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.
If you love Pre-Raphaelite art and artists, the love stories of Victorian England and Poetry then you will love That Summer. I could not put it down. I had to keep reading. I finished it in one sitting. Something rare happened; I was able to keep my interest in the characters encompassing both story lines! The dialogues discussing painters such as Rossetti, Millais and their now famous paintings set against a discussion of such Victorian masters as Tennyson and his Mariana and Arthurian tales well...my head is still swimming in romantic imagery!
This is must read for art, literature and romance lovers because the characters are engaging and well thought out. Even though, the plot appears to be obvious, it isn't! There is much more to both story lines than disappointed love, spurned lovers and family secrets. It is not easy at all to keep the reader's attention and believability in the characters and context of the plot. For me, I was hooked. Give me the rambling family home in the heart of rural England, the large family complete with family dynamics and strife, throw in some poetry, some struggling artists and beautiful women and you have a winner as long as the writing is good. I don't know how Lauren Willig did it, but she has managed to write a novel that I absolutely enjoyed from start to finish.