child, even though fifteen or so years have passed from the birth of their first, Alexander seduces her into doing whatever he wants. Then there’s this fight. An asshole friend of Alexander’s is finally getting married, and they’re having a bachelor party with strippers. Tatiana tells him she does not want him to go see the strippers, and after a heated discussion, he promises to leave before the strippers and be home by 1 AM. He stumbles in drunk and smelling like cheap perfume at 5 AM. Tatiana goes out to the hen party at some club the next night, as she threatened to do if he went to see the strippers. She comes home early, and reveals she was actually at the hospital, because, unlike her husband, she doesn’t actually want to do things that will make him uncomfortable. She tells him not to touch her right now, and he does. He has sex with her, even though she didn’t want him to. Sure, she got into it because that’s what happens with them, but, in my mind, this is spousal rape. He forced her. After lots of sex, the fight’s over. Just like that.

Then, later, things get worse. Alexander, convinced his wife is having an affair with a doctor at the hospital, because he saw the doctor make her laugh (no joke), and because she works Friday nights, he starts going out with a different asshole friend. A married woman with huge breasts hits on him, and he ends up playing with her breasts and getting a subpar blowjob in her car, then making plans to meet up for the real deal later that week. He tells Tatiana he’s working and goes, but ultimately chickens out of actually sleeping with the woman, who calls his house and asks Tatiana where he is when Alexander doesn’t show up to meet her. Penetration or not, this is adultery, and Alexander is a rat bastard who deserves to die alone.

For freaking the first time ever, Tatiana is finally so pissed she’s considering leaving him, taking Anthony and going. When she says this, he hits her, several times in the face, leaving her bruised and bleeding. Just wait, though, it gets worse. Here’s what Tatiana has to say: “‘Except for this–anything you do is fine with me . . . So if you raise your voice or hand to me, I bow my head and take it'” (510). The this in that sentence is adultery. So, it’s totally okay with her if he abuses her as long as he doesn’t fuck anyone else. No, Tatiana. No, it’s not okay.

What’s even more not okay is that she DOES forgive him, of course. She lets him stay, and you know what his punishment is for cheating on his wife and then abusing her when she has the audacity to be mad at him about it? He finally gets more children (she was actually going to tell him she was pregnant again the night he went to fuck that other woman) and she quits her job at the hospital to raise them. You know what, Paullina Simons? It is in no way acceptable to romanticize an abusive, cheating husband, or to convey that men can do no wrong and should in fact be REWARDED for such horrific behavior.

The Shit Icing on This Crap Cake
Then, after 500+ pages of their unhealthy relationship, the book suddenly turns into a novel about the Vietnam war for a hundred pages. Simons did similar awkward changes of pace in The Bronze Horseman, but this one was even more out of place. Tatiana and Alexander’s oldest son, Anthony, enlists to go Vietnam, and they freak out. In his fourth or fifth tour of duty, he goes missing. Setting up an incredibly lame parallel with the second book, Alexander goes to Vietnam to find and rescue him.

In Vietnam, Alexander discovers that his son has been entrapped by a one-eyed, eight-fingered North Vietnamese whore, who he married believing her pregnant with his child (she may or may not have been). Alexander convinces a family friend, and Anthony’s commander in Vietnam, to stage a rescue to get his son in enemy territory, where he may not even be, even though this is completely against the commander’s orders. In the process of rescuing Anthony (because of course they do), the Vietnamese girl (who is evil, obviously) is killed, as are a lot of the men who helped Alexander rescue his son. Alexander is grievously injured (but doesn’t die because I hate everything). For their actions, both Anthony and Alexander are given medals of honor, even though Alexander wasn’t supposed to fucking be there and Anthony got himself captured by falling in a love with a whore who was working as a spy. More men died in this operation than were rescued. But who fucking cares about that? All that matters is Alexander and Anthony!

Finally, I’m at the end of this damn book, the Coda, a prissy way name for the epilogue. In this epilogue, we learn that 1999, Alexander, age 80, and Tatiana, age 75, are still in love and have the perfect lives. All of their kids are married and successful. Every single child in the family is exceedingly attractive, and all the men are tall. Most important of all, you should note, each one of their four kids had at least one son, because, you know, men are more important than women, in case you missed that from all of the other misogyny in this disgusting book, which gives a happily ever after to a man who abused his wife.

Fuck This Shit, I’m Out
Now can anyone tell me why the FUCK this book has a 4.16 average rating on Goodreads? Only 81 people out of 6273 thought this was a one star book, as of the time of this writing. You know what? I give up. Everyone’s entitled to their opinion, of course, but I really do not get how this book fit the epic love story that is purportedly going on in this series. Spousal rape, infidelity, and abuse are not romance, yet this is subtitled “A Love Story.” Unlike Lady Gaga, I do not want any part of this Bad Romance.

Favorite Quote:

“‘I think it’s something at first sight, but not necessarily love.'”

