Review: Open Road Summer by Emery Lord

open road summer-emery lordAfter breaking up with her bad-news boyfriend, Reagan O’Neill is ready to leave her rebellious ways behind. . . and her best friend, country superstar Lilah Montgomery, is nursing a broken heart of her own. Fortunately, Lilah’s 24-city tour is about to kick off, offering a perfect opportunity for a girls-only summer of break-up ballads and healing hearts. But when Matt Finch joins the tour as its opening act, his boy-next-door charm proves difficult for Reagan to resist, despite her vow to live a drama-free existence. This summer, Reagan and Lilah will navigate the ups and downs of fame and friendship as they come to see that giving your heart to the right person is always a risk worth taking. A fresh new voice in contemporary romance, Emery Lord’s gorgeous writing hits all the right notes.

4 Drink Me Potions

Open Road Summer was everything I thought it would be and way, way more.

Reagan has made a ton of mistakes in her past. She’s no good girl, unlike her best friend and superstar singer, Delilah (Dee) Montgomery. She gets tempted by things she shouldn’t and can’t have, going for harmful relationships that mean nothing.

Dee, on the other hand, is her rock. She doesn’t judge Reagan for what she does, but instead, is willing to bail her out of whatever trouble she’s in, even when she’s miles away on tour. She’s the exact opposite, the good-girl role model that tweens and their mothers can look up to with a smile.

I love that about this story. There is so much depth to all the characters. And each and everyone of them grows and develops for the duration of the summer.

Reagan meets Matt Finch, a guy who is nothing like the other guys she would normally go for. But, Reagan is determined to put behind her old ways, referring to herself as New Reagan, something who would think about her decisions and their consequences before doing anything rash and selfish. Matt is the symbol of a great and decent guy. He’s got manners and is polite to his fans. He doesn’t wear his fame like a second skin, feeling like he deserves all that he gets. Besides Dee, he’s the only one who sees Reagan for who she is, the brokenness that she deals with and was hoping to relinquish after a summer away on tour across the country.

For Matt and Reagan, I felt their attraction and friendship were very real. They started off with fun teasing and ribbing on each other. They flirt and laugh. But occasionally, they can share a conversation that shows Matt’s vulnerable side after the loss of his mother, and Reagan lets down her hard outer shell for him to see how broken she was underneath. They both grow in so many ways, but ultimately learning to live for the moment as life is precious and short. They can either choose to run away and hide from their problems or they can choose to risk pain and hurt in order to feel everything with someone special while they can.

Open Road Summer held so much more depth in its story beyond what the synopsis made me believe. It’s what drew me to it, and kept me reading straight through the day. No one’s perfect, as Reagan is such a flawed character. But it’s her determination to do things right as New Reagan, and her loyalty and fierce protectiveness of Dee as the media tries to marr her public image that makes me love her. Flaws shouldn’t define a person, and it definitely doesn’t do that for Reagan. There’s always more layers, which Matt finds out for himself.

And my, Matt is one amazing guy. Yes, he may be cheeky and unabashedly confident as he chased Reagan half the summer on the mutual attraction they felt. But he also writes the sweetest song lyrics, for the different women in his life. From an ex who exploited their relationship to the media, to his girl best friend, to Reagan and the most heartbreaking one? A beautiful song prose written about his mother on learning how to be strong as she taught him to be. See? It’s so hard not to love the characters when there are so many layers to them that make them so tangibly real. Like I can reach out to the stars and find a Matt Finch for myself (I wish).

As for Dee, she may seem like the 3rd wheel to this story but it’s nothing like that at all. I love her for how she is with Reagan, and for the tough situations that being in the spotlight puts her in. Yet she always finds the courage to keep on going through, wanting to put a smile on her fans’ faces while staying true to herself. She had her heart broken, but it’s not because her ex (Jimmy) didn’t love her. Quite the contrary, he loved her too much to keep her tied to him so he set her free. Their crazy love story, which was obviously not the highlight of Open Road Summer, was still so compelling and sweet, and I’d like to think that there is a lot of hope for the two of them. Whether they really get back together or not, a love built on a friendship like they had can’t be broken so easily.

I can go on gushing about this book, but then this review would be way, way too long. I loved that the 3 main characters each grew into their own by the end of the summer. They each had to learn what was important in life and where to move on with themselves after facing changes or heartbreak. The ending was kept particularly real. Although I love a good fairy tale ending, Emery Lord doesn’t make it out that Reagan and Matt have all the answers. There will be fights, and there are no guarantees that they’re not gonna hurt each other or end up breaking it off, but they’re worth the risk and worth fighting for. They don’t need all the answers or have to have a set plan of the future. They just need somewhere to start.

And that’s the beauty of it. Such a wonderful lesson that anyone can reflect and relate to. I’m pleasantly surprised and pleased to have found such depth to a book I initially thought was going to be more on the fluff side of things.

Overall Recommendation:
With three very compelling and realistic characters, Reagan, Matt and Dee really stole my heart. Each facing different problems at the beginning of Dee’s summer concert tour across the country, they learn so much about facing up to the problems that life hands you, and possibly even allowing themselves to be vulnerable for once. None of them are absolutely perfect, each frazzled by either fame, heartbreak or the horrible mistakes of the past. The characters give off such an honest feel to them that it tugs on your heartstrings when things get crazy. With such a straightforward plot, Emery Lord wrote it in such a way that drives home deeply the message of coming into your own and taking each moment for what it is. I highly recommend Open Road Summer for pretty much everyone.

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