It is 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 onto the house's shrouded history begins to open....
In 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 16-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 Preraphaelite movement, Lauren Willig's That Summer takes listeners 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.
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I had a lot of issues with this book - and audiobook in particular. Normally I'm a big fan of Nicola Barber as a narrator - however I feel like she missed the mark with this one. Julia's character spoke with an American accent - yet all of her thoughts were in a British accent... how does that make sense? It was sometimes hard to follow when both Julia and Natalie were in the same scene and I had to concentrate way too hard to make sure I knew who was speaking. When Julia's train of thought would end with Natalie's spoken words - I often had to hit rewind and that's annoying. And then we had Imogen and Gavin - and it was great to have multiple perspectives but it would have been nice to have Gavin's perspective and inner thoughts in his spoken voice - not the voice of Imogen/Julia. I think the first time she introduced Gavin's thoughts - it sounded more like his spoken voice but then that completely dropped off and it was weird. Just weird. They just didn't plan all of that out very well and it definitely detracted from my enjoyment of the whole story. So BLAH on that.
As for the story.... Julia was mega annoying and I listened to Imogen and Gavin's story with a sense of dread and foreboding the entire time. However - I did not expect it to turn so sinister!!! And even the ending didn't really give me any happy feels of closure... I just felt kinda relieved that I didn't have to listen to it anymore.
I've been a big fan of Lauren Willig's Pink Carnation series so I was excited to read something different from her... but it fell flat in so many ways. Phrases like 'The realization hit her like a triple shot of espresso.' had me constantly rolling my eyes. I don't know if my taste in books has just matured over the years or maybe it sounded lamer coming out of Nicola Barber's mouth than if I had read it. Kinda makes me want to go back to her other series to see if it had stuff like that, too. Though I do remember putting The Ashford Affair down intentionally because I quite dislike stories with adultery... and I didn't realize I was in for that when I picked up this book either. It's just so depressing and usually ends up bad for someone...or everyone.
Just can't recommend this one, sadly.
I liked it