Summertime and the living is easy. Nothing nicer in the summer than to find a shady spot outside and settle down with a cool drink and a good book. Here's my choice this week for a great read: That Summer by Lauren Willig
Julia Conley has inherited a centuries old house from her great-aunt in England where she was born. She hasn’t been back since her father, now a prominent surgeon in New York, whisked her away to America when she was six years old. Her mother was killed in a terrible motor accident and the rest of the family had no use for the young doctor.
Julia sets out alone to London to oversee the sale of the old house, which seems shrouded in mystery. Upon arrival, her English cousins, none too pleased that she was the one to inherit, show up to help her clean out the attic, which could contain family heirlooms. Some of its contents have been stored there for over one hundred and fifty years. They bring along a friend, a good-looking, young antique dealer to see if there is anything of value.
This modern part of the story is rather typical of romance novels. Girl meets handsome fellow to whom she’s attracted, but as is generally the case, they have a falling out. However, the attraction is still there and we wonder can they put aside their animosities to find true love? All very ordinary, but what held me spellbound was the story that begins to emerge when they discover a pre-Raphaelite painting hidden in the back of an old wardrobe. How did it get there and why was it hidden?
The author now transports us back to the year 1849, where Julia’s ancestor, Imogen Grantham is unhappily married to an older man. A gentleman, who has little interest in her other than as another pretty object for his collection. Her life is boring and drab. However, when the husband hires a young artist of the aforementioned pre-Raphaelite movement to paint her portrait, he sets in motion a chain of events that changes the whole course of the family’s history.
Ms. Willig does an excellent job of interweaving the two stories and towards the end of the novel; I found myself so under its spell that I could no longer put it aside until I knew the outcome.
That Summer is well written with an intriguing plot and great characterizations. A great summer read!