That Summer by Lauren Willig
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Julia has been fiercely American since moving to New York when she was a young girl. She has blocked out nearly all memories of her years in London while her mother was still alive, so when she receives word she's inherited a house from a great aunt she doesn't remember having, she thinks it might be a scam. Then during the course of cleaning out the house and the accumulated detritus of generations, she discovers a vibrant painting in the back of a wardrobe, and curiosity leads her to investigate its provenance and ties to a portrait in the drawing room. She is aided by Nick, the handsome antiques dealer her cousin Natalie has laid claim to...which doesn't do much for family harmony.
One hundred and sixty years earlier, Imogen Grantham reluctantly posed for a portrait her husband commissioned. She had no desire to spend so much time in the presence of a man who seemed to see too much, but like most things in her life, she had little choice in the matter. Over the course of their weekly sessions, however, artist and subject gradually became friends. When their friendship turned intimate, life got complicated.
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.
I received a free Advance Reader's Copy (ARC) from Bookbrowse.com in exchange for my honest review.
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