Blog Book Tour | “The Last Summer” by Brandy Bruce A Contemporary Realistic INSPY story which takes you through the emotional tides of finding yourself and your faith in the darker days of your life.

Posted Monday, 16 July, 2018 by jorielov , , , 2 Comments

Book Review badge created by Jorie in Canva using photography (Creative Commons Zero).

Acquired Book By: I have been hosting blog tours with Cedar Fort Publishing and Media for several years now, wherein their new blog tour publicist (Ms Sydney Anderson) also runs her own publicity touring company: Singing Librarian Book Tours (or SLB Tours for short!). I happily joined her team of book bloggers as a hostess in late Spring, 2018 wherein my first tours with her as a hostess began Summer, 2018. I appreciate reading INSPY literature and was happy to find these are most of the stories she is showcasing through SLB Tours! Most of her authors are published through Cedar Fort, though she does work with authors who are either Self-Published or Indie published through different publishers as well.

I received a complimentary copy of “The Last Summer” direct from the author Brandy Bruce in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

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Why ‘The Last Summer’ appealed to me to read this Summer:

I’ve been keenly interested in seeking out more Contemporary INSPY novelists, especially since I realised how much I appreciate reading the collective works of Brenda S. Anderson and Kellie Coates Gilbert – it would be nice to keep expanding my list of #mustread INSPY novelists who have a passion for writing the kinds of stories I am most interested in seeking out to read! This is how I came to find The Last Summer – as it was one of the last novels going on tour before SLB Tours took their hiatus ahead of the Autumn.

As I was reading about the premise, something ‘clicked’ and it seemed like the kind of novel you’d want to read in the height of Summer! Not to mention the fact, since it’s Southern Contemporary Lit, I could appreciate it a bit more as this is one of my niche of preferred interest when it comes to where a Contemporary story can be set! From the Carolinas to Texas, I am definitely a girl who appreciates the Southern hemisphere in Contemporary stories! It started with Sheryl Woods and grew from there – as the Sweet Magnolias were quite the close-knit bunch themselves!

I appreciate finding stories about how friends live their lives together – similar to why I appreciated the long-running tv serial: Friends which was an institution whilst I was in high school! The irony of course is I’m now the age of most of the ‘friends’ on that series as I’m about to exit my thirties and exchange them for my forties! Who knew!?

Today’s INSPY market is full of changes – new publishers are focusing on giving authors more chances to tell their stories and the writers themselves are giving all of us more to chew on than what traditionally we might find in an INSPY novel, too! I find it a wicked good time to be reading as an INSPY reader, as you get a hearty array of realistic story-lines from strong voices who are curating a new wave of where INSPY can take us all. This is partially why I was excited about participating in the #SummerReading challenge for July, as it helped me re-align my intentions of reading more INSPY stories!

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Blog Book Tour | “The Last Summer” by Brandy Bruce A Contemporary Realistic INSPY story which takes you through the emotional tides of finding yourself and your faith in the darker days of your life.The Last Summer
by Brandy Bruce
Source: Direct from Author via SLB Tours

For twenty-something Sara Witherspoon and her group of friends, a perfect Southern summer includes lake-house getaways wedding planning, outdoor concerts, and a dash of romance. But for these seven friends who love each other like family, this year, summer rolls in with changes for everyone.

Sara's longtime crush, Luke, has been her best friend for as long as she has been a part of the group. When Luke begins seriously dating another of their friends, Sara's forced to deal with her hurt and jealousy, while outwardly try to support them both.

While Sara comes to terms with her own heart and her friends' relationships, an unexpected handsome pilot from North Carolina and an old flame are thrown into the mix. Knowing her heart suddenly becomes much more complicated.

But as time unfolds and friendships begin to unravel, Sara and the others are presented with the reality of what a season of change does to old friendships and new love interests.

Does growing older mean growing apart?

The Last Summer by Brandy Bruce,
published by Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas.
Used by permission.

