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Book: California Summer by Anita Hughes

In the recent months, I saw many recommending "The Memory Box" written by Kathryn Hughes in various book forums. While browsing through the books stacked in our public library for the above title, I noticed "California Summer" by Anita Hughes, right next to it. The Memory Box seemed to be a heavy subject revolving around love and war, while California Summer just as its name, felt cheerful and breezy - apt for a summer read. This is just an instance to tell why my TBR is ever-growing.

Anita Hughes was born and brought up in Sydney, Australia. At the age of 8, she participated in a writing contest "One of Australia's Next Best Writers" conducted by The Australian Newspaper and won the title. She graduated in B.A. English literature and Masters in Creative Writing. She has written more than a dozen novels like Christmas at the Ranch, White sand Blue sea, Santorini sunset, Island in the Sea, Rome in love, French Coast etc., out of which couple of them have been adopted into movies. Having grown up amidst beaches and a nature lover herself, most of Anita's novels are based around beaches, sunsets and romance.

California Summer is a pleasant fictional love story with a good dose of vitamin sea, unwanted complications and unexpected betrayals. When it is love, it has to be complicated. Otherwise is it even love? So what makes the story pleasant and complex at the same time? 

Ben and Rosie are college sweet hearts who grew up to be Hollywood's most sought out team. After lot of hard work, Ben realizes his dream of directing Hollywood movies, while Rosie is happy and content as an assistant producer, assisting Ben in his projects from behind the scenes. But Ben doesn't want to stop there. He aspires to be the top director in Hollywood, along with all things fancy like a house in Beverly Hills, luxurious cars and a magnificent life. In the desire to achieve his dream, he betrays Rosie for a hottest producer in town.

Rosie, whose life and happiness revolved around Ben and his dreams for a majority of her life, couldn't come to terms with what she just found about Ben and his affair. Rosie's friend Angelica convinces that she needs a change and sends her to spend some time in their family estate in a small beach town called Montecito. Montecito is poles apart from Hollywood's ever busy and high profile lifestyle. It is a small town in Santa Barbara county, surrounded by beaches, scenic landscapes and a relaxed and slow paced life.

She encounters lot of friendly people like Estelle and Oscar (Angelica's parents), Rachel who owns a confectionery shop, Josh a surfer and classic cars lover, Colby the young singer who created quite a stir in the music industry with a huge fan base especially young girls, his assistant Ryan and Morris Estelle's butler.

Rosie struggles a lot to get rid of Ben and their memories. She makes many failed attempts to reconcile with Ben. Days pass and one day, Rosie makes fish tacos for a party hosted by Estelle and it turns out to be a big hit among Estelle's family and friends. Unbelievable, Rosie credits it to the special and secret ingredients of her most cherished childhood recipe. Eventually she realizes that her happiness lies in cooking and leading a simple life. So she decides to stay back in Montecito and opens a Fish Taco shop. In the process, she falls in love with Josh and his outlook towards life, contrary to the Hollywood bling. 

Impressed by Rosie's fish tacos, Colby writes a new song called "Rosie" and it instantly tops the charts. The song is about leaving the rat race and following your dream. With this song, the fish taco shop becomes a super hit amongst youngsters and is flocked by customers even from faraway places. Colby offers Rosie an undeniable business proposal to expand her venture. 

Both Rosie and Josh have painful pasts that doesn't allow them to believe in future relationships. Those wounds and few misunderstandings cause undue complications and rift between them. Whether Rosie goes on to manifest her small dream into a big one by accepting Colby's offer or denies to join the rat race and resolves the gaps to unite with Josh is something that is going to decide the trajectory of her life.

Anita Hughes has done a splendid job in building the characters and the relationships whether it is the bond between friends or parents and kids or siblings or romantic interests. Her style of writing is quirky, witty, thought provoking, inspiring, emotional and all the more is amazing. 

For an instance, Rosie's conversation with a person at deli while demanding him to make her a peanut butter sandwich "I lived with my boyfriend for eight years and he's allergic to peanut butter. I haven't had peanut butter since college.....I'd give anything for peanut butter sandwich" is not only funny, but shows how deep her wounds are. 

In another instance, "I thought being in love releases endorphins, like chocolate" Rosie says to which Morris replies "That's the version you read in Cosmopolitan. The real thing is messy and exhausting", is so realistic and spot on.

"You don't have to dream big. Small dreams can be just as cool" is so profound and thought provoking.

My personal favourite from this book is Estelle - her maturity and understanding of life and happiness is remarkable. She was always there for Rosie right from the moment she stepped into her home and spearheaded Rosie whenever she was stuck. "Having a big house doesn't make you happy necessarily, and neither does marrying the man you love. You have to be happy with yourself first... You have to do what you love and throw the rule book out the window" Estelle counsels Rosie when she is at cross roads between Colby's offer and speaking her heart out to Josh.

California Summer is a book of friendship, romance and above all a story about following your dreams and finding happiness within!!!

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