My review of That Summer by Lauren Willig

2009: When Julia Conley hears that she has inherited a house outside London from an unknown great-aunt, she assumes it’s a joke. She hasn’t been back to England since the car crash that killed her mother when she was six (and gave her nightmares that have lasted into adulthood). But when she arrives at Herne Hill to sort through the house—with the help of her cousin Natasha and sexy antiques dealer Nicholas—bits of memory start coming back. And then she discovers a Pre-Raphaelite painting, hidden behind the false back of an old wardrobe, and a window onto the house’s shrouded history begins to open…

1849: Imogen Grantham has spent nearly a decade trapped in a loveless marriage to a much older man, Arthur. The one bright spot in her life is her step-daughter, Evie, a high-spirited sixteen year old who is the closest thing to a child Imogen hopes to have. But everything changes when three young painters come to see Arthur’s collection of medieval artifacts, including Gavin Thorne, a quiet man with the unsettling ability to read Imogen better than anyone ever has. When Arthur hires Gavin to paint her portrait, none of them can guess what the hands of fate have set in motion. 
Hardcover, 352 pages
Expected publication: June 3rd 2014 by St. Martin's Press 
I received an early review copy of That Summer by Lauren Willig from St. Martin's Press in exchange for my honest review.  
That Summer is so much more than a 'beach read!' A time-slip novel between 2009 and 1849 where both story lines deal with love, loss, and the beauty of art! In 1849 you have a sad married woman who is no longer appreciated by her husband until her portrait is painted and in 2009 a family home, a family death, unwrap secrets thought long hidden and buried in a wardrobe in the guise of an unidentified portrait!

If you love Pre-Raphaelite art and artists, the love stories of Victorian England and Poetry then you will love That Summer. I could not put it down. I had to keep reading. I finished it in one sitting. Something rare happened; I was able to keep my interest in the characters encompassing both story lines! The dialogues discussing painters such as Rossetti, Millais and their now famous paintings set against a discussion of such Victorian masters as Tennyson and his Mariana and Arthurian tales head is still swimming in romantic imagery!

This is must read for art, literature and romance lovers because the characters are engaging and well thought out. Even though, the plot appears to be obvious, it isn't!  There is much more to both story lines than disappointed love, spurned lovers and family secrets. It is not easy at all to keep the reader's attention and believability in the characters and context of the plot. For me, I was hooked. Give me the rambling family home in the heart of rural England, the large family complete with family dynamics and strife, throw in some poetry, some struggling artists and beautiful women and you have a winner as long as the writing is good. I don't know how Lauren Willig did it, but she has managed to write a novel that I absolutely enjoyed from start to finish.  

I found Julia's relationship with her father honest and touching in its sincerity and strength. I liked Julia very much and could identify with her hard work ethic and yearning for that 'special' relationship and true connection with a man given more to just a one night stand. Will she find her true love and what is the connection she has to Imogen in the 1849 storyline. What does it have to do with paintings and artists?  Oh, you must read That Summer to find out.  

This is intelligent writing with strong family dynamics wielding one foot in the present and one foot in the past. Art, poetry, love and loss are at the heart of That Summer. It will leave you asking questions throughout, thinking you have the answers but when you reach the end, they will not be obvious answers but heartwarming and vivid in nature. 
That Summer by Lauren Willig will be published on June 3rd, 2014 in the U.S. and the U.K. in hardcover and kindle. Links below:

For more information about That Summer from its publication page,  St. Martins Press Macmillan

For more information about the author and her novels,  Lauren Willig

To purchase That Summer in the U.S.,  Amazon  and in the U.K.,  Amazon


Hels said…
The problem with historical novels is that. if you know an area of history well, the novel can rarely live up to reality. Disappointment seems to be built in. Now I LOVE Pre-Raphaelite art and artists and the social life of Victorian England, so I must read That Summer. The dialogues discussing painters such as Rossetti and Millais will have me rushing back to their paintings, so I want a promise that the novel will be totally believable :)
Kimberly Eve said…
Hi Hels,
I know what you mean about disappointment setting in. Most of the times it does for me, too.
As for Rossetti and Millais, certain paintings are mentioned by title and description and
there are some surprises that I don't want to ruin! For me, the novel was believable and
my hope is that you will enjoy it and find the Pre-Raphaelite sections well done if not
believable! Thanks for commenting, Hels!
Kevin Marsh said…
Hello Kimberly,

This sounds like a very good read. You write your review with such conviction that it would be rude not to rush out and buy a copy.

All the best
Kimberly Eve said…
Hi Kevin,

I was very pleasantly surprised with how the author took part of the history of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood's story and used it in one of her story lines. I thought it clever and charming. Hopefully, you will enjoy the novel as well. Thanks for leaving a comment and stopping by.

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