Genre: Historical Romance
Recommend to Others?: Yes
ABOUT: 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.
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 Review: [Disclaimer: I know the author, but this is my honest review.]
At Summer’s End is absolute perfection. I cannot recommend this charming story enough!
Bertie is a woman on a mission to become an artist, have her paintings recognized, and lead a fulfilling life doing what she loves. Risking it all, Bertie accepts a commission from Lord Wakeford, despite her family’s protests. Never could she have guessed how much her life would change by accepting. I certainly didn’t! I had no idea what to expect or how the story would unfold. It was one thrilling surprise after another that consumed all of my attention.
Though she’s only there to paint Castle Braemore and its environs, Bertie’s curiosity often gets the better of her. There’s a mystery surrounding the Napier family, especially about Julian, the estranged Earl of Wakeford. Bertie is extremely intrigued by Julian and his refusal to see anyone, the peculiar morning ritual, and Celia’s (the youngest) aloofness. Furthermore, Bertie wants to know the man who saw value in her work even though she’s a woman. Altogether, an enticing hook.
Bertie is such a wonderful character – fiercely independent, bold, loving, and emphatic. I like how her presence affected the entire household. Enriching, healing, but at the same time drawing out secrets meant to stay hidden in dark pasts.
The more secrets uncovered through bittersweet chapters set in the past, the deeper I fell in love with this story, firmly entrenched in the lives of these characters I couldn’t help but shed tears for on more than one occasion. So much went wrong then that haunts the present. Compounded by WWI, the Napier family were never truly the same again. Julian the most, for the past rules Julian’s present every second of every day in the most painful, heartbreaking of ways.
The traumatizing effects of war and mental health are depicted in vivid details. I liked how the author expressed the raw, realness of how isolating and debilitating these feelings can be.
At Summer’s End isn’t all tragedy and chaotic feelings. It’s beautiful, funny, and brilliantly composed.
The depth of love between the Napier siblings – Gwen, Julian, Roland, and Celia – is beautiful. Despite so much upheaval, they’ve more or less stood by each other as worlds were torn asunder and rage and grief burned within. They are a family who are all heart.
Countless times I found myself laughing and smiling. Ellis does well infusing humor and brevity just when you needed it, just when things seemed all but lost.
There’s so much going on within this story. It seemed so effortlessly written even though I know writing can be anything but at times. The intricacies of the plot were engaging. I am in awe of the author’s storytelling skills she’s cultivated over the years.
I loved At Summer’s End. It’s one of my favorite stories of 2021 so far. I really enjoyed the relationship that blossomed between Bertie and Julian – so wonderful and sweet! This novel was an incredible read, unexpected and breathtaking.
CW: trauma, PTSD, attempted suicide, homophobia (see 24/7 resources below)
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To Write Love On Her Arms