"Outstanding historical fiction with mystery and gothic elements."
Reviewed by Susan Gorman
Posted September 29, 2014
Romance Time Travel | Romance Historical
Lauren Willig excels at writing the dual narrative novel.
The modern day story features Julia Conley who has
inherited a house in England while the 1840's piece of
THAT SUMMER features Imogen Grantham . The novel switches
and forth between the time periods with ease. Lauren
Willig's writing style is well- suited to this story of
women who are on a journey of self discovery. I enjoyed
reading both the modern and the 1840s story. All of the
characters were well-written and believable. I appreciated
the suspense, gothic elements and passion which the
author included in the 1840's story.
New Yorker Julia Conley is skeptical when she receives a
letter stating that she has inherited a house in England
from a her great-aunt. Her Father assures her that the
inheritance is legitimate and unemployed Julia packs her
bags and heads across the Atlantic to London. The house
been neglected and needs cleaning. Julia's cousin ,
Natalie, seems very interested in the contents of the
house. Lauren Willig deftly
sets the stage for the mystery by having Natalie refer to
treasures in the house. Natalie brings
her brother Andrew and Andrew's friend, Nicholas
an antiques dealer, to help with the clean up. They
a painting hidden very carefully in a wardrobe.
Nicholas and Julia join forces to solve the mystery of
paintings origins. Discovering the history of the painting
is important to Nicholas at the beginning of the modern
story. As the search progresses, the search becomes
important to Julia as she uncovers several truths: the
origin of the painting, her parents relationship and the
truth about herself. For Julia, searching for clues about
the painting brings up memories from her childhood which
she must sort through and understand before she can move
forward both emotionally and career wise.
Imogen Grantham is the heroine of the 1840's story. Imogen
fancies her self in love with collector Arthur Grantham.
Imogen's father passes and she married Arthur to avoid
living with relatives. As, the story progresses both the
reader and Imogen realizes that Arthur does not love her.
He sees her as a possession, not a person. Although Imogen
is an intelligent person, Arthur dismisses her offer to
assist him with his artwork and collection. Arthur prefers
the companionship of his sister-in-law Jane who dislikes
The 1840's story takes an interesting twist as Arthur
commissions portrait artist Gavin Thorne to paint Imogen.
Even though Arthur orchestrates the setting, clothing and
jewelry for the portrait, he cannot control the friendship
and passion that develops between Imogen and Gavin. Ms.
Willig writes Imogen and Gavin's story with much feeling
and passion. I was captivated by this couple and looked
forward to each chapter in which they were featured.
I read the last ten chapters of THAT SUMMER in one
sitting. Both storylines held my interest. The author has
some unexpected surprises for the reader as the paintings
history is revealed. I enjoyed the period details, well
written characters , the romance and the satisfying
conclusion. And yes, Julia's old house had quite a story
THAT SUMMER is a superb read for someone who enjoys
fiction with a bit of mystery and gothic elements.
2009: When Julia Conley hears that she has inherited a
outside London from an unknown great-aunt, she assumes
a joke. She hasn't been back to England since the car
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
old wardrobe, and a window onto the house's shrouded
begins to open...
1849: Imogen Grantham has spent nearly a decade trapped in
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
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
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
From modern-day England to the early days of the
Preraphaelite movement, Lauren Willig's That
takes readers on an un-put-downable journey through a
mysterious old house, a hidden love affair, and one
search for the truth about her past—and herself.
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