Wednesday, May 29, 2019

ARC Review: The Summer Country by Lauren Willig

The Summer Country
Author: Lauren Willig
Publication: William Morrow (June 4, 2019)

Description: The New York Times bestselling historical novelist delivers her biggest, boldest, and most ambitious novel yet—a sweeping Victorian epic of lost love, lies, jealousy, and rebellion set in colonial Barbados.

Barbados, 1854: Emily Dawson has always been the poor cousin in a prosperous English merchant clan-- merely a vicar’s daughter, and a reform-minded vicar’s daughter, at that. Everyone knows that the family’s lucrative shipping business will go to her cousin, Adam, one day.  But when her grandfather dies, Emily receives an unexpected inheritance: Peverills, a sugar plantation in Barbados—a plantation her grandfather never told anyone he owned.

When Emily accompanies her cousin and his new wife to Barbados, she finds Peverills a burnt-out shell, reduced to ruins in 1816, when a rising of enslaved people sent the island up in flames. Rumors swirl around the derelict plantation; people whisper of ghosts.

Why would her practical-minded grandfather leave her a property in ruins?  Why are the neighboring plantation owners, the Davenants, so eager to acquire Peverills? The answer lies in the past— a tangled history of lies, greed, clandestine love, heartbreaking betrayal, and a bold bid for freedom.

A brilliant, multigenerational saga in the tradition of THE THORN BIRDS and NORTH AND SOUTH, THE SUMMER COUNTRY will beguile readers with its rendering of families, heartbreak, and the endurance of hope against all odds.

My Thoughts: This historical novel takes us to Barbados and shows us a tangled story of love and betrayal.

In the 1854 portion of the story, Emily Dawson has traveled with her cousin Adam and his wife Laura to Barbados because she learns that she has inherited a sugar plantation from her grandfather. She finds Peverills to be a burnt out, derelict place when she finally gets a chance to see it. And it is supposedly haunted by the ghost of the Portuguese Girl - a child who died when the plantation was burned by rebelling slaves.

They are taken in by Mrs. Davenant who owns the neighboring plantation Beckles. Emily hopes that Mrs. Davenant will teach her about restoring a sugar plantation. But Mrs. Davenant has her own hidden agenda which she doesn't choose to share with Emily. She also seems very intent on making a match between Emily and her grandson George.

The other portion of the book begins in 1812 when Charles Davenant returns to Peverills after spending years in England being educated and studying law. His father has died, Charles has inherited, and he returns to a place that isn't what he remembers from his childhood. He should be interested in Mary Ann from the Beckles plantation because he needs to marry an heiress but instead he falls in love with her slave Jenny - a situation that must be kept secret. Since he is not able to buy Jenny, their love must be kept secret and their meetings infrequent and secret. Charles has also come back to Barbados filled with progressive ideals and different views about slavery.

The two time periods were entwined and woven to reveal both the present and the past. I liked Emily budding romance with Dr. Nathaniel Braithwaite who began life as a slave at Beckles plantation. I liked the way they got close while battling the cholera epidemic that decimated the island.

This was an intriguing story filled with the beauty and color of Barbados and the darkness that slavery cast over the people and the time. It was filled with interesting characters who had all sorts of moral dilemmas to contend with. I especially enjoyed Emily who learned some very surprising things about her family and Jenny who was probably the character I most sympathized with.

Favorite Quote:
Emily used to feel quite comfortable assuming. But here, everything she thought she'd knows had turned on its head, not once, but again and again. All of the assumptions that seemed sturdy as masonry one moment were revealed as hollow reeds the next. 
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from Edelweiss. You can buy your copy here.

1 comment:

  1. Great review!!

    I enjoyed the story line and the surprises learned about the family.


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