Tuesday, August 10, 2021

ARC Review: At Summer's End by Courtney Ellis

At Summer's End

Courtney Ellis
Publication: Berkley (August 10, 2021)

Description: When an ambitious female artist accepts an unexpected commission at a powerful earl's country estate in 1920s England, she finds his war-torn family crumbling under the weight of long-kept secrets. From debut author Courtney Ellis comes a captivating novel about finding the courage to heal after the ravages of war.

Alberta Preston accepts the commission of a lifetime when she receives an invitation from the Earl of Wakeford to spend a summer painting at His Lordship's country home, Castle Braemore. Bertie imagines her residence at the prodigious estate will finally enable her to embark on a professional career and prove her worth as an artist, regardless of her gender.

Upon her arrival, however, Bertie finds the opulent Braemore and its inhabitants diminished by the Great War. The earl has been living in isolation since returning from  the trenches,  locked away in his rooms and hiding battle scars behind a prosthetic mask. While his younger siblings eagerly welcome Bertie into their world, she soon sees chips in that world's gilded facade. As she and the earl develop an unexpected bond, Bertie becomes deeply entangled in the pain and secrets she discovers hidden within Castle Braemore and the hearts of its residents.

Rolan Threaded with hope, love, and loss, At Summer's End delivers a portrait of a noble family--and a world--changed forever by the war to end all wars.

My Thoughts: Bertie Preston is surprised when she gets a letter from the Earl of Wakeford who wants to commission her to make a series of paintings of his home at Castle Braemore. She is eager to accept since she believes it will lead to more commissions from others in his social set and provide security for her to set up her own studio. When she arrives, she finds the Earl isolated in his room after suffering terrible injuries while serving in the First World War. 

The Earl only accepts visits from his older sister Gwen. His younger brother Roland has been trying to handle things on the estate and his younger sister Celia hasn't spoken to him since he went off to war the last time. Needless to say, Bertie is disappointed in the situation but she quickly falls in love with the area and is intrigued by all the residents of Braemore. She is especially curious about the Earl. His injuries don't disturb her since she spent part of the war as a VAD nurse dealing with lots of wounded soldiers. 

Bertie gradually works her way into the Earl's confidence and finds a man who has taken lots more than physical injuries in the war. Julie, Earl Wakeford, was always a shy, quiet, gentle man. The war changed him immensely. He fears leaving his rooms, has nightmares, and is deeply depressed. Even so, he is concerned for his family. His sister Gwen is also a war widow who was left with two small children including her adopted daughter Anna. Roland is a homosexual and Julian wants to shelter him. Celia is an angry young woman who is having trouble dealing with what she sees as betrayal by her older brother. Julian's younger siblings are having a magical summer and only Julian knows it will be their last since the estate is bankrupt and will need to be sold when the fall comes. 

Bertie is encouraged by Gwen to form a relationship with Julian but doing so, falling in love, was never in her plans. She wanted her independence and her art. She isn't sure she can deal with all the problems that come with Julian no matter how deeply she falls in love with him.

I liked the way the story was arranged with chapters going back to earlier years to explore how the current situation came about. I liked that there were more viewpoints than just Bertie's. The story was very emotional. The horrors and effects of war were an almost constant background of everything that happened. The way the war disrupted society is shown in how the characters lives were all changed by it. 

This was wonderful historical fiction with intriguing characters. I recommend it. 

Favorite Quote:
"Sometimes you have got to be a bully," she said, suddenly stern. "Even if you love them--especially if you do. It's the only way to get through. Love is not always delicate and tender; sometimes it must be fierce, rigid--I can't explain." Gwen looked far away.
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

1 comment:

  1. I looked for this on Netgalley and could not find it either in the present or archived lists?? I like the setting and the era very much. Thank you for the review.


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