Genres: Inspirational Fiction & Non-Fiction, INSPY Realistic Fiction, Realistic Fiction, Southern Lit, Women's Fiction

Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

Add to LibraryThing

ISBN: 9781946016195

Also by this author: Cover Reveal: After the Rain, After the Rain

Also in this series: After the Rain

Published by Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas

on 7th June, 2017

Format: Trade Paperback

Pages: 234

Published By: Bling Romance
an imprint of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas (@LPCTweets)

Available Formats: Paperback, Ebook

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Converse via: #INSPY #WomensFiction & #SummerReads + #TheLastSummer_novel

About Brandy Bruce

Brandy Bruce

Brandy Bruce is a mom, a wife, a book editor, an author, and someone who really loves dessert. She’s the author of the award-winning novel The Last Summer, Looks Like Love, and The Romano Family Collection. Brandy, her husband, and their children make their home in Colorado.

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my review of the last summer:

Quote from The Last Summer by Brandy Bruce provided by Singing Librarian Book Tours

These are the very first words we read within the pages of The Last Summer, which set the tone for the novel and for what your expecting to find inside the story. You immediately feel comfortable around Addison, Sam, Luke, Lily, Jason, Debra and Sara. I credit this directly to how Ms Bruce fused her heart into the story-line, as the opening bridge has such a strong visceral anchouring to it, it’s hard not to feel as if you’ve become part of this close-knit circle of friends yourself!

They have the kind of familial relationship you might have hoped to have sought out yourself, though in reality forging friendships like these is not as simple as it would seem. Anyone whose attempted to make a fresh start in a new community knows how hard it is to ‘break-in’ if there is a niche already established between friends’ who have known each other for years. In many ways, I was both thankful to see Sara embraced and slightly questioning how plausible it really would be for that to happen as by my own experiences, it is beyond rare. For the sake of the story, I decided to suspend reality and embrace the moment, as what Sara had stumbled into is something everyone hopes to find for themselves and for that reason alone, I was hooked into reading her story!

As we time jump forward three years after they first become an inseparable group of seven, we find them at the lake house where they liked to meet-up for down-time from their harried lives inasmuch as a way of reconnecting with each other. The lake house provided neutral ground – where they could be themselves, enjoy the lake and embrace the quiet reprieve of nature. This was a place where they all felt comfortable and secure – which is why Sara was not suspecting to find her soul being crushed and her heart splintered into oblivion by the unsuspecting news she would receive their very first night at the lake! This was the year where changes would not come lightly – they would come full-force, out of the blue and take everyone in the group for one shock after another – starting with the matriarch of the bunch, Addison announcing her departure from their church to embrace a new life with her beloved!

One of the hardest bits to change is when you have to sort out your thoughts and feelings in front of your friends – especially if it is your friends who are giving you the most grief to transition through in regards to the changes you weren’t prepared to embrace. Sara is in such a fix as to find herself grieving the loss of her best friend (Luke) whilst trying to come to terms with how the dynamics of the group are slowly starting to erode – she hadn’t realised someone else in their circle had equal affections on Luke (this was another surprise) nor did she realise everyone in the group already understood where her feelings were in regards to Luke. Apparently, the only person who was clueless about how she felt was Luke himself (or it appeared).

Lily stepped in to help Sara – as initially, when the news first was revealled, Sara wasn’t sure she could breathe much less function through the weekend! Jason (her ex-boyfriend) could still read her thoughts as if they were a couple (which unsettled Sara) whilst Lily was trying to give her sage advice on how to proceed without having Luke in her life or at least, not in a way she was expecting him to be in her life. The hardest part about the new relationship Luke was endearing himself to exploring is how it would put a wedge between his close relationship with Sara – as it’s hard to have a close interpersonal connection with a platonic friend whilst your pursuing a romantically close relationship with a mutual friend from your circle.

There is a gentle earnestness to the way in which Ms Bruce has written The Last Summer – how she chooses to wrap our hearts around Sara’s pain and how whenever we are reading a passage involving prayer, there is a humility of realism embedded inside the words she’s chosen to highlight the emotional strife of Sara. It is a pleasure to read because you feel as connected to Sara as if you are living through this unsettling period of her life for her – stepping into her shoes and feeling as lost as she does to know how best to right the stars for her own life whilst inside she’s melting into a puddle of self-pity.

The realistic manner of feeling enveloped by the emotional anguish is fittingly honest – these kinds of relationships are murky on the outset, as there are no clear definitions on either side – especially if someone along the way chooses to realise their feelings have changed from idle friendship to romance – how is it best handled to explain that to the other person? The quagmire of course is sorting this out whilst realising the person of your affection has started to move on without you – choosing someone who isn’t you and where does that leave you in the end?

