‘Barefoot Summer’: A Lovely Romance of Renewal


Sometimes after reading one book by an author whose words impress, there is trepidation picking up a follow up book. Being on the other side of storytelling (that of a reader), we fear that it can’t possibly surpass or match that adoration of the first book. Fortunately reading other of Hunter’s novels (after first reading The Trouble with Cowboys) is a piece of candied joy. barefoot summer

Barefoot Summer, by Denise Hunter | Book Review

STORY | In the aftermath of loss, Madison McKinley is a different person. She’s no longer the person everyone knew as the easy-going life-loving woman. Instead she focuses on one thing and one thing only: fulfilling the dream of someone else.

To prepare for the annual regatta event, Madison needs to know how to swim, and so she works with Beckett O’Reilly to train for something she has no intention of letting go of these goals. Only trouble is, Beckett holds a secret that may change everything.

REVIEW | The McKinley family is big, boisterous, and with little effort, they win us over. (Think Chesapeake Shores if you’re a TV viewer). I’m a fan of novels that give large families wings to grow, and as a bonus, they also challenge us (that’s possibly the best gift a writer can leave with their audience). Here we are introduced to a broken, mourning Madison McKinley and the boy who has loved her since high school, Beckett O’Reilly. 

  “…sometimes we have to find the courage to take off our shoes and feel it all. Even the bad stuff.” – Denise Hunter

Set in a small-town community with a beautiful nostalgia background, the familial ties and characters endears this book. To say nothing of the romance that takes a hold of our heart, and is the real heart of the story – the kind that effects readers in only the best sense.

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In their story, there is deep connection between them; Beckett is tender, loving and not at all the “bad boy” we might assume. Madison is hurting in deep, dark places and only through Beckett’s steadfast support, and God’s healing hand does she come to realize this. In order to heal, Madison is allows her grief to break her. By trying to fix her hurt on her own, the heroine shoves God into a corner. Though subject to personal conclusions, it’s actually the “weakness” of the characters that brings this story full circle. The budding relationship between these two is, naturally sparked with chemistry but it molds into something deeper; fixating on secrets, it’s these private emotions that change and shape them, making them tangible and reachable in a fictional world that digs deep roots in reality.  

Going beyond the richly drawn spiritual challenges, the romance was also precious. I adored these two together; Beckett was above and beyond a gentleman. In Barefoot Summer, there isn’t one dull moment; one scene is particularly hard-hitting, tying the title into a moving piece of truth and is also a demonstration of how, even when life looks hopeless, we have to take that step of faith. As a novel, this sheds the cliché emotional (specifically that of a loved ones death) skins of its genre and looks the reader in the face, asking all the hard questions but they’re the right ones.  

 It’s a story that will make you “fall to pieces” – in a fall that’s beautiful.  


‘Barefoot Summer’ - A Lovely Romance of Renewal. A review of the 2013 novel by Denise Hunter (Thomas Nelson). Text © Rissi JC
‘Barefoot Summer’ – A Lovely Romance of Renewal. A review of the 2013 novel by Denise Hunter (Thomas Nelson). #BookNerd #BookReview #WhattoRead #MustRead #FWBA #FindingWonderlandBlogArchives @DeniseAHunter Click To Tweet
About the Book:

Author: Denise Hunter
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Publication Date: 2013
Series: Chapel Springs Romance → Book one
Genre: Fiction; Romance, Series
Rating: ★★★★★

Sincere thanks to Litfuse and the publisher for providing a complimentary copy of this novel.

Note: this review was published in the archives five or more years earlier. Since moving to WordPress, 90% of the reviews, lists and articles need re-formats and/or other updates. Updated edits and changes to fit current formats have been made; it has also been updated with new photos, and republished.

This review originally published on June 11, 2013

About Rissi JC

amateur graphic designer. confirmed bookaholic. bubbl’r enthusiast. critical thinker. miswesterner. social media coordinator. writer.


  1. Thank you so much for the wonderful words, Rissi! And not just wonderful because I like what you had to say (I do!) but because you have such a beautiful way of saying it.

