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The BookBrowse Review

Published May 21, 2014

ISSN: 1930-0018

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The BookBrowse Review

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Editor's Introduction
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First Impressions
Recommended for Book Clubs
Publishing Soon


Historical Fiction

Short Stories/Essays



Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Alternate History


History, Science & Current Affairs

Young Adults



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Book Jacket

That Summer
by Lauren Willig
3 Jun 2014
352 pages
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
ISBN-13: 9781250014504
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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...

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 Preraphaelite 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.

"Starred Review. A well-rounded group of characters, clearly connected ties between alternating time periods, and a jaw-dropping conclusion make for one engaging story." - Library Journal

"[T]he perfect beach read." - Kirkus

"Once started, That Summer will not allow readers to put it down. I promise you. It's A Perfect 10 from page one to the poignant, heartwarming endings of both stories. Humor, history, a wee bit of mystery, and brilliant characters in both centuries will guarantee a fun and satisfying read." - Romance Reviews Today

Write your own review

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Lisa R. (Salem, OR)
Connecting the Past to the Present
I very much enjoyed reading this book. I had no trouble going back and forth between the different time periods, and I found myself reading way into the night, wanting to know what happened. I didn't really get a feeling for what would happen in the past until near the end of the book, so the story kept it's momentum for me. I began feeling very involved with the two female protagonists from different times, and caught myself moved to tears for Imogen. This is not your average mystery with a happy ending, but it is a good book, well worth the time of reading. There are some wonderful tie-ins to the past, and the world of art as well.

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Leslie D. (Le Roy, NY)
Solid historical from outstanding author
Lauren Willig has a talent for combining a contemporary story with a mystery from the past, and like her Pink Carnation series, this is no exception. Moving from the Napoleonic-era of those, this one is about the Raphaelite painters of the mid-19th century. I found the modern characters a little more interesting than the 19th century ones, and I think that there is not as much sparkle in the dialogue in this book as in her others. The author is an excellent storyteller, though, and this is both entertaining and enlightening.

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Erin J. (Milwaukie, OR)
Good choice for a book group
This would make a great book group selection. When I finished reading, I desperately wanted to talk it over with someone, to discuss and analyze what really happened back in January of 1850.

The story alternates between 1849 and 2009, primarily, and I found myself getting nervous reading the historical sections because the atmosphere felt so dark and oppressive that it didn't seem likely Imogen and Gavin's story would end well. Emotionally it was easier for me to read the modern-day sections, even as Julia struggled to finally face the truth of what happened the day her mother died a quarter century ago.

For readers' advisors: character doorway is primary, story and setting secondary. There are only a couple of mild swear words that I can recall, and no on-screen sex scenes.

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Harriette K. (Northbrook, IL)
that summer
Julia inherits a home in London, and, when she goes to examine the property in order to sell, she finds herself enmeshed in a family mystery. Along with finding the circumstances surrounding her late mother's death, she is plunged into the ancient history of her forebears. And then there is are the love stories, both current and old. I thought that the mix of mystery, romance and a peek into the life of a Victorian woman made this a great read , especially for the summer. The author writing is very well paced and descriptive. I will be recommending this to friends for a good, well paced read.

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Ruth O. (Downingtown, PA)
Mostly satisfying read.
That Summer by Lauren Willig was an enjoyable, quick read. It is actually two stories in one: present-day heroine inherits an old house in England and must unravel a mystery. Meanwhile, the second story is about the mystery which takes place in the mid-1800s. Portraits and pre-Raphaelite painters are major players in the book, which encouraged me to look up more information about the pre-Raphaelite art movement. This was a mostly satisfying book except that I felt it ended a bit too abruptly, as more of the story could have been filled in. The story was basically resolved, it just needed a little bit more. This will be a great beach read, so the timing for its release in June is perfect.

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Janet S. (Terrace Park, OH)
Great Beach/Escape Read
This is a fun Gothic novel from start to finish. It alternates between two time periods 1849 and 2009. Both time periods are done equally well and both flow well together. You can't wait to finish one section (modern day) to find out more detail of the 1849 period.
It was interesting for me to learn about the Preraphaelite movement...a period of art that I was unfamiliar with.
This book has it all -- some romance, humor, a spooky old house. It also had good character development. I had a hard time putting the book down. It is a great beach read or a good way to escape on a rainy day.

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Carole P. (Framingham, MA)
That Summer
I have read Lauren Willig many times and always enjoyed her books. When I was finished with this one, I thought about giving it a 4. Then I realized that I could not stop thinking about it. In fact, I became so vested in Imogen that it felt like I knew her. While I liked all of the book, it was the historical story that was the best. I do not want to give the story away. Let me just say that when Imogen and Julia tell their own story, I wanted to comfort them. I felt their pain .Even now , even knowing this is fiction, I want to help these women. This is by far, my favorite of Willig's books. It is a lovely, heartbreaking tale . This will be a great summer read and book group book.

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Sandra W. (Marietta, OH)
Know your heart.
I really enjoyed this book about secrets, choices and empowering women. I especially enjoyed the character of Imogene. Her husband changed after marriage. Imogene told him she was passionate about books and learning, but he did not hear her. She became an ornament, but proved to be much stronger. It was a great parallel between Imogene finding herself and Julie exploring her choices. I admired Imogene's strength.

The story kept my interest. I was always sorry to leave one time period and move to the next.

This would make a great vacation read; in fact it was for me.

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Helen M. (Petaluma, CA)
Lauren Willig's That Summer is a good read. Since I am an artist, it encouraged me to research the Pre-Raphaelite movement of the time period of the novel, 1848-1850. The novel goes between this time period and modern-day England. It travels between the two very gracefully and pulls it all together at the end with a genuine surprise or two. Willig's attention to detail from both time periods is excellent. Fans of historical fiction, artist or not, will enjoy the ride.

Rated 3 of 5 of 5 by Angela J. (Highlands Ranch, CO)
That Summer by Lauren Willig
First off, the premise is intriguing. Who wouldn't want to inherit an old mansion in England filled with hidden treasures? I really enjoyed having two women in different time periods narrating the story; although I felt the present day was better written and had more background about the characters. I never understood the husband's actions and his coldness since his background was never discussed. The ending was what you expected, (and I would have been disappointed if it hadn't happened exactly as it did. It was an easy and enjoyable read. This would be perfect on a summer vacation to read.


Lauren Willig is also the author of the New York Times bestselling Pink Carnation series and a RITA Award-winner for Best Regency Historical for The Mischief of the Mistletoe. A graduate of Yale University, she has a graduate degree in English history from Harvard and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. She lives in New York City, where she now writes full time.

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