Wednesday, 10 September 2014

That Summer

Author: Lauren Willig
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: Local Library
Type: Hardcover
Pages: 352
Publisher: St Martin's Press
First Published: June 2014
First Lines: "Someone's left me a house.", said Julia.  "In England."

Book Description from GoodReads2009: 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, an event she remembers only in her nightmares. 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. From modern-day England to the early days of the Pre-Raphaelite movement, Lauren Willig's That Summer takes readers on an un-put-downable journey through a mysterious old house, a hidden love affair, and one woman’s search for the truth about her past—and herself.

My Review: Have you ever finished reading a book and don't have a firm grasp on how you feel about it? You kind of liked it, but kind of didn't. That's where I stand with this book. 

On the surface this book has a lot of things that I enjoy in a book - a Gothic setting in a rather creepy ancestral home, dual narrative in two eras and historical references.  Sounds great, right?  I was expecting this book to be along the lines of the The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton or The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley.  And while it did have similar settings and time frames That Summer didn't have the substance or character development that the other two authors bring to their books of a similar genre.  There's something missing in this book.  I was a decent read but that's it.

I think the mystery started off strong and I was eager to see what family skeletons Julia would unearth in her new abode.  The addition of some extended family with questionable motives was wonderful but it wasn't used to the full extent I was hoping.  The story kept referring to Aunt Regina knowing all kinds of family lore and secrets but her role was very undeveloped and wasn't used to boost the storyline at all which was a shame because I think she could have brought a depth to the story.

I also didn't feel connections to Julia or Imogen and I know that that affected my feelings towards the book.  In the end, I was hoping for a grittier plot, a more substantial treasure hunt and more interesting characters.  This book felt more like Gothic Mystery Light - a hint of mystery but unfortunately not an edge of your seat kind of read. 

My Rating: 3/5 stars

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