    1. Thank you for stopping by and for writing such a compelling novel, Denise! It means a lot. :)

      I don't mind saying that I am *dying* to read Dancing with Fireflies! Curious for what comes in the next chapter of the McKinley family saga. :)

  2. So, I haven't actually READ this review, since my copy is still on it's way and I don't read other people's reviews until AFTER I've read it, so I can have my opinion sways before going into it.

    BUT I'm excited to read it when it comes in. :)

    1. Know exactly what you are saying, Kellie – this is something I like to be careful of also. Sometimes I will read a review but most of the time, unless I am in the middle of reading the book and have already formed my opinion or if I am "afraid" of being swayed, I'll steer clear.

      Wishing with you that your copy will arrive soon – it's a keeper.

  3. Ooooh, sounds like a good one! I actually haven't heard of this title before, but it definitely sounds like one I'll want to check out.

    I've been kind of stuck in a historical rut lately, for some reason almost all the books I've read in the past couple of months are set in the 19th century. Of course I like the old settings, but I'm kind of in the mood for a really good contemporary story. This sounds like it might just fit the bill! Now, if I can just work it into my large to-be-read list! :)

    Thanks for the review, Rissi!

    1. It is, Valerie. Definitely a keeper! Have you read any of Denise's novels? If so, then you'll enjoy this one for sure.

      Historical fiction is wonderful (particularly, I am enjoying early 1900's) but I love contemporary novels also. Think I am in the minority as most readers like the history that comes with eras past however contemporary fiction has a lot to offer also.

      Happy reading when you find the time, Valerie – believe me I know all about that epic TBR list. ;)

  4. I don't know why you were worried this would feel thrown together. (Saw your tweet last night.) This is a great review, Rissi! And definitely solidifies my choice to read it someday soon. Sounds like so much fun! :)

    1. LOL! Well… I don't think I've had to rush so much to get a review finished and so late at night, and it felt very "bad." I am a night owl but usually I'm long done meeting my review deadlines by then. It's been crazy (in my reading life) these last few weeks. In a good way!

      Thank you for reading, Kara.

      Yay! Hope you enjoy the book if you decide to read it; it's going on my keeper shelf.

  5. You seriously have a gift, Rissi. Really. And a unique voice too… Wow.

    Thanks for sharing this review! I think I'll give this book a try.

    1. It looks like it's taking me a while to get over how good this review is. I'm just saying, girl, I think I'd buy your book if you should publish one. No really.

    2. Thank you, Ganise for your kind words and for reading! Your support here and Twitter means a lot and I appreciate you, friend. :)

      Really!? Well, if/when you read this one I'll be anxious to know what you think; it's a really poignant read and one that left me anxious for book two! :)

      (Thanks for the encouragement about my would-be book. It's my goal to finish one of them – just need to do it now. Which is easier said than done. ;D)

    1. That it is, Rosie. It's one of the best contemporaries I've read in 2013; tied with Once Upon a Prince. If you read this – or 'Cowboys' – enjoy! It's going on my "best of" list. :)

  6. I read Denise's first two "Cowboy" books, and really enjoyed them! I'm looking forward to reading that last one and this one, too. It sounds marvelous. I have to echo the others about your gift for writing beautiful reviews! :)

    1. The Trouble with Cowboys was the first book I read by Denise, Bluerose but it was wonderful! Now I have been told that her 'Nantucket' books topped her 'cowboy' series so they are high on my to-do list. I suspect they'll be equally as charming as Barefoot Summer. It's certainly a keeper.

      Wishing you happy reading – and I thank you for your compliments, always enjoy visiting your blog and reading your wonderful reviews as well. Appreciate you stopping by.

  7. I can't wait to pick get my copy, this book looks absolutely charming and your review has me wishing it were here already! And I must say that the next one looks great too! Denise has always had good covers, but they seem to be getting better and better!! :D

    1. You said that right – Denise's stories and the covers they are wrapped in seem to be getting better and better.

      Wishing with you for your copy to arrive soon – I think you'll enjoy it and I trust they'll be a lovely review of it eventually on your blog. Thanks for reading! :)

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