In the background of the story, as this hinges quite heavily on the lives of seven friends, is an interesting mother-daughter relationship. One which surprised me at first, as being that Sara is an only child, I thought I could relate to her a bit more than I did. For starters, I was a bit surprised by how she viewed her relationship with her parents but moreso, how she viewed her connection to her mother. In the end, the only thing I shared in common with Sara is the fact we’re onlys as nothing else related to my life except for that one fact. For Sara, she had issues realising how much alike she was to her mother (which reminded me of the relationship with my Aunt and my grandmother; two peas in a pod and yet they were at odds with each other all the time!) to the brink they both harboured certain secrets in their lives. For Sara, the hardest part for her to reconcile is the fact her mother didn’t like to share the bits of herself which would leave her vulnerable – she’d rather create this exterior barrier against the world which showed her greatest strengths rather than focused on her weaknesses. Sara would have benefited from those lessons – of how to rise out of the ashes of where life hurts us the most but for Sara’s mother, those were the moments she couldn’t easily find a way to re-share without re-opening the wounds which were now healed.

Also, what was interesting is how a lot of adult children view living at home – or even, being visitors in their parent’s houses. I find it quite interesting because again, I find a path diverging – there seem to be a lot of hidden issues or unresolved angst between adult children and their parents after a certain age – of when returning home isn’t as cosy comfortable as you would think it would be and where just being back at ‘home’ for any amount of time causes more heartache than joy. I found this rather curious as it is an undertone of inclusion in most Contemporary stories especially for children who are either in their twenties or thirties. And, yes, it’s another insight of realism I cannot personally relate to understanding as my family always made you feel comfortable when you came back home.

By the time Sara’s Mum finally has a heart-to-heart fireside chat with her daughter, Sara is receptive to what she is being told even if the disclosure is taking her off-guard. There is a truthfulness in the story but it is also a story of Sara’s own birth and how the origins of her life are tethered to the awareness that sometimes in life, what you think is true about your parents can actually prove surprising when you learn that there is a bit more to their story than you could have dreamt possible! It’s a humbled story of two people who were broken in both spirit and in trust – all of this is rooted around a particular verse in the Bible which Sara’s Mum found most uplifting to hold fast against during the trials of her life.

It is Sara’s turn now to find measured meaning in the verse but also, to re-affirm the lesson her mother shared with her about the strength of living through prayer and how trusting the prayers you say with your heart will guide you forward into tomorrow. Even if the road is uncertain and the outcome feels nebulous – without leaning on your faith with the confidence you’ll come through your tribulations is to live without any faith at all. This became one of my favourite passages in the story – as part of Sara’s healing and growth was tied into her mother’s secrets.

So much hinged on what Sara needed to understand about her mother in order to understand her own life as it was unravelling before her eyes. Her mother’s unexpected guidance and willingness to share a difficult family secret with her daughter is what turnt the tides for Sara. In many ways, despite this being a story of growth for seven individuals, this is very much a story focused on Sara and the ways in which we must learn to trust not just our faith but our resolve to find meaning out of difficulty, strength out of trial and peace out of acceptance of the things which we cannot change. Life is about living through our experiences – good, bad or indifferent whilst finding growth along the way. How we internalise our lives is co-dependent on how we understand what life is trying to tell us and how we realise the greatest lessons lie in the quiet hours we’re living through in an attempt to step into our futures.

Sara’s adversities are related to her relationships – both romantic and platonic – of how she has to find a way to not just stay authentic to those relationships as circumstances change but also, to re-apprise how she wants to live around those she loves and cares about after she learns hard-hitting truths about the people she didn’t know as well as she first thought she had. The Last Summer is a fitting testament about when the innocence of youth and the maturity of being an adult co-mingle together to offer a fitting backdrop on a realistic drama about owning our choices and recognising the hardest part about growing up is learning when to let go, when to hold on and when to move forward.

on the contemporary inspy styling of brandy bruce:

There is a wonderful ease of narrative within the Contemporary styling of Brandy Bruce – you can tell she’s spent a considerable amount of time discovering her characters – not just how they reflect on their lives but how they interact as a family unit. They come alive on paper as true as if they were standing next to you – each with their own quirks and faults, ready to be seen as they are and accepted as we find them. One of the things I love about her signature style is how she tucks us so comfortably into the lives of her characters – she lets us feel as if we’ve spent a few hours getting to know them either through a journal of their lives up to this point or had a conversation with someone who knows the seven as well as Ms Bruce. The conversational style is also keen, as it grants you easy access to better understand where each character is emotionally and on which crossroads of change each character is on the brink of either embracing or choosing to walk down.

