That Summer

It's 1849, and Imogen Grantham has been trapped in a loveless marriage for nearly 10 years. She's resigned to her dull life in Herne Hill, just outside London, until her husband commissions an up-and-coming young artist, Gavin Thorne, to paint her portrait. Gavin's presence in Imogen's life will soon change everything.

More than a century and a half later, in 2009, Julia Conley's great-aunt dies and leaves her a house in Herne Hill. Although Julia has avoided England since her mother's death, she can't turn down such an enormous gift. There, behind a fake panel at the back of a wardrobe, Julia discovers a gorgeous painting of Tristan and Isolde. She asks an antiques expert--the charming and handsome Nick--to authenticate it, and he agrees that it appears to be from the mid-19th century. Nick and Julia start researching the painting, and decide that it was possibly painted by a little-known member of the Pre-Raphaelite circle: Gavin Thorne.

Willig (The Ashford Affair; The Passion of the Purple Plumeria) returns to stand-alone historical fiction, slipping nimbly from the 19th century to the almost-present day and back again as the stories of Imogen and Julia unfold. Although Imogen and Julia live very differently (both because of their circumstances and their eras), they share a desperation to change their lives and a connection to the same house in Herne Hill. Woven throughout are fascinating tidbits about Victorian life and the Pre-Raphaelite movement.

Fans of historical fiction combined with a bit of romance and mystery will appreciate the time-jumping That Summer. --Jessica Howard, blogger at Quirky Bookworm

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