Up Next:

The next Sadie Hawkins Sunday book will be Cold Fire by Kate Elliott, recommended by Nafiza of Bibliophilic Monologues! I read the first book in the series last year, and have both, so it’s time to finish this sucker out (so I can get those review copies squared away)!

Want to tell me what to read? For more details, check this post.

20 responses to “Sadie Hawkins Sunday Review #16: The Summer Garden”

  1. Allison says:

    ahahahaha, “Of course, being able to write masterfully is worthless if you don’t write awesome things with your pretty sentences.”

    I ADORE that.

    I didn’t read most of your review because I’ve only read the first book, and who knows – I might finish the trilogy someday. But honestly, I have heard only horrid, awful things about this book. Ugh.

    • Christina says:

      Um, yeah, save yourself. The second book is totally worth reading, but this one. I should have chewed my book-holding hand off to save myself from this monstrosity.

  2. GillyB says:

    I AM LAUGHING SO HARD (GOLDEN DELICIOUS). I was so excited for this review to go up, but oh my fucking God, Alexander sounds like the goddamn worst. My issue is not when characters are that shitty. It’s when the author obviously doesn’t KNOW that that behavior is shitty, and therefore romanticizes it. VOMIT EVERYWHERE.

    • Christina says:

      WHY THE HELL IS THIS BOOK SO BAD? He’s the worst. Just the fucking WORST. Which would be fine if he weren’t the romantic lead. BUT HE IS. NO. JUST NO.

  3. “Now can anyone tell me why the FUCK this book has a 4.16 average rating on Goodreads?” Because it’s the third in a series? Only the people who liked the first two went on to read and rate this one.

  4. Kayla Beck says:

    I have no idea how you could force yourself through this. I would want to burn the book (okay, trade it for a video game) with the first bit of Alexander-awful. Wait, no, I would’ve been out on the first book. *sigh* It’s such a shame that the covers are so pretty…

  5. Jaz says:

    Well shit I haven’t even finished the first book, it’s way too slow and nothing much seemed to happen. Now I’m DEFINITELY not gonna bother with it.

  6. “A co worker of Alexander’s breaks into their house in the middle of the night to rape Tatiana” – OMG really? How can that woman walk alone safely on the street? How is she not accosted or raped all the times? Since she’s so ‘delicious’?

    “In Vietnam, Alexander discovers that his son has been entrapped by a one-eyed, eight-fingered North Vietnamese whore, who he married believing her pregnant with his child” – Another OMG. Only one eye and 8 fingers? How does she even come up with that kind of s…

    After your review of book #1 I concluded that this series is not to me but I bow to your determination to read more than 2000 pages of this.
    If it’s any consolation I think you made us all laugh numerous times while we read your review. 🙂

    • Christina says:

      Because Alexander’s usually there to punch/kill/intimidate them, obviously. This is why women should never leave the home.

      She was hit by a bomb, but yeah. WHAT THE FUCK.

      Determination is right. I can’t even with this book and what she did with this series.

  7. Jessica R says:

    I…. don’t know what to say. Wow.
    The only thing that comes to mind is THANK YOU. I was planning on reading this series, but now that is just a big, resounding “NOPE” in my head. I feel like a gif of some creature scuttling away in fear would accurately describe my feelings now.
    Christina, it seems you have saved me from almost 2000 pages of pain with this series. I appreciate that.

    • Christina says:

      Hahahaha, those gifs are the appropriate response. NOPE NOPE NOPE. I cannot believe how bad this got. Though the other two were okay, verging on good at times, you’re still better off not going here. There are better things.

  8. Bonnie R says:

    Lol Wow. So… I’ve officially given up on even bothering to try the first book. This sounds ludicrous.. why exactly is this series so well-loved?

  9. Dana says:

    Your Twitter rants while reading were amusing. You get a gold star for suffering through this one!

  10. Nara says:

    “If you played a drinking game by the number of orgasms had in this book, you would die of alcohol poisoning before you finished”- hahahaha

    “She is golden delicious”- is that even grammatically correct?? Also, I know it’s supposed to be “sexy” and all that, but all I can think of are the apples.

    “A coworker of Alexander’s breaks into their house in the middle of the night to rape Tatiana while keeping Alexander at bay with a gun”- oh yeah, casually.

    God I thought Alexander was bad enough in The Bronze Horseman, but he seems a lot more douchey in this book. And jesus, you can’t just solve every freaking problem with sex. TALK IT OUT BITCHES.

    “Alexander discovers that his son has been entrapped by a one-eyed, eight-fingered North Vietnamese whore”- um whut?! that is so ridiculously random haha. And seriously, medals of honor for not keeping your dick in your pants and getting a bunch of people killed?? That is not okay.

    Yeah, definitely not reading this monstrosity of a book.
    Nara recently posted…Review: Witchstruck by Victoria LambMy Profile

  11. I only skimmed through the review and I still teared up. You poor, brave soul.
    Josephine (aurora lector) recently posted…Review: The Last Unicorn – Peter S. BeagleMy Profile

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