Ms Bruce openly shows what it is like to have your emotions pulled straight out of you at a time in your life where you felt you had more worked out than how it appeared on the surface. She also pulls together the faith lives of her characters by organically showing how their faith is directly fused to how they live with a prayerful awareness during their living hours – either through reflective pause, active prayer or a mindfulness of the lessons they grew up knowing as believers which still to this moment in their lives plays a special part in keeping them grounded.

I truly appreciate how Ms Bruce has curated a style for writing realistic Contemporary INSPY which is emotionally centred on uncovering the secrets we try to keep from ourselves, the humbled realities of living through prayer and the emotional upheaval of owning your own truth whilst walking with the realisation not every heart can fully embrace a love which is not reciprocated. There is a lot of real life stitched into this novel – from the highs and lows of feeling loved to the wandering path of friendship and the heartstone connections of family.

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This Blog Tour Stop is courtesy of SLB Tours:

Singing Librarian Book Tours blog tour hostess badge is provided by SLB Tours and is used with permission.

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Follow the Virtual Road Map

by visiting the blog tour route:

especially as this is a tour offering a special giveaway

The Last Summer blog tour via Singing Libarian Book ToursFun Stuff for Your Blog via

I look forward to reading your thoughts & commentary! Especially if you read the book or were thinking you might be inclined to read it. I appreciate hearing different points of view especially amongst readers who picked up the same story to read.

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{SOURCES: Book cover of “The Last Summer”, synopsis, author photograph of Brandy Bruce, author biography, Quote badge from “The Last Summer”, the blog tour banner and SLB Tours badge were all provided by SLB Tours and used with permission. The quotation from “The Last Summer” (back cover) is being used with permission of the publisher per the copyright notice which grants the permission for it to be used. Post dividers badge by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. Tweets were embedded due to codes provided by Twitter. Blog graphics created by Jorie via Canva: Book Review Banner using (Creative Commons Zero) Photography by Frank McKenna and the Comment Box Banner.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2018.

I’m a social reader | I tweet my reading life

About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all.

"I write my heart out and own my writing after it has spilt out of the pen." - self quote (Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story)

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Posted Monday, 16 July, 2018 by jorielov in 21st Century, Balance of Faith whilst Living, Bits & Bobbles of Jorie, Blog Tour Host, Coming-Of Age, Contemporary Romance, Indie Author, Inspirational Fiction & Non-Fiction, INSPY Realistic Fiction | Non-Fiction, Life Shift, Modern Day, Realistic Fiction, Romance Fiction, Second Chance Love, Singing Librarian Book Tours, Singletons & Commitment, Small Towne Fiction, Small Towne USA, Star-Crossed Lovers, Sweet Romance, Texas, Women's Fiction

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2 responses to “Blog Book Tour | “The Last Summer” by Brandy Bruce A Contemporary Realistic INSPY story which takes you through the emotional tides of finding yourself and your faith in the darker days of your life.

    • Hallo, Hallo Ms Bruce!

      You’re most welcome! :) Thank you for giving me such a wicked good story to be reading! There were so many lovely passages – I especially liked how you eclipsed the journey Sara was on with the relationships of her friends’. There were many moments where I thought the story was going to go a few different ways – including at the end, each time, you happily surprised me, kept me rooting for each of them and left me curious about how their lives would knit out afterwards! I was rather keen on knowing more about Jason and Debra – there were so many things I wanted to say but the words I left behind I felt said enough. Your writing is clearly tapping into the human condition and the arduous walk we all must transition through as we’re growing towards a fuller understanding of the path we need to walk in order to arrive where we are meant to be. I felt blessed to be introduced to your writings and to your style of how you tell the stories which touch your heart to share with your readers!

      I was full of smiles seeing you had stopped by! As the notes I leave behind on my blog truly are for the writers whose stories inspire me to journal my reading life!

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