Book ReviewThat Summer

Reviewer's Rating: 
I truly enjoyed this book...and yet, it failed to rock my world because (see explanation in review).
St Martin's Press, 2014

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, 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 into the houses'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.

This book reminded me why I need to read.  I took this book out from the library three weeks ahead of Thanksgiving.  It was also time for the Elmvale Fall Fair ergo lots to do and the two weekends prior to all this my husband had planned a full Sat and Sunday in Toronto and then a birthday weekend getaway for our family.  It ended up being more busy than usual for me and at night I'd read for a mere 2-5 minutes then fall into bed.  

Funny enough, as the weeks went by I got a little cranky.  Then my health started to slide a bit and I knew I wasn't handling my stress despite saying everything was good, fine, etc.  My to do list was too thick inside my skull making life feel foggy.  One night I decided I would wake up an hour before my usual time and read.  So I did just that and sat on our couch in my big, pink fuzzy housecoat and I read this book for a solid hour before the alarm went off and started our day.  Funny enough, that day I wasn't quite so cranky.  I can't say my health turned a miraculous corner on just that one hour of reading, but it returned a sense of sanity to me that I and my family were grateful for.
In general, I love reading books with eccentric aunts who leave inheritances to a niece who doesn't remember them from one or two visits when they were a baby.  Usually the aunts are colourful characters.  I was talking about the premise of this book with my daughter, Crystal when it suddenly dawned on me, "I'M the eccentric aunt in our family!"  Whenever I see my sister's daughter we put a fist to our forehead and point our index finger straight out and say in unison, "Unicorn Power!"  I'm the only one I know with humongous sized sunglasses that have fake rhinestones all around them.  I bought them at a costume store and shook my head over why such great glasses couldn't be found in regular stores.  I also purchased a pair in pink with pink coloured lenses for cloudy days.
But regardless of how I related to the aunt, this is a good story grounded in family mysteries that are slowly revealed.  Lauren loves to write with a mixed modern vs historical setting and to our benefit as readers, she is an expert at weaving them together seamlessly.  
These are intelligent characters who draw our sympathy and make us more rounded people having walked a few miles in their shoes (or setting aside our own burned out pair to just relax for a spell).  This isn't an intense adventure, or a nail biting mystery or a too hot romance.  It is perfectly penned to be calm, interesting, and just the book you need if you can find-or make-the time for it.

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